In an order passed on Monday, the Supreme Court has said that suyamariyathai marriages, or self respect marriages need not be publicly solemnised or declared.
According to Section 7(A) of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 (Tamil Nadu State Amendment), self-respect marriages did away with the need for priests, rituals, and ceremonies, largely seen as being dictated by upper caste traditions. It had meant that two consenting Hindus can marry, with only the presence of friends and/or relatives.
Now, the Supreme Court order on Monday—the bench comprised of Justices S. Ravindra Bhat and Arvind Kumar—overruled a judgement by the Madras High Court from May this year, which had held that marriages performed in the offices of the advocates are not valid as per the Hindu Marriage Act 1955. A Madras High Court division bench had earlier said that self-respect marriages cannot be solemnised in secrecy.
The nuance to be aware of with the Supreme Court's order on Monday, however, is that it says such lawyers may not be acting in a professional capacity as officers of the court, but may solemnise such marriages only in their personal capacity of knowing the couple.
According to reports, the Supreme Court also remarked in its judgment about the sort of issues couples face when marrying against the wishes of their families.
The case being heard was the appeal of a man named Ilavarasan, against a Madras High Court order which had rejected his habeas corpus petition. He had filed it claiming that his wife, who was married to him in a suyamariyathai marriage, was being held illegally by her parents. The couple had opted for a self-respect marriage as she had eloped after being forcibly married off to her maternal uncle.
On May 5, 2023, the Madras High court had rejected his habeas corpus petition, refusing to rely upon a self-respect marriage certificate issued by an advocate. It had also also directed that the Bar Council should initiate disciplinary action against advocates who issue such "fake marriage certificates".