Hindu Marriage Act Applies to STs, Says HC

Wed 29 May 2024, 11:43:52
The Telangana High Court has made it clear that members of tribal communities who follow Hindu customs and traditions in their daily life — who are “substantially Hinduised” — can espouse the provisions of Hindu Marriage Act for dissolution of marriage. Section 2(2) of the Hindu Marriage Act speaks of non-applicability of the Act to members of any Scheduled Tribe community unless the Centre, by notification in the official gazette, directs otherwise.

Citing the bar created by the provision, the trial court at Kamareddy had not accepted a petition filed by a Lambada couple, belonging to the ST community, under Section 13(B) of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 for dissolution of marriage. Aggrieved with the trial court decision, an appeal was filed before the Telangana High Court. Justice Alishetty Laxminarayana of the Telangana High Court held that the provisions of exclusion under Section 2(2) of the Act were meant to protect customary practices of recognised tribes. However, if the parties were following Hindu traditions and customs and were substantially Hinduised, they cannot be relegated to customary courts, that too when they themselves had

admitted that they were following Hindu rites, customs and traditions.

The judge also perused the material filed by the petitioner i.e., wedding card and photographs showing that the marriage was solemnised as per the Hindu customs like following the Saptapadi ceremony. The marriage invitation was also as per Hindu customs. Justice Laxminarayana observed that if members of a tribal community voluntarily choose to follow Hindu customs, traditions and rites, they could not be kept out of the purview of the provisions of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955.

The judge also made clear that the High Court had not expressed a general opinion on the applicability of Section 2(2) of the Act to the petitions filed by the persons belonging to Scheduled Tribe community. The trial courts concerned shall deal with the issue in accordance with law as per the facts and circumstances of each case and decide the same, duly taking into consideration the material placed on record in support of their contention that they are following Hindu customs, traditions and that they are substantially Hinduised.

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