06 July 2017 10:24AM
The Law Commission Report: An Overview
The 270th Report (“Compulsory Registration of Marriages”) of the Law Commission headed by retired Supreme Court judge Justice B S Chauhan was submitted to the Govt of India on 4th July 2017, in response to a query put forth by the Legislative Department on 16th February 2017, asking the Commission to submit a Report with regard to various issues relating to the compulsory registration of marriages in India. One of the questions probed by the Department was whether it is enough to pursue amendments in the Registration of Births and Deaths Act, 1969 as per the Registration of Births and Deaths (Amendment) Bill, 2015 or it must go ahead to frame a ‘separate standalone legislation to provide for compulsory registration of marriages, in order to bring uniformity in all laws, including the Central and State Personal Laws’[i]. The Commission in turn proposes to amend the Registration of Births and Deaths Act, 1969 to include the compulsory registration of marriages within its purview[ii]. The Report clarifies that its aim is to eliminate practices like early/forced marriages, and is not aimed at eliminating diversity of personal laws; on the other hand accepts prevailing customs/ or personal laws concerning solemnization of marriage; provided that these marriages are registered under the Compulsory Registration of Births Deaths and Marriages Registration Act or any other law for the time being in force in the State[iii]. The Report upholds the validity of unregistered marriages solemnized through religious ceremonies, but recommends that an unregistered marriage is not to be treated as ‘void’ but small penalties may be attached to non-registration in an attempt to encourage registration[iv].
The Report examines in detail global practices regarding registration of marriages across the world, various Personal laws in India relating to the registration of marriages (The Indian Christian Marriage Act, 1872, The Kazis Act 1880, The Anand Marriage Act, 1909, The Special Marriage Act, 1954, The Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, etc.). It also examines the Acts and Rules enacted in various States and Union Territories in India to compulsorily register marriages. The major judicial decision on the subject came in Seema v Ashwani Kumar[v] when the Supreme Court directed that the States and the Central Governments to take steps to make marriages of all persons who are citizens of India belonging to various religions compulsorily registrable in their respective States. The Registration of Births and Death Acts, 1969, provides for Registration establishments consisting of Registrar-General, Chief Registrar and Registration Division and Registrars in each State and Union territory[vi]. The Report therefore recommended that the above Act be amended to include Registration of marriage as well within its scope so that existing administrative machinery is able to carry out registration of marriages in accordance with the specified procedures[vii].
The IT aspect and the recommendation regarding Aadhaar Integration
The Report clearly stated that the central purpose of the proposal of amendment is to create a central civil registration portal that consists of records of birth, marriage and death and to provide convenient access to the documents. It explicitly stated that “… if registration of marriage is linked to the unique identification number (UID), it would be possible to achieve universal tracing of records.”[viii] In the Chapter on conclusions and Recommendations, the Report maintains that compulsory registration of marriages is a necessary reform[ix] and that complete automation process may be adopted for facilitating paperless documentation to the greatest extent possible.
Reading from the recommendations, and in light of the Govt.’s move of integrating major social information relating to citizens with their respective UIDs, it is possible that the Law Ministry may choose to accept the LC’s Recommendation, in which case it would soon become mandatory to link Marriage Certificates with Aadhaar Cards.
It would have major implications on the privacy of all citizens, since it would mean that now the matrimonial details would also be added to the central repository which already has been linked with PAN, Mobile No, etc.
· The most important implication is that of the impending risk of privacy infringement, considering that the cyber security laws and technologies are not always foolproof.
· A positive aspect is that it will reduce the risk and chances of marriages under false identities and forced marriages.
· The Govt will have solid and conclusive evidence regarding marriage disputes on the question whether such a marriage did indeed take place.
· However, for this to come into practical application of linking Marriage Certificates to Aadhaar, first the Govt will have to ensure 100% enrollment of our population in Aadhaar, since the uniform application of the marriage law would depend on that too.
· It is important to note that non-registration will not render marriages void, even if the compulsory provision comes into being. The Commission recommended[x] “retention of the provisions in the Registration of Birth and Death (Amendment) Bill, 2015 regarding (i) penalty of rupees five per day in case of non-registration of marriage without a reasonable cause..” but the penalty is not to exceed a maximum of Rs.100.
[i] Para 1.16, Page 5 of the 270th Report of the Law Commission of India, available at http://lawcommissionofindia.nic.in/reports/Report270.pdf
[ii] Para 1.17, ibid
[iii] Para 1.18, ibid
[iv] Para 3.2, Page 10, ibid
[v] 2006 (2) SCC 578
[vi] Para 6.5, Page 27, Supra Note iv
[vii] Para 6.6, ibid
[viii] Para 7.5, Page 33, ibid
[ix] Para 8.11, Page 37, ibid
[x] Para 8.12, ibid
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