Delhi High Court: While addressing a request for registration of marriage without requiring the physical presence of the couple, Rekha Palli, J., expressed that,
“In a little over half a decade, since the Registration Order was notified, the universe has undergone a sea change but the Registering Authority, while exercising its power and jurisdiction under the Registration Order is refusing to recognize the reality that with the technology as is available today, web portals and Video Conferencing have become almost the norm.”
An Indian Couple residing in the United States of America sought a direction to the concerned Sub-Divisional Magistrate, New Delhi to register their marriage in accordance with the provisions of the Delhi (Compulsory Registration of Marriage) Order, 2014 without insisting on their physical appearance before him.
Bench stated that the aforesaid Registration Order of 2014 was promulgated post the directions issued by the Supreme Court in Seema v. Ashwani Kumar, (2006) 2 SCC 578. Pursuant to the said Order, the registration of marriages solemnized in Delhi was made compulsory under the Registration Order.
Petitioner submitted that due to being relocated to Singapore prior to 2014 they could not apply for registration of their marriage when the order came into effect.
Now the couple has relocated to USA and have applied for Green Card in the USA, for the grant of the same they require a marriage registration certificate.
Due to the changed circumstances with the COVID-19 pandemic resulting in restrictions on travel, petitioners tried to make an online application in early June 2021but were unable to do so, as they do not possess an Aadhaar Card or a Voter ID Card, which are mandatory to apply through the portal.
When the petitioners tried to submit their application through the counsel, the same was not accepted stating that their physical presence was required.
In view of the above background, the present petition was filed.
Analysis, Law and Decision
High Court stated that whether personal appearance for purposes of marriage would include appearance through Video Conferencing has already been considered and answered in the affirmative, as rightly urged by the Senior Counsel of the petitioner not only but this Court but by a number of other High Courts as well.
In Charanjit Kaur Nagi v. Govt. of NCT of Delhi, 2007 SCC OnLine Del 1393 when the use of Video Conferencing was still at a very nascent stage, this Court had permitted registration of marriage without insistence on the physical appearance of one of the parties to the marriage, while permitting appearance through video conferencing.
In another decision, Upasana Bali v. State of Jharkhand, 2012 SCC OnLine Jhar 1505, Jharkhand High Court while allowing the petition of a similarly placed couple, who were residing in the UK, directed the Registering Authority under the Jharkhand Hindu Marriage Rules to accept their application for registration of marriage through their Power of Attorney holder, and to permit them to personally appear before the authority through Video Conferencing.
Kerala High Court in Pradeep Kodiveedu Cletus v. Local Registrar of Marriages, 2017 SCC OnLine Ker 23204, observed that the provision for registration of marriage could certainly be interpreted as enabling the Local Registrar to obtain personal appearance through Video Conferencing as well.
Supreme Court’s decision in State of Maharashtra v. Praful B. Desai (Dr), (2003) 4 SCC 601, expounded the importance of Video Conferencing.
Therefore, in view of the above-stated precedents, High Court expressed that,
“…in times such as these, when technology has proven to be in the bridge that ensured uninterrupted communication, widespread dissemination of information in public interest and the smooth functioning of the society, the Court cannot allow a rigid interpretation of the statute to prevent citizens from exercising their rights.”
Further, the Court referred to the Supreme Court decision in Anuradha Bhasin v. Union of India, (2020) 3 SCC 637 in which the Court emphasized the need to adapt technological advancements while dispensing justice.
Physical Presence: Necessary or Not?
High Court keeping in view the fact that the issuance of the registration order is to promote the registration of marriages, Clause 4 must be interpreted in such a manner that encourages parties to easily get their marriages registered.
The insistence of physical appearance even when their personal appearance can be easily secured through video conferencing, will definitely make it more cumbersome for parties to come forward for registration of marriages. This will negate the very purpose of enactment of the Registration Order and cannot be permitted.
Hence, Clause 4 of the Registration Order has to be read to include presence secured through Video Conferencing.
In view of the above discussion, petition was allowed resulting in parties seeking marriage registration being entitled to submit a physical copy of their application through their attorney and also enter a personal appearance as and when required, through Video Conferencing.
a) The petitioners are permitted to submit their application for registration of marriage, through their counsel/Power of Attorney Holder in physical form before the SDM Kishan Ganj, Delhi, alongwith copies of all supporting documents duly notarized, either by the notary public in US, where they are presently residing, or by the notary public in Delhi.
b)The respondent will allow the “personal appearance” of the Petitioners for the purpose of Clause 4 (d) and (e) & Form A of The Delhi (Compulsory Registration of Marriage), 2014 through Video Conferencing.
c) The two witnesses, as required under the Registration Order will appear physically before the Registering Authority alongwith their original ID proofs, on the date as notified by the authority.
d) The respondent will, thereafter, expeditiously register the petitioners’ marriage, and issue the Marriage Registration Certificate within a period of two weeks’ from the date of receipt of the application made by the petitioners.
[Reena Chadha v. Govt. of NCT of Delhi, 2021 SCC OnLine Del 4336, decided on 9-9-2021]
Advocates before the Court:
Ms. Vibha Datta Makhija, Sr. Adv. with Mr. Praveen Gaur, Adv.
Ms. Shobhana Takiar, ASC, GNCTD.