Due to the diversity of religious beliefs, people’s perspectives on marriage differ. Hindu marriage is an indissoluble bond that lasts for eternity. Marriage is recognized as part of the personal law in India due to the plurality of religions, and people are free to perform marriages according to their laws. With the passage of time and increased societal awareness, the government has passed several laws to make the current separation procedure in India more progressive in terms of gender concerns and other sensitive issues. The terms divorce and annulment appear to have similar meanings but they hold different meanings.
An annulment is a legal declaration that the marriage has come to an end. It is a procedure in which a marriage is declared null and void for a variety of reasons, one of which is that the legal requirements were not met at the time of the wedding. When one party files a petition for annulment of marriage, the court must determine whether or not the parties were legally married. When the Court issues an annulment decree, the parties’ further responsibilities or obligations towards each other end with the dissolution of the marriage.
Provisions for Annulment of Marriage under Personal Laws
- Hindu Marriage Act, 1955– Under the heading “Nullity of Marriage and Divorce,” the provision relating to the annulment of marriage has been addressed. Marriage is viewed as a spiritual link between two people among Hindus. The Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 completely overhauled the ancient Hindu marriage regulations, removing all of the social flaws. The new legislation has not only made significant modifications, but it has also attempted to tailor it to eliminate social disparities.
- Special Marriage Act, 1954– In India, inter-caste or inter-religion weddings are governed by the Special Marriage Act, 1954. This act regulates Hindu, Muslim, Christian, Sikh, Jains, and Buddhist weddings. The terms of this law apply not just to Indian citizens of various castes and religions, but also to Indian people living in other countries. Section 25 of this act deals with voidable marriages. It states that any marriage solemnized after the commencement of this act is voidable and may be proclaimed by an order of annulment if the following conditions are fulfilled:
- If the responder refuses to consummate the marriage
- If the respondent was pregnant by someone other than the petitioner at the time of marriage
- If either party’s permission was not freely given and was obtained by coercion, fraud, or misrepresentation
- Parsi Marriage and Divorce Act, 1936– The Parsi community’s marriage and divorce are governed by this legislation. People have viewed a Parsi marriage as a contract formed through the Ashirvad, which is required for its validity. Suits for nullity of marriage are discussed under Section 30 of the Parsi Marriage and Divorce Act, 1936. It states that if the consummation of marriage becomes impossible owing to natural circumstances, it may be declared null and void at the request of any party to the marriage.
- Indian Divorce Act, 1869– The Indian Divorce Act of 1869 is one of the most important personal laws, governing the Christian community. The clauses mentioned in this act outline the authority of the court and describe the types of remedy that courts can issue to married couples, such as dissolution of marriage, nullity of marriage, or judicial separation. Any husband or wife can file a petition before the District Court or the High Court under Section 18 of the Indian Divorce Act, 1869, to have his or her marriage declared null and void. The grounds for nullity of marriage are outlined in Section 19 of the legislation. A decree of nullity of marriage may be issued for any of the following reasons:
- Impotency or Lunacy of any of the parties at the time of the marriage
- If the parties are bounded by any prohibited degrees of consanguinity
- If any of the parties committed bigamy.
Grounds for Annulment of Marriage under Hindu Law
The reasons for annulment of a marriage may vary by legal jurisdiction, although they are typically confined to fraud, bigamy, blood relationship, and mental incompetence, which include the following:
- If the consent of any of the parties was taken through fraud or force.
- Prisoners who have been sentenced to life imprisonment are not allowed to marry.
- At the time of the marriage, either partner was already married to someone else.
- Either partner was either too young to marry or was too young to marry without the necessary court or parental authorization.
- At the time of the marriage, either partner was under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
- If either of the spouses were mentally incompetent at the time of the wedding.
- If at the time of the marriage, either of the spouses was not physically competent to marry the other.
- If at the time of the marriage, any of the spouses has concealed any necessary fact.
- Marriage is illegal if the parties are related to each other through a “prohibited degree of consanguinity”. Second cousins are the most prevalent legal relationship; the legality of such a relationship between first cousins varies around the world.
Void and Voidable Marriage
According to Section 11 of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, which deals with void marriages, any marriage solemnized after the inception of the Act can be declared null and void by filing a petition through either of the parties on specified reasons:
- Bigamy– The marriage is void if either partner was lawfully married to another person at the time of the marriage, and no formal annulment is required.
In M.M. Malhotra v. Union of India, the court held that the husband did a second marriage during the subsistence of his first marriage. Therefore, the second marriage of the husband is null and void and there is no legal validity of such marriage.
- Interfamily Marriage– The marriage is void since its inception if there is a link between both the spouses in the form of an ancestor and a descendant, a brother, and a sister, whether by half or whole blood or by adoption.
Section 12 of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 deals with voidable marriages and annulment is not automatic in a voidable marriage; one of the parties must seek it. In general, one of the parties to a marriage may seek an annulment if the intent to enter into a civil contract of marriage was not present at the time of the marriage, whether due to mental illness, intoxication, or fraud. Annulment for voidable marriages can be contested in the court based on the following grounds:
- When marriage is not consummated due to the incapacity of any of the partners.
- Any of the spouses did not freely consent to the marriage, as a result of a mistake, unsoundness, or other reason.
- If one of the spouses is mentally ill but has given valid consent to marry under the Mental Disorders Ordinance of 1952 Act.
- Any of the spouses is infected with a contagious kind of venereal disease.
- At the moment of marriage, the wife is pregnant with another person.
Annulment is a legal procedure in which a marriage is declared null and void for a variety of reasons, one of which is that the legal requirements were not met at the time of the marriage. The marriage is not regarded as valid if certain legal prerequisites are not met at the time of the wedding. In the scheme of marital laws, annulment of marriage is very significant since there is no purpose in carrying the weight of divorce in cases where marriage is solemnized based on fraud or even though the other spouse is already married. One of the major reasons for the annulment of marriage is the mental condition of the person. The legislation governing the nullity of marriage should not deter people from obtaining mental health care, or from marrying people who have mental diseases. The goal of the law is to avoid and nullify marriages where insanity is severe enough to prevent the discharge of basic marital duties.