Kerala HC to examine whether weddings under SMA can be solemnised online

A larger bench of the Kerala High Court will examine whether a wedding under the Special Marriage Act (SMA) can be solemnised online via video conferencing.

Justice P B Suresh Kumar, who had heard arguments on the issue, referred it to a larger bench for consideration.

The order came on the pleas by several petitioners who have contended that personal physical presence of the bride and groom is not necessary for solemnisation of nuptials under the law.

The state government, on the other hand, is not in favour of online solemnisation of marriages under the Act.

It has contended that solemnization of marriage was mandatory prior to registering it under the SMA and therefore, presence of the two sides and the witnesses is required before the Marriage Officer.

It has also said that if online mode of solemnisation was permitted, it would mandate maintaining of an electronic register of marriages and setting up an online mode of payment both of which are not in place presently.

It has further contended that another requirement for solemnisation of the marriage was that at least one of the two parties has to be resident of the area within the territorial limits of the Marriage Officer for minimum 30 days prior to issuing the notice of the intended nuptials.

Therefore, two persons living abroad cannot have their marriage solemnised online if they do not satisfy the residence requirement.

The petitioners, represented by advocates A Ahzar, Jawahar Jose and V Ajith Narayanan have contended that when marriages under SMA can be registered online, therefore, solemnisation too does not need physical presence of the parties involved.

They have claimed that there are various judgments which say that appearing via video conferencing is akin to being present in person with the sole difference that parties cannot be touched.

They said that under SMA the marriage can be solemnised by any means, like exchange of garlands or shaking of hands, as long as both parties make the declaration that they take each other as the lawfully wedded husband and wife.

They also said that signatures can be submitted via digital format and the same was recognised under the Information Technology Act.

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