Christian Personal Law 1872
Christians came to India and settled here many centuries ago. The East India Company was assumed as the ruling power in the country and established its own courts. The common law of England was made applicable to India on many subjects including marriage and divorce among the Christian community with the establishment of the supreme courts on the basis that it supported the principle of justice, equity and good conscience.
Indian Christian Marriage Act was passed in 1872. There are a number of enactment in the country that deal with Christian Marriages and matrimonial causes such as the Indian Christian Marriage Act, 1872, the Marriage Validation Act 1892, the Cochin Christian Civil Marriage Act, 1905, the Indian Matrimonial Cause Act, 1948, the Converts Marriage Dissolution Act, 1866 and the Indian Divorce Act, 1869.
Why the Indian Christian marriage act came into light
The main object of this Act is to reduce into a smaller compass and simplify the existing law on this matter by the consolidation of the different enactments referred to and to amend the law in those matters in which it has been shown to be defective.
For instance, it is provided that marriage between Native Christians shall be valid where the ages of the contracting parties are not less than 16 and 13 years respectively and they don’t stand in relation to each other within the prohibited degrees of affinity by act V of 1865.
President and several members of the Bengal Christian Association represented it forcefully stating that this provision of the law works injuriously by freeing the children of Native Christian parents from the control which all other parents can legally exercise over their sons and daughters before the latter have attained their majority.
This act stipulates apparently how such marriages are to be recorded in all cases and provides for the disposal of the record.
The bill also substitutes for the fixed rates of fees in respect of marriage solemnized by or before Marriage Registers, a power to the local government to regulate such fees and their remission and finally extends the Marriage Law to all places within the territories of Native Princes in alliance with her Majesty, in respect of marriage between British subjects professing the Christian religion.
The preamble of the Indian Christian Marriage Act, 1872 states that since it is expedient to consolidate and amend the law relating to the solemnization in India of marriages of persons professing the Christian religion that this bill has been passed. The bill is divided into 8 parts with the Preliminary section defining the expressions Church of England, Church of Rome, Church of Scotland, Church and inter alia, Christians.
Meaning of Christian Personal Law 1872
The term Christian means persons professing the Christian religion according to section 3. Indian Christians include the Christian descendants of natives of India who converted to Christianity as well as such Converts. Marriage between persons at least one of whom is a Christians is governed by this act.
This bill provides a code in itself and extends to the whole of India except the states of Travancore, Cochin and Manipur.
Certain conditions have been laid down for a marriage to be valid under the act in part I. The parties to the marriage must be Christians or at least one of them must be a Christian defined under section 3 of the bill. Marriage must have been solemnised according to the provisions of section 5 of the act by a person duly authorised to do so.
The State Governments have been given official permission to grant and revoke licences, granted in favour of certain persons, for the solemnization of marriage under this act.
The marriage must be performed in a particular form and duly entered in the marriage register maintained for this purpose as per the provisions contained in the Act.
Also, the factor of the marriage can be proved by producing entries from this register; other evidence also can be produced for this purpose.
Moreover, Versions of eyewitnesses to the marriage and subsequent conduct of the couple living as husband and wife can also be good pieces of evidence to prove the factor of Christian marriage.
A marriage solemnized does not become void under the act on account of minor irregularities. Thus, we can say, some other personal laws have been amended but the Christian Law has remained impervious to change despite demands and recommendations for reforms.