On Thursday, the Delhi High Court declared that partners do not have to be physically present for a marriage to be registered; instead, they must be present via video conference before the competent Sub-division Magistrate (Reena Chadha and Others v. NCT Delhi Govt.)
Justice Rekha Palli reiterated the concept established by the Delhi High Court in Charanjit Kaur Nagi v Govt. of NCT of Delhi And Ors. that “personal presence” does not always imply physical presence. The court was considering a request from an NRI couple to have their marriage registered in New Delhi.
According to the petitioners, they married in 2001 and currently reside in the United States. They had requested the court to force the Delhi government to approve their online marriage registration application under the Delhi (Compulsory Registration of Marriage Order, 2014) and to allow them to appear in person before the appropriate authorities via video conferencing.
Because the petitioners are now in the United States and are unable to travel to India because of COVID-19 restrictions, they will not be able to appear in person before the SDM. The petitioners also argued that the marriage registration certificate was required in order for them to apply for a Green Card in the United States.
The Delhi government’s lawyer, Shobhana Takiar, argued that both parties’ personal appearance is required for verification purposes.
Senior counsel Vibha Datta Makhija, who appeared on behalf of the petitioners, said that the government had misconstrued section 4 of the Compulsory Registration of Marriage Order. The word “personal” in the aforementioned provision was being interpreted by the State as “Physical Appearance,” and the petitioners were being harassed as a result, the Court was told.
It is a legal obligation, according to the petitioner, for both partners to be present when their marriage is registered. She claims that personal appearance can only be avoided in limited circumstances. “What makes this a requirement? You are making an in-person appearance through VC.” The Supreme Court issued a statement. Following that, the Bench granted the petition in front of it.