The Special Marriage Act, 1954 is an Act of the Parliament of India enacted to provide a special form of marriage for the people of India and all Indian nationals in foreign countries, irrespective of the religion or faith followed by either party. The Act originated from a piece of legislation proposed during the late 19th century.
In 1872 Act III, 1872 was enacted but later it was found inadequate for certain desired reforms, and Parliament enacted a new legislation. Henry Sumner Maine first introduced Act III of 1872, which would permit any dissenters to marry whomever they chose under a new civil marriage law. In the final wording, the law sought to legitimize marriages for those willing to renounce their profession of faith altogether (“I do not profess the Hindu, Christian, Jewish, etc. religion”). It can apply in inter-caste and inter-religion marriages. Overall, the response from local governments and administrators was that they were unanimously opposed to Maine’s Bill and believed the legislation encouraged marriages based on lust, which would inevitably lead to immorality.
The Special Marriage Act, 1954 replaced the old Act III, 1872. The new enactment has 3 major objectives:
- To provide a special form of marriage in certain cases,
- to provide for registration of certain marriages and,
- to provide for divorce.