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Last Updated: Thursday, 25 October 2007, 14:41 GMT 15:41 UK
India wedding registration ruling
By Tinku Ray
BBC News, Delhi

Wedding couple
Many marriages in India are currently not registered
India's Supreme Court has again insisted that registration of all marriages in the country is compulsory and applies to everyone.

It has ruled that the central and state governments have 90 days to form laws that comply with the directive.

In February 2006 the court said that the states should bring about legislation to make it mandatory for all marriages to be registered.

The move is being opposed by senior members of the Muslim community.

The Supreme Court said that marriage registration must happen regardless of race, creed or religion.

Under the changes, proof of a traditional religious marriage ceremony would not be sufficient.

We are not against this ruling. But we already have a system of registration in place
All India Muslim Personal Law Board spokesman Raheem Qureshi

Supporters of the move say it will help to ensure a minimum age for marriage, prevent marriages without the consent of both parties, check bigamy and polygamy and deter people from buying and selling young girls under the guise of marriage.

They say that it would also help women claim alimony in the event of divorce or separation.

Critics say the state is interfering and the law unnecessary.

Millions of marriages go unregistered in India every year.

'System of registration'

The order was made after it was brought to the court's attention that so far the new rules have only been made compulsory for Hindu marriages.

The ruling body that governs Muslims in India, the All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) is upset over aspects of the ruling.

"We are not against this ruling. But we already have a system of registration in place," AIMPLB member Janab Abdur Raheem Qureshi told the BBC.

Indian couple getting married
Many ceremonies take place in isolated rural areas

"All Muslim ceremonies are performed and solemnised by a cleric who keeps a copy of the marriages. If every state government recognised our system then all they have to do is ask the cleric for a copy of the marriage certificate and we would have no objection to that.

"It's just not physically possible to expect every villager to register their marriage. That will happen only if every state administration is willing to go to every village to register them," Mr Qureshi said.

At present, a majority of marriages in India are not registered because ceremonies are performed according to religious rites.

This has been widely accepted in the country and divorce petitions filed in the courts until now have accepted religious marriages as legal.

Analysts say registering marriages has essentially been an urban phenomenon and married couples usually register only when there is a specific legal requirement, such as obtaining passports or visas.



SEE ALSO
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