The Supreme Court is set to examine whether certain provisions of the Special Marriage Act of 1954 – which allows personal records to be available to the public during the 30-day notice period before the marriage – violate the individual’s right to privacy.
The top court has issued a notice to the centre on this matter after a PIL (public interest litigation) was filed by a law student from Kerala. The petitioner, Nandini Praveen, sought the court’s direction to quash certain sections of the act.
Ms Praveen’s lawyer argued that placing private details of the to-be-wed couple in the public domain – as a notice of intended marriage in the district where at least one of the couple resides in – violated an individual’s right to privacy as guaranteed by the Constitution.
“Your plea is that this is a violation of the privacy of the couples. But imagine if children run away to get married how the parents would know about the whereabouts of their children? If wife runs away, how would the husband come to know?” the Chief Justice of India, SA Bobde, asked Ms Praveen’s lawyer.
The lawyer, Kaleeswaram Raj, replied: “The question being raised here is publication of records in public domain. We are not questioning inquiries to be made by the marriage officer”.
Mr Raj also pointed out that a marriage was a privately-made decision by two consenting adults and, by making their details public, the State was “… hampering… the right of the couple to be the decision-makers of their marriage”.
“Marriage reflects a private decision taken by two consenting adults and the SMA (Special Marriage Act) was formulated to provide a secular form of marriage. By making the personal details of the couple accessible to everyone, the very right of the couple to be the decision-makers of their marriage is being hampered by the State,” Ms Praveen’s petition said.
The petition also pointed out that no legitimate State interest was served by publishing the couple’s private details.
After hearing the arguments, the top court issued a notice to the centre.