[Answered] What is the Special Marriage Act, and how is it different from religious codes of marriage?

Introduction: Explain Special Marriage Act.
Body: Explain how it is different from religious codes of marriage.
Conclusion: Write a way forward.

The Special Marriage Act of 1954 (SMA) enables marriage between inter-faith or inter-caste couples without them giving up their religious identity or resorting to conversion. The applicability of the Act extends to the people of all faiths, including Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, Christians, Sikhs, Jains, and Buddhists, across India. Some customary restrictions such as parties not being within degrees of a prohibited relationship still apply to couples under SMA.

The minimum age to get married under the SMA is 21 years for males and 18 years for females. No religious formalities are needed to be carried out under the Act. This Act applies not only to Indian citizens who belong to different castes and religions, but also to Indian nationals who live abroad.

How is it different from religious codes of marriage?

  • The SMA 1954 governs a civil marriage where the state sanctions the marriage rather than the religion, whereas it is vice versa for personal laws.
  • Issues of personal law such as marriage, divorce, adoption are governed by religious laws that are codified. These laws, such as the Muslim Marriage Act, 1954, and the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, require either spouse to convert to the religion of the other, before marriage.
  • The Hindu Marriage Act allows for an already solemnized marriage to be registered. It does not provide for registrar for solemnization of a marriage.
  • Since caste and religion have not been altered, the rights to ancestral property also remain unchanged. Personal laws manage the succession of property, which is governed by people’s beliefs. As a result, despite marrying outside the religious fold, the rights of inheritance and succession granted by the particular faith continue to exist.

Bearing in mind the community’s wrath, the Special marital Marriage is meant to safeguard the couple to the greatest extent feasible. The goal was to develop a universal code that would minimise the gap running deep in the society.

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