Marriage in Hinduism is one of the most important transitional points in one’s life and it is the most important of all the Hindu samskaras that exist within the religion of Hinduism. It is very important to remember , that the concept of annulment is very different from a divorce. A divorce dissolves a marriage that has existed, while an annulment annuls a marriage that never existed at all.
The concept of Annulment, however is a thorny and shunned remedy that is a practice that is avoided in most circumstances. Annulments are very rarely bestowed to people and when they are granted very specific circumstances must exist. An Annulment, when observed tends to be more a creature of religion than of law. The tradition of marriage is a sacred relationship but it is a complex sacrament. The complexities of this concept and by its development in the society, the concept of the Nullity of Marriage came to life.
A void marriage is one which is already considered as a non-existent marriage in the eyes of the law whereas a voidable marriage which is a completely different concept is a marriage which can be declared as invalid by the court on the petition of either one of the concerned parties to such a marriage. The court has the power to declare a marriage void or voidable and it will do so under the guidance of Section 11 and 12 respectively, of the Hindu Marriage Act, of 1955 and when a court declares that a marriage between two people is invalid, the marriage is said to be nullified.
Grounds for null and void marriage under Hindu Law
The grounds for a marriage to be annulled may vary according to the different legal jurisdictions present within our legal framework, but are in general limited to bigamy, fraud, mental incompetence and blood relationship and will also including the following:
- If one of the spouses was already married to someone else at the time of the marriage in question
- If one of the spouses was under the legal age to get married, or is too young without the required court or parental consent.
- If one of the spouses was intoxicated or under the influence of drugs at the time of the marriage.
- If one of the spouses was mentally incapacitated due to a mental illness at the time of the marriage.
- If the consent of one of the parties in the marriage was procured on the basis of coercion or fraud or force.
- If one of the spouses is physically incapable to consummate the marriage that is they are unable to have sexual intercourse at the time of the marriage.
- If the marriage is prohibited by law due to the relationship between the two parties. This is termed as the “prohibited degree of consanguinity”, and it refers to the presence of a blood relationship or the presence of a common lineal ancestor between the two respective parties.
- If one of the spouses is a prisoner, who is sentenced to a term of life imprisonment, such a person cannot marry.
- If a fact is concealed and that fact can hamper the integrity of a marriage for example one of the parties has a drug addiction that they have concealed, or a prior criminal record or the possession of a sexually transmitted disease.
Established in the Section 5 of the Hindu Marriage Act, of 1955, there are some very important conditions laid down by the act for a Hindu Marriage which must be fulfilled prior to the solemnization of any marriage ,and if these criteria are not met the process of annulment can be initiated by the concerned or afflicted party.
A marriage is that is declared as automatically void and is automatically annulled as it is prohibited by law is known as a void marriage. Section 11 of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 deals with the Nullity of marriage and divorce and defines the term void marriage as follows.
A marriage which has been solemnized after the commencement of the Hindu Marriage Act shall be null and void, on a petition filed by either one of the grieved parties, against the other party, and it shall be declared as null and void by a decree of nullity if it contravenes or is in conflict with any one of the conditions specified in clauses (i), (iv) and (v) of Section 5 as stated in the Hindu Marriage act.
Section 5 clause (i): “Neither party has a spouse living at the time of the marriage;”
Bigamy: If any one of the parties to a marriage already has another spouse living at the time of marriage, the marriage shall be considered as null and void and no formal annulment is necessary.
Section 5 clause (iv): “The parties are not within the degrees of prohibited relationship, unless the custom or usage governing each of them permits of a marriage between the two;”
Prohibited degree marriages
A marriage between two people of prohibited degree relations is void unless the customs and usages allow it. Any marriage between a descendant and his or her ancestor or between two siblings, or whether the relationship is by a half blood or whole blood bond or by adoption, any such marriage would be void ab initio and null in legal eyes.
Section 5 clause (v): “The parties are not sapindas of each other, unless the custom or usage governing each of them permits of a marriage between the two.”
Any marriage between two parties who are sapindas of each other is void unless allowed by customs and usages. A marriage where the relationship between the two parties is connected by half blood or the whole blood, will be null and void except those marriages permitted by established customs.