Elucidating the spiritual essence of Sikh Marriage, Sri Guru Arjun Dev Ji says:
“Like the beautiful earth, adorned with jewels of grass,
Such is the mind, within which the Love of the Lord abides.
All one’s affairs are easily resolved, O Nanak,
When the Guru, the True Guru, is pleased.”
(Holy Guru Granth Sahib Ji, Ang 322. Mehl.5)
Further describing the sacred relationship between a husband and wife, Sri Guru Amar Das Ji says:
“O bride decorate yourself, after you surrender and accept your husband Lord.
Otherwise, your husband, Lord will not come to your bed, and your Ornaments will be useless.
O bride, your decorations will adorn you, only when your husband Lord’s mind is pleased.
Your Ornaments will be acceptable and approved, only when your husband Lord loves you.
So make the fear of God your Ornaments, joy your betel nuts to chew, and love your food.
Surrender your body and mind to your husband, Lord, and then O Nanak, he will enjoy you.”
(Holy Guru Granth Sahib Ji, Ang 788. Mehl.3)
The wedding ceremony of Sikhs is called “Anand Karaj”, which means the act towards a blissful/happy union. It was incorporated by the third Guru of Sikhism, Guru Amar Das. The foundation of Anand Karaj is the ‘Lavan’, wherein hymns mentioned on Ang 773 to 774 of Guru Granth Sahib are sung with the bride and groom circumambulating the Guru Granth Sahib. The Anand Karaj is one of the most sacred and recognized ways to perform a marriage ceremony among Sikh couples. The ceremony serves to provide the core principles towards a blissful and successful marriage and also brings the marriage within the context of unity with God. Anand Karaj is not just a social event; it represents Sikh principles, emphasizing a committed life guided by strong values. It is a beautiful way of joining souls in marriage, introduced by Guru Amar Das and formalized by Guru Ram.
Highlighting the holy Union between Sikh couples, Sri Guru Amardas Ji says:
“They are not said to be husband and wife, who merely sit together. Rather they alone are called husband and wife, who have one soul in two bodies.”
(Holy Guru Granth Sahib Ji, Pauree, Ang 788.)
Legal and historical context
Vide a judgment dated 14.02.2006 reported as Smt. Seema v. Ashwani Kumar (2006 (2) SCC 578), the Supreme Court ruled that marriages of all persons who are citizens of India belonging to various religions should be made compulsorily registerable in their respective States where the marriage is solemnized. Further, Central and State Governments were directed that the procedure for registration should be notified by respective States within three months.
The Anand Marriage Act for Sikhs had been initiated during the British Colonial Era in 1909 but remained unimplemented till 2012. The Sikh community across the country was deeply concerned by this, especially those who had moved overseas, as although recognized as Sikhs, their marriages had been registered under the “Hindu Marriage Act, 1955,” as “Hindu.”
To address this concern, The Anand Marriage (Amendment) Bill was passed by the parliament of India in 2012, paving the way for Sikhs to register their marriages under the Anand Karaj Marriage Act rather than the Hindu Marriage Act. The act was made applicable throughout India except the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir. Pertinently, the Union Government approved the amendments; however, individual States and Union Territories were given the liberty to frame necessary rules for the registration of Anand Marriages.
Notably, in November 2022, the apex court issued a notice to the Centre, States, and UTs on a Public-Interest litigation (PIL) filed under Article 32 of the Constitution, seeking directions for the State Governments to formulate rules for the registration of Sikh Marriages under the Anand Marriage (amended) Act, 2012.
Significantly, on 30 November 2023, the long-awaited day finally arrived, marking the end of decades of anticipation, generations of struggle, and fulfillment of the vow made by Sikh scholars, activists, and ancestors, when the UT administration of Jammu and Kashmir framed and notified rules for the registration of marriages in the Territory of Jammu and Kashmir under Anand Marriage Act (Central Act. 1909). The ‘Jammu and Kashmir Anand Marriage Registration Rules, 2023,’ have been framed for the registration of “Anand marriages,” under which the tehsildar concerned shall exercise the powers of a Registrar for the registration of such marriages within their respective territorial jurisdiction (Rule-2(k)).
Rule 5 of the aforesaid rules requires Sikh couples to apply for registration within a period of three months after solemnizing their marriage but may face a late fee to the tune of Rs. 2000 if failed to present the memorandum for registration of marriage within a stipulated time frame as provided under the aforesaid rule.
Rule-9 provides that after completing the verification process, the registrar concerned shall issue two copies of marriage registration certificates in favour of both parties to the marriage free of cost within 15 days from the date of registration of marriage, subject to the fulfillment of requirements as provided under rule 7(2) of Jammu and Kashmir Anand Marriage Registration Rules, 2023.
Under Sub-section (2) of Section-6 of The Anand Marriage Act, 1909, all reasonable hours are open for the parties to the marriage to examine the records in the Marriage Register and to obtain certified extracts on payment of the prescribed fees. There must be a complete application form signed by both parties, as well as documentary evidence of both parties, dates of birth, and an affidavit stating the time, date, and location of the marriage.
Rule-11 entitles the aggrieved persons to file a 1st appeal against an order of the registrar within a period of 30 days to the District Registrar (Deputy Commissioner) subject to payment of a fee of Rupees one thousand in the form of court fee stamps. The Appellate Authority after granting an opportunity to the parties concerned shall dispose of the appeal preferably within a period of fifteen days (Rule-11(2)). Any person aggrieved by the order of the District Registrar may prefer a 2nd Appeal before the Chief Registrar of Marriages (Law Secretary) within a period of sixty days subject to the payment of a fee to the tune of Rupees five hundred.
Under Section 13, it is incumbent upon all registrars of marriages to maintain an Anand Marriage Register in the English language containing Comprehensive details of all Anand marriages registered under the notified rules.
India as a nation is a conglomerate of various religions and cultures, and it is imperative that the legislations meet the wishes and ambitions of its citizens so that its citizens can feel the glow of freedom to practice, profess, and propagate their religion without coming into conflict with each other. The envision of the framers of the constitution of a Secular, Socialist, Democratic nation can be achieved in its letter and spirit. The legislative framework reflects a meticulous approach, precisely formulated to accomplish the distinctive needs of every religious community within Indian society. The constitutional safeguards extend to recognizing the religious identity of diverse faiths and ensuring absolute freedom in religious practices and rituals.
This ethos extends to matrimonial laws as well, where the Marriage Act meticulously incorporates the diverse traditions of various religions, depicting the complicated details of legalizing and registering marriages. Although customary wedding ceremonies are enough for routine affairs, situations demanding legal validation, such as passport applications, ration card issuance, insurance claims, the resolution of ancestral property disputes, and the adjudication of matrimonial issues, necessitate the significance of a legally recognized marriage.
This documented testament becomes particularly crucial for international immigration, where many countries mandate the legal registration of marriages, disregarding traditional ceremonies. By framing and notifying rules, the UT administration of Jammu and Kashmir has excellently addressed numerous issues faced by the Sikh community, exhibiting a dedication to resolution even in the minor complicacies outlined in the Anand Marriage Act.
Jammu and Kashmir, characterized by its diversity, now stands as a testimony to the administration’s keenness towards diverse religious communities. This breakthrough marks a much relief for the Sikh community, signalling the administration’s meticulous regard for the diverse needs of various religious groups. Marriages, pivotal family events embedded in centuries-old traditions, have now found legal recognition and procedural clarity.
The notified rules have been devised with a comprehensive approach, leaving no aspect overlooked. It serves as a testimony to the Government’s responsiveness to the religious concerns of different communities, consistently demonstrating enthusiasm to reconcile legitimate demands within the constitutional framework of a socialist, secular, and democratic setup of India.
The writer is a Government Law Officer, Department of Law Justice And Parliamentary Affairs, UT of J&K. He can be reached at [email protected]