The mandatory display of notices for marriage of inter-faith couples will be optional from now, the Allahabad High Court said today in an order that is likely to bring relief to inter faith couples.
The court said the publication of such notices "would invade in the fundamental rights of liberty and privacy". They would also affect the couple's freedom to choose marriage "without interference from state and non-state actors", the court said.
A section of the Special Marriages Act, 1954, requires an inter-faith couple to give written notice of the marriage to the District Marriage Officer.
The law says such notices be displayed in the official's office in case anyone wants to object to the marriage within 30 days on the ground that it would contravene the usual rules, including age, mental health and customs of their communities.
In a 47-page judgment on Tuesday, Justice Vivek Chaudhary said couples can now give a written request to the Marriage Officer "to publish or not to publish a notice".
In case they do not make a request for publication of notice, the Marriage Officer "shall not publish any such notice or entertain objections to the intended marriage and proceed with the solemnization of the marriage," the order read.
The court passed the order following a petition by a Muslim woman who converted to Hinduism to marry a Hindu man. The petition said her father was not permitting her to live with her husband.
In his judgment, Justice Chaudhary observed that the couple had expressed views that they could have solemnized their marriage under the Special Marriage Act, which requires the 30-day notice that invites objections from the public at large.
"They expressed views that any such notice would be an invasion in their privacy and would have definitely caused unnecessary social pressure/interference in their free choice with regard to their marriage," the judge said.
The judgement also observed that the woman's lawyers also stated the "situation may become more critical with notification of Uttar Pradesh Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion of Religion Ordinance, 2020, as the same prohibits conversion of religion by marriage to be unlawful".
The reference was to the controversial new law which prohibits forcible conversion. Since the law was passed, there have been several controversial arrests, mostly of Muslim men, who have been accused of trying to forcibly convert Hindu women for marriage.
In October, the Delhi High Court had sought the Centre and the Aam Aadmi Party government's response on an inter-faith couple's plea challenging the provision of public notice to invite objections to marriages.
Their petition said the rule interferes with the fundamental rights, news agency Press Trust of India had reported.