Mohammed is a Bihar native and head of the Pavithra Telecom Company in Mangalore. The two fell in love during a training session in Mumbai, and wanted to spend their lives together, despite family opposition. But because Pavithra’s father wanted to marry her, the two went on a road trip to Hyderabad, Delhi and then Dehradun. There, he tried to marry under the Special Marriage Act 1954, which allows interfaith couples to marry without having to convert, but district officials have repeatedly discouraged them, saying their marriage doesn’t work and instead filing for their in-laws.
Fearing separation, he chose Nika. He recalls, “I have no objection to Pavithra’s religion but we are desperate. How long could we be running? We were scared when someone asked why we were living together. But his ordeal was gone. Eventually, she managed to talk to him and travel to Delhi to officially marry him, but even then, due to official delay in sending and reviewing a month’s residency requirement and notice in Delhi, under the Special Marriage Act (SMA) It took several months to get married legally.
The turbulent path of the marriage of Mohammed and Saints shows why couples who do not wish to convert have to choose religious weddings rather than face the long process and bureaucratic quarrels of the SMA.
One of the major problems with the SMA is the notice displayed for a month at the Marriage Registration Office. Amrita Garg, an advocate for the Punjab and Haryana High Court, which helps such couples, says the provision has the unintended consequence of alerting alert groups and denying family members. “Sometimes, such instructions are sent to the families of couples, which often leads to violence and honor killings, defeating the purpose of enacting this legislation,” he says. Then there’s the human angle. “To my mind, the biggest issue is the vast power of marriage authorities, the first stop for all couples who want to get married. They appropriate the role of marriage counselors and abuse their position to create barriers. ”
Recently, a couple from Kerala found themselves leaking pictures and personal details and leaked on social media with ‘Love Jihad’ accusations. Atira Sujata, one of those who shared details on Facebook and WhatsApp before the wedding in December 2019, wrote a Facebook post tagging state legislators, which then led to the removal of applications from the government website in July. “They simply did not mention that these applications were under SMA,” says Atira, who did not change his religion.
Renu Mishra of the Lucknow-based Association of Advocacy and Legal Initiatives says that couples are often bullied by a special marriage law. “When we tell couples that notices can be sent to their homes, they become frightened and rarely return,” he says.
Garg notes that they often see couples who convert to the religion of their spouse to marry under the individual laws of that religion to avoid a long and cumbersome procedure under the SMA. “However, such transitions are difficult in states like Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand,” he says. “This, effectively, puts such pairs in a catch-22 situation.”
Dhanak, a Delhi-based NGO that provides legal, financial and psychological support to interracial and interracial couples, often receives requests from other states to travel to the national capital to tie the knot under the SMA. “They want to change their jurisdiction because they don’t believe in the local governance of their place,” says co-founder Asif Iqbal. “In addition, locals in small cities are informing families.” But this also requires a one month compulsory stay in Delhi, which is difficult and expensive for the young couple running.
Time is usually a luxury that interfaith couples don’t have. Fleeing from their families, Anu * and Ashfaq * had a quick Arya Samaj marriage, and then applied for a license under the SMA after receiving court protection. However, their plans stalled due to the Kovid-19 lockdown. After waiting in Delhi for two months, he ran out of money and returned to his home state but hopes to return soon and save enough to make his union ize. “In such cases, a religious wedding can provide immediate relief,” says Dhanak’s Iqbal, who received requests from a couple who had a religious wedding a year or two ago but now wants to register it under the SMA. New laws are proposed.
* Names have been changed upon request

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