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TRIMESTER XII

SAVEETHA SCHOOL OF LAW


VALIDITY OF FOREIGN
MARRIAGES BEFORE
INDIAN COURTS A STUDY

A PROJECT ON

UNDER THE ESTEEMED GUIDANCE


OF:

DR. ANITA FABYOLA


SUBMITTED BY: M. AMUDHA
DATE OF SUBMISSION: 10.09.15
SUBJECT:
PRIVATE INTERNATIONAL LAW

Table of Contents
CHAPTERISATION.................................................................................................. 2
CASES REFERRED.................................................................................................. 3
RESEARCH PROBLEM:........................................................................................... 4
HYPOTHESIS:......................................................................................................... 4
LIMITATION........................................................................................................... 4
REVIEW OF LITERATURE....................................................................................... 4
RESEARCH METHODOLOGY.................................................................................. 4
CHAPTER - 1........................................................................................................... 5
CHAPTER 2.......................................................................................................... 7
CHAPTER 3........................................................................................................ 12
CHAPTER 4........................................................................................................ 24
CHAPTER - 5......................................................................................................... 29
BIBLIOGRAPHY.................................................................................................... 30

CHAPTERISATION
CHAPTER 1 (INTRODUCTORY)
Introduction
Meaning of Marriage
CHAPTER 2 (MARRIAGE)
Formal validity of marriage position in England and other countries
Essential validity of marriage / capacity to marry
Choice of Law rule
CHAPTER 3 (NRI MARRIAGES)

Concept of Non-Resident Indian Marriages and legal issues


Application of marriage Acts in Non- Resident Indian Marriages
Validity of Non- Resident Indian Marriages
Indian courts Scenario and International law

CHAPTER 4 (JURISDICTION)
Divorce and judicial separation
Nullity of Marriage
Recognition of foreign Divorces
CHAPTER 5 (CONCLUSION)
Conclusion

CASES REFERRED
1. Abdur Rahim Undre v. Padma Abdur Rahim, AIR 1982, Bom. 341
2. Anil Kumar Mahsi v. Union of India, (1995) 1 SCJ 90-94.
3. Berthiaume v. Dastous [1930] AC 79,
4. Brook v. Brook (1861), 9 H.L.C. 193
5. Cristofaro v. Cristofaro (1948) VLR 163
6. Davison v. Sweeney (2005) 255 D.L.R.
7. De Reneville v. De Reneville, [(1948) P 100]
8. Hyde v. Hyde, (1866) LR 1 P & D 130
9. Jacintha Kamath v. Padmanabha K., AIR 1992 Kant 372. 32
10. Lakshmi Sanyal v. S.K. Dhar, AIR 1972 Goa 2667.
11. Lawrence v. Lawrence [1985] 1 All ER 506.
12. Le Mesurier v. Le Mesurier, [1895] A.C. 517
13. Levett v. Levett and Smith [1957]
14. Madhubala v. Jagdish Chandera, (1978) 4, All LR 457.
15. Mariamonia P. v Padmanabham, AIR 2001 Mad. 350.
16. Marian Eva v. State of H.P., AIR 1993 HP 7
17. Mrs. Anoop Beniwal vs. Dr. Jagbir Singh Beniwal; AIR1990 Delhi305
18. Prem Singh v. Dulari Bai, AIR 1973 Cal WN 535
19. Ramesh Kumar P. v. Secretary, Kannapuram Gram Panchayat, AIR 1998 Ker 95.
20. Sanjay Mishra v. Eveline Joe, AIR 1993 MP 54.
21. Sarla Mudgal, President Kalyani v. Union of India, AIR 1995 SC 1531
22. Satya vs. Teja Singh (1975)1SCC120
23. Shaw v. Gould, (1868) 3 H.L. 55
24. Sottomayor, otherwise De Barros v. De Barros, (1877) 3 PD 1
25. Vinaya Nair v. Corporation of Kochi, AIR 2006 Ker.275.
26. Vishwanathan v. Abdul Wajid, AIR 1963 SC 158
27. Way v. Way [1949] All ER 959.
28. Y. Narasimha Rao and Ors. Vs. Y. Venkata Lakshmi and Anr;(1991)3SCC451

RESEARCH PROBLEM:
This paper aims to make an elaborate study on the determination as to the legal recognition
given to the marriage held or solemnized in other countries between either Indian citizen and
other national or between Indian citizens or between foreign nationals whose validity is
challenged between Indian courts.
HYPOTHESIS:
The marriage held in foreign countries is recognized by the Indian courts.
LIMITATION
This research is done relying mostly on articles and essays published by authors
online and few on books written on the concept of marriage, its validity in case of cross
border issues, its relevance under English law and Indian Law. Though such books are
referred they do not contribute to the bulk of the research and my research is mostly confined
with the online sources. The area of research is only restrained to the concept of marriage and
enforcement of same under Private International Law.
REVIEW OF LITERATURE
The existing literature on this research work mainly revolves around the published
works of foreign as well as Indian authors pertaining to the subject matter, well decided cases
cited in Indian Journals and cases cited from other countries and the articles published in
websites.
RESEARCH METHODOLOGY
The research methodology adopted for the purpose of this project is the doctrinal
method of research. The various library and internet facilities available for Saveetha School
of law has been utilized for this purpose. Most of the information is, however, from the
internet.

VALIDITY OF FOREIGN MARRIAGES BEFORE INDIAN COURTS A STUDY

CHAPTER - 1
INTRODUCTION:
Marriage is the very foundation of the civil society, and no part of the laws and institutions
of a country can be of more vital importance to its subject than those which regulate the
manner and condition of forming, and if necessary of dissolving, the marriage contract. The
formal requirement of the marriage will be governed by the law of the country where the
marriage is celebrated. A marriage can be celebrated if the parties meet the substantive
requirement of the domestic law of the country where the marriage is celebrated, and one of
the parties is a national of that state, or habitually resides there; and each party satisfies the
substantive requirements of the law applicable to the parties in accordance with the conflict
of law rules of the place where the marriage is celebrated. This article basically focuses on
the marriage as a contract which is sui generis along with the opinion of various Judges
though the judgments in different cases. However it also talks about the position, legal
formalities along with the validity and capacity of the parties to marriage and the choice of
law rules governing such marriages in England and other common law countries though out
the world. On the other hand the focus on the matrimonial causes like polygamous marriages;
divorce, judicial separation, nullity of marriage in different countries has also been made.
Towards the end of the article it talks about the jurisdiction and the choice of law for solving
such causes after marriage and the recognition of foreign divorces in other countries. The
conclusion part tries to give an overall view along with the present scenario on the subject.

MARRIAGE:
The dictum in Shaw v. Gould1 states marriage as Marriage is the very foundation of the
civil society, and no part of the laws and institutions of a country can be of more vital
importance to its subject than those which regulate the manner and condition of forming, and
if necessary of dissolving, the marriage contract. In English law, a marriage though a
contract, is a contract sui generis. Each legal system determines the attributes of a marriage;
at Common Law in England, it is in essence a consensual union of a man and a woman. A
1 (1868) 3 H.L. 55 : 37 L.J. Ch. 433 : 18 L.T. 833 : 148 R.R. 214

marriage was a voluntary union for life of one man with one woman to the exclusion of
others2. This decision was the foundation of the rule that polygamous marriages were not
recognized in England but the situation has been changed and such marriages are now
recognized in England.

Meaning of Marriage
Marriage is a contract by which a man and a woman express their consent to create the
relationship of husband and wife. This contract, however, differs fundamentally from a
commercial contract in the following ways:
As a general rule, it can only be concluded by a formal public act.
It can only be dissolved by a formal public act.
More importantly, it creates a status which is taken into account in relation to, for
example, succession, tax, legitimacy of children, and to some extent in relation to
immigration laws3.
According to Tomlins Dictionary, Marriage is a civil and religious contract, whereby a man
is joined and united to a women, for the purpose of civilized society4.
Each legal system determines the attributes of a marriage in a different way. English law
considers marriage as a contract, whereas in India, among Hindus marriage has always been
regarded as sacrament, whilst in Mohammedan Law, it is a contract. Hence the perception of
marriage differs from different legal entity, the practice of religion etc. as the case may be.

2 See Hyde v. Hyde, (1866) LR 1 P & D 130


3 See Cheshire & North, Private International Law, thirteenth edn, p. 741.
4 See S.R.Myneni, Private International Law, first edn, p.250.

CHAPTER 2
Conditions for Validity of Marriage:
Two conditions are to be fulfilled to constitute validity of marriage:
1. Parties to Marriage should have the capacity to marry, which in Private International
Law called as the question of essential or material validity.
2. Parties to Marriage must have performed necessary rites and ceremonies, which in
Private International Law called as the question of Formal Validity.
The above two conditions should be fulfilled for the marriage to be valid.
In De Renville v. De Renville5, the honble court laid down conditions for conferment of
status of marriage as:
1. That the marriage conforms in its essentials with the law of each partys domicile at
the time of marriage; and
2. That it has been performed in accordance with the formal requirements of the law of
the place where the ceremony takes place, generally called Lex loci celebrationis.
Essential validity of marriage / capacity to marry:
Essential validity involves three elements:
1. An agreement, which may be affected by mistake, duress, undue influence or fraud;
2. Capacity to marry in the narrow sense (herein called capacity), i.e., legal ability to
marry at all; and
3. Freedom from legal prohibitions of the particular intermarriage (herein called
prohibitions)6.
Capacity to Marry
Essential validity covers all questions of validity other than formal validity. Capacity to marry
is a category within essential validity. Capacity to marry ought strictly to be confined to rules
which lay down that a particular class of person lacks a power to marry which other people
possess (for instance, rule that a person below a certain age may not marry). In practice,
5 [(1948) P 100]
6 CONFLICT OF LAWS-ESSENTIAL VALIDITY OF MARRIAGE, By Geoffery Sawer,
LL.M.,Barrister at law., senior lecturer in law at the University of Melbourne.

however, capacity to marry also includes cases where the reason for the invalidity, is that
such a marriage relationship is objectionable in the eyes of law (for instance, rules prohibited
marriages between relatives of certain degrees). Capacity to marry does not, however, cover
the whole field of essential validity; it does not include the consent of the parties or the nonconsummation of the marriage.
There is general agreement that this terminology includes matters of legal capacity such as
consanguinity and affinity, bigamy and lack of age. Consideration is given later to a law to
govern matters of consent and physical incapacity. The fact that capacity as a term
encompasses a wide range of matters does not necessitate the conclusion that all matters of
capacity should be subject to the same choice of law rule- a matter to which we shall return.
A further preliminary point which ought to be borne in mind is that, provided that a person
has capacity under the relevant law, the fact that he is, for example, under age according to
English law will not invalidate the marriage in the eyes of English law as the law of the
forum at least if the marriage is not in England.
There are two main views as to the law which should govern capacity to marry The dual domicile doctrine, and
The intended matrimonial home doctrine.
Consent of Parties
The rule states that no marriage is valid if by the law of either partys domicile he or she does
not consent to marry the other7. There appears to be no specific authority in England on the
subject though observation by the Court of Appeal, in a case where the issue was whether a
marriage by proxy was valid, observed that the mode of giving consent, as opposed to the fact
of consent would be governed by the lex loci celebrationis. It was also held that the consent is
governed by the law of the domicile of the parties. 8 The question that arises is as to which lex
domicilii has to be considered, of both parties, or of the party whose consent is in question.
The consensus seems to be, though there is no decision on the subject, that is should be
domiciled of the person who is alleged to have lacked consent. In Davison v. Sweeney,9 it was
held that alleged absence of consent was a matter for a domicile of the party concerned.
7 Hartley, The Policy Basis of the English Conflict of Laws of Marriage (1972) 35 MLR 571.
8 Way v. Way [1949] All ER 959.
9 (2005) 255 D.L.R. (4th) 757 (BC)

In Canada, consent is regarded as a part of essential validity of a marriage and depends on the
ante nuptial domicile of the parties.
The Choice of Law Rule
Formal validity is governed by the law of the country where the marriage is celebrated, that
law is not generally thought appropriate in the English conflict of laws to govern the essential
validity. This is because the marriage may be celebrated in a country which in other respect
has no connection with the marriage or the parties. Neither of the parties may be domiciled
there before the ceremony and they may not establish their home there after it. The choice of
law rule doctrines are as under:
1. Dual Domicile Doctrine
According to the dual domicile doctrine rule is that a persons domicile at the date of the
marriage has to be considered. For marriage to be valid, each party must have capacity by
the law of his or her domicile to contract the marriage. This rule commands most in
English law, has several advantages. In terms of principle, it is appropriate that people be
governed by the law of their existing domicile. The main rationale of this rule is that a
persons status is a matter of public concern to the country to which he belongs at the
time of marriage; and therefore the domiciliary law of each party has an equal right to be
heard. Another advantage of this doctrine is that it is easy to apply in prospective
situation.
In Brook v. Brook10, the House of Lords dealt with the question of essential validity and
held that the marriage of a man to his deceased wifes sister in Denmark was invalid
because such a marriage was within the prohibited degrees of affinity under English law,
the law of the parties ante-nuptial domiciles, though not under Danish law.
GOVERNING MATTERS OF CAPACITY TO MARRY:
Consent of parties
Non-Age
Prohibited degrees of relationship
2. Intended Matrimonial Home Doctrine

10 (1861), 9 H.L.C. 193, 1 E.R. 703

An alternative approach is that the law of the intended matrimonial homes governs the
essential validity of a marriage.11 This provides a basic presumption in favour of the law
of the country in which the husband is domiciled at the date of the marriage. This
presumption can be rebutted if at the time of the marriage the parties intended to establish
a matrimonial home in a different country and if they implemented that intention within a
reasonable time.12
3. Real and Substantive Connection
Another possibility is that the essential validity of marriage should be governed by the
law of the country with which the marriage has its most and real and substantial
connection. As with the intended matrimonial home doctrine this rule is trying to connect
the marriage with the country to which it belong. Normally, the country with which a
marriage is most closely connected will be the country where the matrimonial home is
situated13. Further, while the real and substantial connection test has its supporters, it is,
in reality, a question- begging test. The question in which, choice of law rule will best
lead to the application of the law to which the parties and marriages
belong. This test does not answer the question, but rather simply restates the problem.14
4. Validity of either Partys Domiciliary Law
Under this test a marriage would be regarded as essentially valid if it were valid under
either partys ante nuptial domiciliary law. This proposal has the advantage that it would
promote the policy in favour of validity of marriage, but has little else to commend it.15
5. A Variable Rule
In order to determine the most appropriate choice of law rule, one should examine why a
particular impediment exists and which law has the most interest in the validity of the
marriage. On this basis, the modified intended matrimonial home rule proposed above
11 See Cheshire & North, Private International Law, seventh edn, p 276.
12 Cook, The Logic and Legal Bases of the Conflict of Laws (1942) p448.
13 Lawrence v. Lawrence [1985] 1 All ER 506.
14 Davie, The Breaking Up of the Essential Validity of Marriage Choice of Law
Rules in English Conflict of Laws (1994)
15 Hartley, The Policy Basis of the English Conflict of Laws of Marriage (1972)
35 MLR 571.

seems the more appropriate to govern in capabilities which are imposed to protect the
public interest of countries, rather than the interest of the parties to the marriage.16

Formal validity of marriage position in England and other countries:


Position in England
In recent years, the Common Law rules have been considerably varied by statute; such
changes are not discussed as the statutes would have no application outside England or
United Kingdom. A marriage is formally valid when any one of the following conditions as to
the form of celebration is complied with (that is to say)17:
i.

If the marriage is celebrated in accordance with the form required or recognized as


sufficient by the law of the country where the marriage was celebrated18.

ii.

If the marriage was celebrated in accordance with the English common law in a
country where the use of the local form is impossible.19

iii.

If the marriage, between parties of whom at least one is United Kingdom national is
celebrated outside the Commonwealth in accordance with the provisions of, and the
form required by, the Foreign Marriage Acts, 1892.20

The leading more modern authority in England on the point is Sottomayor, otherwise De
Barros v. De Barros,21 where the Court of Appeal held that, the law of a country where the
marriage is solemnized must alone decide all questions relating to the ceremony by which the
marriage is alleged to have been constituted; but, as in other contracts, so in that marriage,
personal capacity must depends on the law of the domicile; and if the laws of any country
prohibits its subject within certain degree of consanguinity from contracting marriage, and
stamp a marriage between persons within the prohibited degree as incestuous. In

16 Jaffey, Topics in Choice of Law (1996) pp 3-7.


17 Rule 67(1) of Common Law Rules.
18 Rule 67(1) of Common Law Rules.
19Ibid,Rule 67(2)
20 Ibid,Rule 67(5)
21 (1877) 3 PD 1, p 5.

Berthiaume v. Dastous,22 a decision of the Privy Council in an appeal from Canada, held that
a marriage would be regarded as valid if the form adopted by the parties was in conformity
with the law of the country where the marriage took place, even if it was not a proper form of
law of the domicile of the parties.
In English Law, two rebuttable presumptions are drawn presuming the validity of marriage:
a) That if the parties go through a ceremony of marriage and live together, they were
validly married.
b) If the parties cohabit and are reputed to be married, they regarded as validly married;
there must, however, be some evidence that the marriage complied with local form.23

CHAPTER 3
Concept of Non-Resident Indian Marriages and legal issues:
Definition of Non-Resident Indian
Section 2 of Foreign Exchange Management Act, 1999 (FEMA) 24 defines a person resident in
India and a person resident outside India, but does not define the term NRI. Under FEMA, a
person resident in India is one who resides in India for more than 182 days in the preceding
financial year and who comes or stays in India for any purpose. Non-Resident Indian is
defined as a person who is not a resident in India. Therefore, an NRI or Non-Resident Indian
can be summed up as an Indian citizen who is ordinarily residing outside India and holds an
Indian passport. In other words Non-Resident Indian- NRI means an individual, being a
citizen of India or a person of Indian origin who is resident outside India. Marriages by and/or
with Non Resident Indians (NRI marriages) are a class apart in matrimonial law. Generally,
the main motive for such a marriage is immigration to a foreign land in pursuit of greener
pastures. Non Resident Indian marriages may be between: 1. Non-resident female and an Indian male
2. Both Indian spouses who later on migrate to a foreign land either together or separately

22 [1930] AC 79, p 83.


23 Cristofaro v. Cristofaro (1948) VLR 163.
24 Foreign Exchange Management Act 1999, (Act 42 of 1999), Section 2.

3. Both non-resident Indian spouses who marry under Indian marriage laws either in India or
in a foreign country
4. An Indian spouse, male or female, marrying a foreign spouse under Indian marriage laws
either in India or in a foreign country
The spouses in the NRI marriage, like any other Indian Hindu marriage, may be between:
(i)
Both parties being from the same caste
(ii)
Parties may be from different casteinter-caste marriage.
(iii)
One of the parties may be a non-Hinduinterfaith marriage, with or without
(iv)

conversion to mutual faith.


With or without surrendering the overseas citizenship if married in India or

(v)

acquiring or not acquiring a foreign citizenship if married abroad.


Similarly NRI groom or NRI bride who comes to India for marriage with a native
spouse may be a foreign citizen of a foreign country either by adoption or by
birth; a green card holder; on a work permit or on a temporary visa or may have

(vi)

dual citizenship as an Overseas Citizen of India


These marriages may be between bachelors, remarriage of both or of either spouse

(vii)

after divorce or after widowhood


Bigamous or fraudulent marriage based on wrong information regarding job,
matrimony, addiction, illness or even criminal record

Even though this is a gender-neutral term, typically the NRI marriages are considered to be
between a woman from India and an Indian man residing in another country (NRInonresident Indian), either as Indian citizen at the time of marriage (when he would legally be
an NRI) or as citizen of that other country (when he would legally be a PIOPerson of
Indian Origin). PIO means a foreign citizen who any time held an Indian passport; or he/she
or either of his/her parents or grandparents or great grandparents was born in India and was
permanently resident in India or that he/she is spouse of a Indian citizen or Indian Origin.
Indians settled abroad, having acquired foreign citizenship, get married either to Indian
spouses who are 130 themselves citizens of that country or to foreign spouses. They are,
thus, governed by the local civil marriage laws and generally do not pose any legal problems
for Indian Courts.
Application of marriage Acts in Non- Resident Indian Marriages
Marriage laws outline the legal requirements, which determine the validity of a marriage.
The NRI marriages may be solemnized under either, The Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, The
Special Marriage Act, 1954, The Foreign Marriage Act, 1969 or any other personal law
governing the spouses.

The law under which the parties have married will determine the law that will be
applicable to the couple. It will also affect their children in respect of rights relating to
inheritance and succession, as also the couples right to adopt, to be guardians or to obtain
custody of children. Each of the laws specifies persons who can marry under the provision of
that law. The Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 requires that both the parties who are getting married
must be Hindus. So that if a non-Hindu wants to marry a Hindu under the Hindu Marriage
Act, 1955, the non-Hindu partner will have to get converted to Hinduism before their
marriage can take place. The Muslim law, on the other hand, as applied in India permits a
Muslim marriage between two Muslims or between a Muslim man and a Christian/Parsi
woman but not a Hindu/Buddhist or Sikh woman. The Christian law of marriage permits a
marriage between any two Christians or even a Christian and a non-Christian under it.
The marriage under The Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 can be solemnized only between two
Hindus as defined in Section 2, who are citizens of India. This marriage can be registered
under the same Act under Section 8 or even under the Special Marriage Act, 1954 under
Section 15 but such registration by itself does not confer on the spouses all the rights
guaranteed under the Special Marriage Act, 1954. The Special Marriage Act, 1954 is a secular
Act where religion or caste of the spouses is legally not relevant, as Section 4 has used the
words any two persons. This even excludes the need of wedding persons to be Indian
Citizens, so any two foreigners, namely two non-citizens domiciled in India may have their
marriage solemnized under the Special Marriage Act, 1954.25 The Special Marriage Act, 1954
is in reality an Indian Marriage Act, which applies to all Indians irrespective of caste, creed or
religion. The concept of marriage under this Act is monogamous, that is union for life,
dissolvable by judicial authority of law only.
The unique feature of Special Marriage Act, 1954 is that it avoids the conflict of intercommunal and interreligious laws, which is bound to arise when parties to marriage belong to
different communities or different religions. Even succession to the property of such persons
is also not governed by their personal law i.e. by the law of the community to which the party
belongs; it will be governed by Indian Succession Act, 1925. This is so, even when both the
parties belong to the same community. Inter-religious marriages, which give rise to interpersonal conflicts will be governed by provisions of this Act, provided such marriages are
performed under this Act or though solemnized under any other law but are registered under

25 Marian Eva v. State of H.P., AIR 1993 HP 7.

this Act. The entire Act is in the form of a conflict statute in India answering all the issues
arising out of conflict situations due to inter-religious marriages.
The Law Commission26 in its 212th Report has recommended that the word Special be
dropped from the title of the Special Marriage Act, 1954 and it be simply called The
Marriage Act, 1954 or The Marriage and Divorce Act, 1954. The suggested change will
create a desirable feeling that this is the general law of India on marriage and divorce and that
there is nothing special about a marriage solemnized under its provisions. A provision be
added to the application clause in the Special Marriage Act, 1954 that all inter-religious
marriages except those within the Hindu, Buddhist, Sikh and Jain communities, whether
solemnized or registered under this Act or not shall be governed by this Act.
In some cases the marriage may even be under The Foreign Marriage Act, 1969, which is just
an extension of The Special Marriage Act, 1954 except that marriage under this Act is
between parties one of whom at least is a citizen of India by fulfilling the conditions laid
down in Section 4 of the Act. The Act provides facility for an Indian national to marry abroad
with another Indian national or a national of another country or with a person domiciled in
another country. Such a marriage may have been solemnized in India or before a marriage
officer in a foreign country. This Act too, like other Acts, is a monogamous marriage Act
where bigamy is void and punishable under Section 19.
Under this Act, Foreign marriages solemnized under other laws can also be registered
under Section 17.
For marriages to be celebrated in a foreign country, where at least one of the parties is
a citizen of India, effective and elaborate provisions have been made under the Foreign
Marriage Act, 1969, where parties can proceed to have their marriage solemnized under the
said Act, the question of domicile in India would no longer be relevant.
Considerable uncertainty as to the law governing foreign marriages & the application
of principles of private international law to such marriages is now removed as a result of this
Foreign Marriage Act, 1969. This Act provides that marriages where one of the parties to the
marriage is an Indian citizen and the other party is a non-Indian, would be governed by the
provisions of the Special Marriage Act, 1954. The courts in this country and in some other
countries may therefore, deal with the provisions of the Special Marriage Act, 1954 while
26 Law Commission of India, 212th Report on Laws of Civil Marriages in India A
Proposal to Resolve Certain Conflicts, (October, 2008).

dealing with dissolution of marriages which are covered by the Foreign Marriage Act, 1969,
which is a complete code in itself as it answers all the issues in conflicts.
Parties marrying under their personal law in a foreign country are governed by the law
in force in that country in respect of such marriage for matrimonial relief. Parties marrying in
a foreign country according to the civil law of that country, relief can be claimed in India
under Subsection (1) of Section 18, of Foreign Marriage Act, 1969, which lays,
Subject to the other provisions contained in this Section the provisions of Chapter IV, V, VI,
and VII of the Special Marriage Act, 1954, shall apply in relation to marriages, solemnized
under this Act & to any other marriage solemnized in a foreign country between parties of
whom one at least is a citizen of India as they apply to marriages solemnized under that Act.
In the latter situation, (i.e. the parties marrying under civil law) the formal validity of the civil
marriage in foreign country will be governed by the civil law of that country. For matrimonial
relief as envisaged by Section 18 (1), the law of domicile of the parties is applicable. Section
17 (6) of the Foreign Marriage Act, 1969 being a deeming provision, makes the provisions of
the Special Marriage Act, 1954 applicable to all marriages performed under the Foreign
Marriage Act, 1969 for purposes of matrimonial relief.
Section 17 (6) thus lays, A marriage registered under this Section shall, as from the
date of registration, be deemed to have been solemnized under this Act. In view of the
deeming provision found in Section 17 (6) of the Act, registration absolves the parties of
proving that the marriage of the parties was in fact solemnized under the Act. 27 A marriage
solemnized under British Marriage Act, 1949, between a Muslim husband and a Hindu wife
in 1966 is a foreign marriage within the meaning of Foreign Marriage Act, 1969. The
marriage is governed by Chapter IV of the Act. The said marriage would be governed by the
Special Marriage Act, 1954 and not by the personal law of the husband.28
Sometimes Non Resident Indians contract civil marriages abroad under foreign laws
without solemnizing ceremonial marital customary rites simultaneously either in India or
abroad nor register their marriage under any of the Indian marriage laws, such marriages do
not come within the ambit of Indian law in any way. However if the couple, in addition take
the precaution of solemnizing their marriage under the Foreign Marriage Act, 1969 in any
27 Kumud Desai, Indian Law of Marriage and Divorce, (Wadhwa and Co. Nagpur,
2004).
28 Abdur Rahim Undre v. Padma Abdur Rahim, AIR 1982, Bom. 341.

Indian diplomatic office abroad, such a marriage can come under the jurisdiction of Indian
courts. Alternatively, NRI spouses may have to choose either their foreign nationality law or
their domicile law abroad to resolve their marital disputes in accordance with such laws.
Section 29 of Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 gives statutory recognition to customary
marriages and divorces. This aspect is very important as far as a certain category of Indian
immigrants are concernedthose men who have migrated abroad from parts of rural India and
have subsequently remarried after divorcing their Indian wives by pleading customary
divorce. Before permanent settlement can be obtained by the Indian immigrant, who has
subsequently remarried a woman of foreign origin and extraction, the immigration authorities
will require evidence regarding the legal validity of the customary divorce obtained in India.
However, custom has to be pleaded and proved that it must be a regular practice in the
community of the parties pleading it. Such a custom should be ancient, certain, reasonable
and not opposed to public policy. The Madras High Court held that customary divorce was
recognized both before and after passage of Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, it is not necessary for
the parties in such a case to go to Court to obtain divorce on grounds recognized by custom.29
For the application of Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 as well as Special Marriage Act,
1954, the parties must be domiciled in India at the time of marriage while the question of
domicile is not relevant under The Foreign Marriage Act, 1969.
Every Hindu domiciled in India shall be governed by the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955
and those whose marriage has been solemnized under the Special Marriage Act, 1954 would
be governed by the Special Marriage Act, 1954.
The Special Marriage Act, 1954 provides for a civil form of marriage, which can be
availed of by any one domiciled in India irrespective of the religion, through registration as
provided in Chapter II of the Special Marriage Act, 1954, by fulfilling the conditions laid
down in clause (a) to (e) of Section 4 of the said Act. Thus the Hindus availing of Chapter II
of the Special Marriage Act, 1954 i.e. Sections 4 to 14 would be outside the pale of the Hindu
Marriage Act, 1955. Having married under the Special Marriage Act, 1954 they cannot be
heard to complain of the rigors.30
A certificate of registration of marriage under the Special Marriage Act, 1954 operates
as conclusive evidence of two facts:
29 Mariamonia P. v Padmanabham, AIR 2001 Mad. 350.
30 Anil Kumar Mahsi v. Union of India, (1995) 1 SCJ 90-94.

(1) The marriage under the Act had been solemnized and
(2) That the formalities respecting signatures of witnesses have been complied with.31
Many NRIs of Hindu origin who have foreign domicile or have acquired a foreign
citizenship, come to India and solemnize their marriage either with an Indian national spouse
or with a foreign domiciled spouse in India in accordance with customary rites and
ceremonies under Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 and have to get their marriage registered in India
for purposes of immigration or entry into their present foreign home country. They are faced
with the dilemma as to whether they should get their marriage registered under Special
Marriage Act, 1954 or under Hindu Marriage Act, 1955. In the first Act, there is a prolonged
process of time i.e. two months notice and prescribed objection period before the Certificate
of marriage can be obtained while in the second Act this period is spared. However if one of
the spouses is a foreigner and not Hindu by religion at the time of marriage ceremony, they
will have to get their marriage registered under Special Marriage Act, 1954.
Kerala High Court32 has ruled that Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 has extra-territorial
operation and applies to all Hindus even if they reside in different parts outside India.
However, both parties must be Hindu by religion in any of its forms and they satisfy the
conditions and have performed the ceremonies provided in the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955.
There can be no denial by local authorities to register marriages under Hindu Marriage Act,
1955 between Hindus having foreign domicile who have solemnized marriages under Hindu
Marriage Act, 1955.
On the question of marriage between two Hindus, one being not of Indian domicile,
Kerala High Court33 has held that Section 1(2), Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 specifically makes
it clear that the Act extends to the whole of India except the State of Jammu and Kashmir and
also that it applies to Hindus domiciled in the territories to which this Act extends, who are
outside the said territories. Therefore, the Act will apply to a Hindu outside the territory of
India, only if he is a Hindu domiciled in the territory of India. Therefore, only those Hindus

31 Madhubala v. Jagdish Chandera, (1978) 4, All LR 457.


32 Vinaya Nair v. Corporation of Kochi, AIR 2006 Ker.275.
33 Ramesh Kumar P. v. Secretary, Kannapuram Gram Panchayat, AIR 1998 Ker
95.

having permanent residence in India will be covered by the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955. There
cannot be a Hindu marriage between a Hindu and a Christian.34
As a Hindu marriage between a Hindu and a Christian is invalid and issuance of a
certificate of marriage does not cure the invalidity.35 On the question of inter-territorial
operation of Section 1(2) of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, the Court held, that it applies to
all Hindus, Buddhist, Jains and Sikhs, residing in India, irrespective of the question whether
they are domiciled in India or not unless prohibited by the domestic rule of law of the land to
which one of the parties, a foreigner, may belong, in which case the question of domicile may
assume importance.36

Validity of Non Resident Indian Marriages


Hindu Marriage is essentially a monogamous marriage and the marital bond cannot be
broken without Court intervention. NRI marriages are heterogeneous & problematic group,
involving sensitive and intricate issues of law as well as facts. Here the issue of validity of
marriage assumes great significance.
In matrimonial cases involving the foreign element viz. NRI matrimonial disputes, the
courts have to decide about the validity of marriage. The validity of marriage is judged in two
ways:
The first requirement is the formal validity as to whether a religious or civil ceremony
has been observed; whether due formalities under the relevant marriage Act have been
complied with. These matters are regulated by the lex loci celebrationis i.e the law of the
place where the ceremony takes place. This is also called the rule of locus regit actum.
The second important consideration is the personal laws of parties, because marriage
is a personal matter of the marrying spouses. This is called substantial or essential validity of
marriage.
A persons capacity to marry is governed by the law of domicile because the religious
traditional laws differ from one region to another in many aspects, more so in the face of
34 Jacintha Kamath v. Padmanabha K., AIR 1992 Kant 372.
35 Sanjay Mishra v. Eveline Joe, AIR 1993 MP 54.
36 Prem Singh v. Dulari Bai, AIR 1973 Cal WN 535.

32

religious conversions for the sake of marriage. This results in inter-personal conflict of laws
in India37.
Supreme Court of India has held that the capacity to marry and impediments in the
way of marriage would have to be resolved by referring to their personal law. Here the Court
has followed the rule of personal law i.e. the law of domicile38.
There is a sharp distinction in Private International Law between the formal and
substantial validity of marriage. When the personal law of a party attaches some fundamental
conditions, which are essential for the validity of marriage, compliance with these conditions
makes marriage substantially valid. These fundamentals vary from place to place. In England,
capacity to marry and marriage between consanguinity as prohibited by the statutes are
examples of substantial validity of marriage. In India, amongst the Hindus, now marriage
during lifetime of his or her spouse is void ab initio and this constitutes one element for
substantial validity of marriage. On the other hand when the law of the land where the
marriage is celebrated attaches some formalities for the marriage between persons whether
domiciled in that country or in a foreign land these are called formal validity of marriage. The
formal validity of marriage is not as vital as the essential validity to a particular society. Nonobservance of any formality renders a marriage voidable only, not void.
According to Cheshire there is no rule more firmly established in Private International
Law than that, which applies the maxim locus regit actum to the formalities of marriage.
Whether any particular ceremony constitutes a formally valid marriage depends solely upon
the law of the country where the ceremony takes place.
Section 8(5) of Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 specifically lays down that failure to
register a Hindu marriage does not affect its validity. Even where compulsory registration of
marriage is laid down under the rules, such as immigration rules, non-registration does not
affect the validity of the marriage, but merely entails a nominal fine. Moreover, mere
registration of a marriage under Section 8 will not ipso facto make the marriage valid.
Indian Courts Scenario and International Law

37 Sarla Mudgal, President Kalyani v. Union of India, AIR 1995 SC 1531


38 Lakshmi Sanyal v. S.K. Dhar, AIR 1972 Goa 2667.

NRI marriages are essentially inter-country marriages with legal ramifications as to:
Validity of marriage, Jurisdiction of Indian courts visa vis Foreign Courts, Recognition of
foreign decrees and Enforcement of Foreign judicial orders.
India has as yet no legislative law to combat matrimonial disputes involving a foreign
elementi.e. where at least one of the spouses is domiciled outside India. Each case has to be
dealt with on the basis of precedents as adjudicated law or judge-made law.
The English law has grappled with similar legal disputes under the category of
Conflict of Laws & have enacted Private International Law. It is a distinct unit in English
legal system and it is always concerned with one or more of four questions, namely:
(a)

jurisdiction;

(b)

choice of law;

(c)

recognition;

(d)

Enforcement of foreign judgments.

There is no legislative law in India compared to Private International Law or


Conflict of Laws as in some western countries. In family and marriage cases involving NRI
spouses, Indian courts rely upon Sections13 and 14 of the Civil Procedure Code, 1908 and
Section 44 A of the Civil Procedure Code, 1908. While the former deals with the competence
to adjudicate and jurisdiction of a foreign Court as to their conclusiveness, the later deals with
presumption of a decree by a foreign Court for its execution.
Sections 13 and 14 Of The Civil Procedure Code,1908
Section 13: When foreign judgment not conclusive. . .
A foreign judgment shall be conclusive as to any matter hereby directly adjudicated upon
between the same parties or between parties under whom they or any of them claim litigating
under the same title except. . .
Where it has not been pronounced by a Court of competent jurisdiction where it has
not been on the merits of the case.
Where it appears on the face of proceedings to be founded on an incorrect view of
international law or a refusal to recognize the law of India in cases in which such law
is applicable.

Where the proceedings in which the judgment was obtained are opposed to natural
justice. Where it has been obtained by fraud
Where it sustains a claim founded on a breach of any law in force in India.
These six exceptions are concise, precise and comprehensive in wording. This Section is of a
general nature and does not specifically deal with judgments of divorce or matrimonial
matters. Still, this Section has become an effective tool in the hands of Indian Courts in the
absence of Indian legislation comparable to Private International Law in matters of family
law.
Section 13 embodies the principle of res judicata in foreign judgments. It applies to the
plaintiff as well as to the defendant who is equally entitled to non-suit the plaintiff on the
basis of a foreign judgment. However, a foreign judgment is not conclusive as to any matter
directly adjudicated upon, if one of the conditions specified in clauses (a) to (f) of Section 13
Civil Procedure Code, 1908 is satisfied and it will then be open to a collateral attack.
According to Dicey,39 A foreign judgment is conclusive as to any matter thereby adjudicated
upon and cannot be impeached for any error either (1) of fact; or (2) of law. Thus, a foreign
judgment can be examined from the point of view of competence but not of errors. Hence, the
Indian Court cannot go into the merits of the original claim.
Section 13 of the Civil Procedure Code, 1908 is the part of procedural law followed in Indian
Courts. It concerns with recognition of the foreign decree only. The decree holder has to
proceed before an Indian Court by filing a regular suit as the first stage of the enforcement
proceedings. The Court after hearing the suit proceedings, may pass a judgment for its
enforcement through an execution petition. Thus, a foreign decree is converted into a
domestic judgment for its enforcement.
Once the Court comes to the conclusion that the foreign judgment is a judgment of competent
Court, it will not go into the question whether the foreign law made a mistake on matters of
law or facts. If the judgment is not a judgment of a Court of competent jurisdiction it would
be given no effect, even if the foreign Court correctly chose the applicable law and correctly
determined the facts of the case.
The questions of competency of the foreign Court is determined by the rules of Private
International Law. Sometimes, in a suit before the Indian Court, a foreign judgment is
39 Vishwanathan v. Abdul Wajid, AIR 1963 SC 158.

pleaded as res judicata then it will be the duty the Indian Court to find out whether the
foreign Court, which rendered the judgment has jurisdiction in the international sense.
Section 14 lays presumptions as to Foreign Judgments. The Court shall presume upon the
production of any document purporting to be a certified copy of a foreign judgment, that such
judgment was pronounced by a Court of competent jurisdiction, unless the contrary appears
on the record; but such presumption may be displaced by proving want of jurisdiction.
In a case the Apex Court,40 held that mere production of a Photostat copy of a decree of
foreign Court is not sufficient. It is required to be certified by a representative of the Central
Government in America.
Section 44 A of Civil Procedure Code, 1908
This Section deals with the execution of decrees passed by courts in reciprocating territory.
Where a certified copy of a decree of any of the superior courts of any reciprocating territory
has been filed in a District Court, the decree may be executed in India as if it had been passed
by the District Court.
Together with the certified copy of the decree shall be filed a certificate from such superior
Court stating the extent, if any, to which the decree has been satisfied under this Section,
being conclusive proof of the extent of such satisfaction or adjustment.
The provisions of Section 47 shall, as from the filing of the certified copy of the decree, apply
to the proceedings of a District Court executing a decree under this Section and the District
Court shall refuse execution of any such decree, if it is shown to the satisfaction of the Court
that the decree falls within any of the exceptions specified in clauses (a) to (f) of Section 13.
A foreign decree can be executed under Section 44-A CPC only if all the conditions of
Section 13 (a) to (f) CPC are satisfied.
Unlike Section 13 Civil Procedure Code, 1908, Section 44-A of Civil Procedure Code, 1908,
envisages a direct enforcement of the foreign decree through an executing petition in civil
matters without the necessity of going through initial suit proceedings. This facility of direct
execution of the foreign decree is available only on the basis of a bilateral understanding on
the basis of reciprocity between India and the country from where the decree has been
delivered. This ensures a speedier disposal.
Section 3 and Section 108-A of the Indian Penal Code, 1860
40 Infra note 81.

It provide for extra-territorial jurisdiction. It is, however, debatable whether these could be
invoked in case of problems in NRI marriages. Section 3 of The Indian Penal Code 1860,
reads as under: Punishment of offences committed beyond, but which by law may be tried
within India.
Any person liable, by any Indian law, to be tried for an offence committed beyond India
shall be dealt with according to the provisions of this Code for any act committed beyond
India in the same manner as if such act had been committed within India.
Section 108-A of The Indian Penal Code1860 read as under: Abetment in India of offences
outside India.
A person abets an offence within the meaning of this Code who, in India, abets the
commission of any act within and beyond India which would constitute an offence as if
committed in India.

CHAPTER 4
Jurisdiction
Divorce and Judicial Separation
It was held by the Privy Council in Le Mesurier v. Le Mesurier41, that according to
international law, the domicile for the time being of the married pair affords the only
jurisdiction and only true test of jurisdiction to dissolve their marriage. The essence of the
rule in this case was that there should be only one test of jurisdiction and only one court
capable of dissolving a particular marriage, the court of the parties domicile. The
Matrimonial Causes Act, 1937, provided that the Court should have jurisdiction to grant a
divorce, in proceeding by a wife, notwithstanding that the husband was not domiciled in
England, if she had been deserted by her husband, or the husband had been deported from
United Kingdom, and the husband was immediately before the desertion or deportion
41 [1895] A.C. 517

domiciled in England. These enactments were confined to proceeding by a wife. They did not
extend to cross-petition by a respondent husband.42 The exercise of the English Courts
jurisdiction in proceeding for divorce is subject to rules requiring or enabling the court to stay
those proceedings in certain circumstances.43
Nullity of marriage
Before 1974 the jurisdiction of the British Court to entertain petitions for the nullity of
marriages was one of the most vexed and difficult question in the whole of the English
conflict of laws. An enormous simplification of the law was effected by section 5(3) of the
Domicile and Matrimonial Proceeding Act 1973. This provides that the English Court have
such jurisdiction to entertain such petition if (and, subject to section 5(5), on if) either party
to the marriage:
(a) Is domiciled in England on the date when the proceedings are begun
(b) Was habitually resident in England throughout the period of one year ending with the
date, or
(c) Dies before that date and either was at death domiciled in England, had been habitually
resident in England throughout the period of one year ending with the date of the death.
Without this insignificant exception, the bases for jurisdiction in nullity of marriage are now
the same as in divorce and judicial separation. A voidable marriage no longer confers the
husbands domicile at the date of the marriage. 44 The bases for jurisdiction are now same
whether the marriage is alleged to be void or voidable. It is therefore no longer necessary to
consult foreign law i.e. the law of the husbands domicile at the date of the marriage.45
Recognition of foreign Divorces:
Domicile determines the law that will be applicable to an individual. A person may be
resident and citizen of a country, while his domicile is somewhere else. The general rule is
that domicile is where the heart is. In general, we can say that in the case being considered
by us, the couple remains domiciled in India even though they might have moved their
42 Levett v. Levett and Smith [1957] P. 156
43 Family Proceeding Rules, 1991
44 Section 1 of Domicile and Matrimonial Proceedings Act, 1973.
45 De Reneville v. De Reneville, [1948] P. 100.

residence to some foreign land. The domicile may be India even if the person after moving to
the foreign land acquires foreign citizenship. This is often true because first generation
migrants from India retain India in their heart.
In Satya vs. Teja Singh46 where a man domiciled in India moved to USA, got a divorce from
a court at Nevada, USA by pleading domicile of Nevada even though he had not lived in
Nevada and never lived in Nevada after the divorce. The wife challenged the divorce in India
on the ground that the jurisdiction of the Nevada court was obtained by fraud. Supreme Court
of India accepted the plea of the wife and refused to recognize the divorce obtained in
Nevada. The following extract from the judgment makes the position very clear.
Under Section 13(e), Civil Procedure Code, the foreign judgment is open to challenge "where
it has been obtained by fraud". Fraud as to the merits of the respondent's case may be ignored
and his allegation that he and his wife "have lived separate and apart for more than three (3)
consecutive years without cohabitation and that there is no possibility of a reconciliation"
may be assumed to be true. But fraud as to the jurisdiction of the Nevada court is a vital
consideration in the recognition of the decree passed by that court. It is therefore relevant that
the respondent successfully invoked the jurisdiction of the Nevada court by lying to it on
jurisdictional facts.
Divorce Proceedings Not Attended:
It is not uncommon to hear about cases either the husband or the wife filed for divorce
in a foreign court, while the spouse did not attend the proceedings either due to notice not
being served or due to some other reason. In such a situation, the case of Y Narasimha Rao 47
is relevant. Y. Narsimha Rao and Y. Venkata Lakshmi were married in Tirupati, India as per
Hindu customs in 1975. They separated in July 1978. Mr. Rao filed a petition for dissolution
of marriage in the Circuit Court of St. Louis County Missouri, USA. Mrs. Lakshmi sent her
reply from India under protest. The Circuit Court passed a decree for dissolution of marriage
on February 19, 1980 in the absence of Mrs. Lakshmi. Mr. Rao had earlier filed a petition for

46 Decided on 1 October 1974; MANU/SC/0212/1974, AIR1975SC105,


1975CriLJ52, (1975)1SCC120, [1975]2SCR197
47 Y. Narasimha Rao and Ors. Vs. Y. Venkata Lakshmi and Anr.; Decided on 9 July
1991; MANU/SC/0603/1991, 1991(2)Crimes855(SC), II(1991)DMC366SC,
JT1991(1)SC33, 1991-2-LW646, (1991)3SCC451, [1991]2SCR821

dissolution of marriage in the Sub-Court of Tirupati. Later, he filed an application for


dismissing the petition in view of the decree passed by the Missouri Court.
On 2 November 1981, Mr. Rao married another woman. Hence, Mrs. Lakshmi filed a
criminal complaint against Mr. Rao for the offence of bigamy. The Supreme Court refused to
accept the divorce decree granted by the court at Missouri, USA. While deciding the case the
Supreme Court laid down the law for foreign matrimonial judgments in this country. The
relevant extract from the judgment is as follows:
The jurisdiction assumed by the foreign court as well as the ground on which the
relief is granted must be in accordance with the matrimonial law under which the parties are
married. The exceptions to this rule may be as follows: (i) where the matrimonial action is
filed in the forum where the respondent is domiciled habitually and permanently resides and
the relief is granted on a ground available in the matrimonial law under which the parties are
married; (ii) where the respondent voluntarily and effectively submits to the jurisdiction of
the forum as discussed above and contests the claim which is based on a ground available
under the matrimonial law under which the parties are married; (iii) where the respondent
consents to the grant of the relief although the jurisdiction of the forum is not in accordance
with the provisions of the matrimonial law of the parties.
The key rule laid by the Supreme Court can be summed up as follows: If a couple is
married under Hindu law, (a) the foreign court that grants divorce must be acceptable under
Hindu law; and (b) the foreign court should grant divorce only on the grounds which are
permissible under Hindu Law. The two conditions make it almost impossible for a Hindu
couple married in India to get a legally valid divorce from a foreign court since no foreign
court is an acceptable one under Hindu Marriage Act and also because no foreign court is
likely to consider the provisions of Hindu Marriage Act before granting divorce.
The exceptions that Supreme Court has permitted to the above rule laid by it are as
follows in a case where husband has filed for divorce in a foreign land:
A) The wife must be domiciled and permanently resident of that foreign land AND
the foreign court should decide the case based on Hindu Marriage Act.
B) The wife voluntarily and effectively attends the court proceedings and contests the
claim on grounds of divorce as permitted under Hindu Marriage Act.
C) The wife consents to grant of divorce

Divorce Proceedings Attended


In general, it can be said that if the partner contesting the divorce actively attends the
divorce proceedings in the foreign court, the chances of his or her being able to later
successfully approach Indian courts against an unfavorable judgment of the foreign court are
very low. Indian courts, or for that matters courts anywhere in the world, do not wish to
encourage court-shopping.
The well-accepted universal principle of law can be stated as If someone has
accepted the authority of a court, it cannot be open to the person to later question the
authority of the court.
A similar matter came up before Supreme Court of India in the matter of Mrs. Anoop
Beniwal48. The lady attended the court proceedings in UK and later contested the divorce
granted by the UK court. Supreme Court refused to grant her any relief. Relevant extract
from the judgment is as follows:
42. Factually the plaintiff herein and the respondent in the proceedings in England did
have the opportunity to defend the suit held against her. She led evidence in those
proceedings. She just happens to have failed to have a decision in her favor. An opportunity
of hearing having been granted, it is not right to assert that the proceedings in England were
opposed to natural justice. Nor is it proper to say that the judgment by a Court of England has
not been given on the merits of the case. In my view, the assertions made in the "Particulars"
annexed to the petition, it has been shown to me, and reproduced here above, could be made
under S. 13(l) (ia) of the Hindu Marriage Act regarding treatment of the petitioner with
cruelty. The claim in the proceedings in England cannot Therefore, be said to be founded on
the breach of law in force in India.
Consequences of Invalid Decree of Divorce
It is not unusual for one of the partners to obtain a decree of divorce from a foreign
court while the other partner is either in India or in some other part of the world. The partner
who has obtained divorce may feel comfortable in the thought that the other partner has
neither protested not contested the decree of divorce. However this comfort may be a false
one.
48 Mrs. Anoop Beniwal vs. Dr. Jagbir Singh Beniwal; Decided on 25 October 1989;
MANU/DE/0044/1990, AIR1990 Delhi305, I(1990)DMC239, 1989RLR554

Assuming that the husband has obtained the decree of divorce from a foreign court,
some consequences that may be faced by the man in due course are as follows:
a) If he remarries, he may be prosecuted for bigamy. There is no time limit for the first
wife to file a complaint with the police against the husband in the matter of bigamy. We have
seen in the case of Y Narasimha Rao5 that the couple separated in 1978, the man remarried in
1981 and ten years later, Supreme Court ordered for bigamy proceedings to be started against
the man. Bigamy is punishable under section 494 of Indian Penal Code with imprisonment of
seven years.
b) Wife (divorced as per foreign law) may file for maintenance.
c) In case the man dies without making a will, the first wife will have the right to her
share in the property of the man while the second wife will get nothing because her marriage
will not be considered legitimate.
It may be noted that the above may be faced by the man even though he may have
acquired the citizenship of the foreign country (assuming that his domicile or his heart
remains Indian).
If a women gets divorce from a foreign court and remarries, her new husband may be
prosecuted under section 497 of Indian Penal Code under which he may face imprisonment of
five years. The wife will, of course, be liable for punishment under section 494 of Indian
Penal Code for bigamy.

CHAPTER - 5
Conclusion
To sum up one can say that exceptions aside, a Hindu couple married in India must
seek divorce from an Indian court only. The two notable exceptions (when a foreign decree of
divorce is valid) are (a) when the couple decides to take divorce by mutual consent and (b)
when the person who is contesting divorce attends divorce proceedings and the foreign court
grants divorce on grounds that are permitted grounds of divorce under Hindu Marriage Act.
One should not draw comfort from inaction of the person who did not participate in divorce

proceedings. The implications of an invalid divorce may appear many years later and even
may arise after the death of the person who got the invalid divorce from a foreign court.

BIBLIOGRAPHY
BOOKS
1. Cheshire & North, Private International Law, thirteenth edn,
2. S.R.Myneni, Private International Law, first edn,

E-BOOKS
1. Jaffey, Topics in Choice of Law (1996)
2. Cook, The Logic and Legal Bases of the Conflict of Laws (1942)

3. Davie, The Breaking Up of the Essential Validity of Marriage Choice of Law Rules in
English Conflict of Laws (1994)
ARTICLES
1. Hartley, The Policy Basis of the English Conflict of Laws of Marriage (1972) 35
MLR 571
2. CONFLICT OF LAWS-ESSENTIAL VALIDITY OF MARRIAGE, By Geoffery Sawer,
LL.M.,Barrister at law., senior lecturer in law at the University of Melbourne.

WEBSITES:
1.
2.
3.
4.

http://shodhganga.inflibnet.ac.in/bitstream/10603/26528/10/10_chapter%203.pdf
https://in.answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20080207174420AACGmRJ
http://moia.gov.in/pdf/Marriages_to_Overseas_Indians_a_Guidance_Booklet.pdf
https://books.google.co.in/books?
id=UzclIL6onHkC&pg=PA200&lpg=PA200&dq=RECOGNITION+OF+FOREIGN+
MARRIAGES+UNDER+INDIAN+COURTS&source=bl&ots=e6F_tz7zlE&sig=jFV
I7zpyWOBDTm34iJTjbk9U8&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0CEoQ6AEwB2oVChMI6t2C_6
CqxwIVVo6OCh0Row7R#v=onepage&q=RECOGNITION%20OF%20FOREIGN

%20MARRIAGES%20UNDER%20INDIAN%20COURTS&f=false
5. http://www.tcl-india.net/node/74
6. http://www.lawyersclubindia.com/forum/Legal-validity-of-marriage-of-indiansabroad--61079.asp#.Vc6__vmqqko
7. https://sites.google.com/site/divorcelawsinindia/nullity-of-marriage-in-india
8. http://www.lawsenate.com/dispute-resolution/matrimonial-law-practice.html#
9. file:///C:/Users/amudh_000/Downloads/SSRN-id1762153.pdf
10. http://ncw.nic.in/pdfReports/Background_Note_Seminar_Issues_Relating_to_NRI_M
arriages.pdf