The court was delivering its judgement in a case related to the marriage between a Hindu girl and a Christian boy, who misrepresented himself as Hindu. The wedding was solemnised and registered under the Hindu marriage law.
A Bench consisting of Justices Altamas Kabir and Aftab Alam held that for a marriage to be valid under the Hindu law both the boy and the girl should be Hindus.
According to the Preamble to the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955: "An Act to amend and codify the law relating to marriage among Hindus. Section 5 of the Act makes it clear that a marriage may be solemnised between any two Hindus if the conditions contained in the said Section were fulfilled. In other words, in the event the conditions remain unfulfilled, a marriage between two Hindus could not be solemnised."
Writing the judgment, Justice Kabir rejected the contention that the Act did not prohibit a valid Hindu marriage between a Hindu and another person professing a different faith: "We are unable to agree with such submission in view of the definite scheme of the 1955 Act."
In the instant case, Gullipilli Sowria Raj, a Roman Catholic, married Bandaru Pavani, a Hindu, on October 24, 1996 in a temple by tying the 'thali.' No representative from either side was present. The marriage was registered on November 2, 1996 under Section 8 of the Hindu Marriage Act.
On coming to know that her husband had misrepresented himself as a Hindu, Bandaru Pavani moved the family court in Visakhapatnam in March 1997 to declare the marriage void but it rejected her plea. However, on appeal, the Andhra Pradesh High Court held that the marriage was void and invalid. Thereafter, she got remarried to a Hindu boy in April 2003.
Dismissing Raj's appeal against the High Court judgment, the Bench noted that the main ground for declaring the marriage a nullity was mainly his misrepresentation of his social status and that he was a Hindu by religion.
"There is no dispute that at the time of the purported marriage the appellant was a Christian and continues to be so, whereas the respondent was a Hindu and continues to be so. In the facts pleaded by the respondent and the admission of the appellant that he was and still is a Christian, the marriage solemnised in accordance with Hindu customs was a nullity and its registration under Section 8 of the Act could not and/or did not validate the same. In our view, the High Court rightly allowed the appeal preferred by the respondent herein and the judgment and order of the High Court does not warrant any interference," the judges said.