Circular mandating presence of priest who performed the ceremony during registration of marriage, as a witness quashed by Bombay HC

Bombay High Court: A Division Bench comprising of S.C. Dharmadhikari and Sangitrao S. Patil, JJ. heard a petition for quashment of circular issued by the respondent, Registrar of Marriages, appointed under the Maharashtra Regulation of Marriage Bureaus and Registration of Marriages Act, 1998 to the extent it mandates presence of priest/purohit, who performs the ceremony to be present before the office of the Registrar of Marriage during the registration of marriage as a witness. The Bench allowed the petition and the memorandum was quashed and set aside.

While the reason for issuing the circular was to prevent registration of fake marriages, the petitioner contended that the Act only provided for the presence of the parties and three witnesses while registration of marriage and that the priest/purohit who performed it was not required. It would become highly difficult for the petitioner to be present for the registration of each and every marriage that he performs and also he would not be able to attend his regular functions in the temples or the other places, through which he earns his livelihood.

Even the provisions of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 leave it to the volition of the parties to take assistance of a priest in the solemnization of a marriage. Therefore, it would be difficult for the followers of certain groups or faiths who do not engage any priest in the performance of any ceremony to ensure his presence during registration. [Umesh@ Girish Arvind Pujari v. Registering Authority, Jalgaon City Municipal Corporation, 2017 SCC OnLine Bom 7240, decided on 01.08.2017]

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