In recent days, several discussions have taken place on whether the registration of Hindu marriages in Tamil Nadu require parental consent. Activists, politicians, inter-caste and inter-religious couples who register their marriage with great difficulty have questioned the intention behind the alleged move. TNM has accessed the problematic circular which has created an uproar.
What the circular says
The circular, dated September 28, 2017, is addressed to all sub registrars, district registrars and associate registrars from the Chief Registrar’s office in Chennai.
The first point directs that Aadhaar is acceptable as identification for couples, parents as well as witnesses. The circular adds that Aadhaar, however, cannot be used as citizenship proof or address proof.
Secondly, the circular asks the various registrars to verify the address and names of parents of the couple. It says, “Ensure that it tallies with name filled in application form. Only after careful scrutiny can the registration proceed.”
Thirdly, it says, if any of the parents are deceased, the original death certificate of the concerned parent is needed for verification and a copy should be retained.
Finally, if the bride or groom happens to be widowed, they should submit the original death certificate of the deceased spouse which has to be verified and a copy has to be retained.
Why this is problematic
While the circular nowhere explicitly asks for the physical presence of parents, three out of four points imply communication with parents.
According to the Hindu Marriage Act, only the couple and three witnesses are required for the registration of the marriage. However, the first and second point in the circular recognises the role of parents. While death certificates can now be downloaded online, the third point asks for the original death certificate of a deceased parent.
For thousands of inter-caste and inter-religious couples over the state who have had to leave their parental homes for a shared future, this circular ends up making it all the more difficult for them to legally register their marriage.
Speaking to TNM, Archana who married outside of her caste said, “When my husband and I went to register our marriage in Virugambakkam, we were told that bringing our parents along was mandatory. For me, they asked for both my parents to be present and for him, they said one parent would do.”
While the couple’s parents went along, for many that is unimaginable and a demand that violates the law.
Rubbishing the circular, Senior advocate Sudha Ramalingam says, "This is not in consonance with the law; this is not in the Act or the Constitution. This is just a way of bringing in patriarchal ideologies through backdoor means. The 'registration of marriage' is registering a marriage already performed and solemnised, for which you don't need any certificates. Parental consent is not necessary for two consenting individuals who marry people of their own choice."
‘Original intention of the circular different’
Several sources in the Tamil Nadu Registration Department told TNM that parental consent is indeed required. When asked about the ‘unofficial rule’, an official shot back, “Yes, parental consent is required. Young couples will marry outside their caste and we have to be responsible for that, is it?”
However, the Tamil Nadu Inspector General of Registration J Kumaragurubaran, says that the original intention of the circular was very different.
“People face hardships due to errors on their marriage certificates. They have to come here from all over Tamil Nadu to get their corrections done. The procedure takes time and they might lose out on their assignments abroad. That is why we have asked for the documents. Nowhere does it state that the parent has to come in person," he claims.
Since the marriage certificate is admittedly an important legal document for a married individual, why then does it involve obtaining parents’ documents at all?
The Inspector General admitted that this is a problem and that it would be looked into. Reassuring couples in the state, he says, “This is not binding. The Act is supreme. The circular is internal and for executive purposes. If this is causing hardships, we will definitely look into changing it.”