CHENNAI: A Division Bench of the Madras High Court has held that marriages “performed in secrecy in the office of advocates and Bar Association rooms” cannot amount to solemnisation under the Hindu Marriage Act.
In December 2013, the bench had directed Superintendent of Police of CB-CID Cyber Cell-Chennai, M V Jaya Gowri, to conduct a probe and submit a report in respect of marriages registered in the offices of the Registrar of Marriages at Chennai North (Joint-I) and at Royapuram.
In her report, Jaya Gowri named 168 advocates who had registered 3,496 marriages in the two Registrar offices.
She also gave the number of marriages solemnised and registered by each of these advocates on each working day in every month. One of them solemnised and registered 24 marriages in April 2013, including eight on April 15 alone.
The inquiry report also reveals that the addresses of the parties to marriage were from various districts across the State.
The report said the marriages were registered in Chennai as most of them were either working or studying in the city and and it suburbs.
The SP’s report said that most of the marriages were borne out of love affairs without the knowledge of parents at the time of marriage registration.
Of 2,128 marriages registered in Chennai North Registrar Office last year, 1,559 marriages were solemnised in the offices of advocates in the local jurisdiction.
Certificates to that effect were issued by 120 different advocates on various dates, the report says.
Similarly, of the 3,313 marriages registered in Royapuram Registrar Office in 2013, as many as 1,937 marriages were solemnised in the offices of advocates in the local jurisdiction and the certificates issued by 48 advocates on various dates.
One advocate, Loganathan, the report points out, solemnised 205 marriages in 2013 in the GT Court Bar Association room.
The numbers also reveal that more marriages were solemnised and registered during April, May and June, compared to other months.
After considering these facts, the Bench said, “It is obvious that there is a spurt in the registration of marriages during April, May, June and July compared to other months. Perhaps this is because that is the time when the academic year closes and young lovers while leaving college will have to part company, before which they were under compulsion to register their marriages pre-emptively. We read the report and found it to be very shocking. The report disclosed the existence of a marriage registration cartel run by advocates, operating near the High Court.”
“In our view, such large-scale solemnisation and registration of marriages by advocates is a business and it is prohibited by law,” the court added.
Even as it declared that marriages performed in secrecy in the office of advocates and Bar Association rooms cannot amount to solemnisation, the bench added that this, however, cannot be exploited by men as a convenient excuse to get out of the nuptial knot.
It can be used only by the fairer sex to get liberated from sham marriages of such nature, it noted.
In the event of a matrimonial dispute, the Bench ruled that the Certificate of Solemnisation issued by advocates will not per se be proof of solemnisation of marriage.
Disposing a habeas corpus petition, the Division Bench comprising Justices S Rajeswaran and P N Prakash ruled that no registration of marriage can be done under the Tamil Nadu Registration of Marriages Act without the physical presence of the parties to the marriage before the Registrar, except under special circumstances after recording the reasons.