Pvt Bar Room Marriages Can't Amount to Solemnisation: HC

Pvt Bar Room Marriages Can't Amount to Solemnisation: HC

The Madras High Court today came down heavily on lawyers donning the role of priests for effecting registration of marriages, saying such acts "performed in secrecy" in their offices and Bar Association rooms cannot amount to solemnisation.

Observing that it has got a duty to protect women, the Court said there is no scope for the presence of the "Lawyer-cum-Priest" to give effect to registration of a marriage.

A Division Bench comprising Justice S Rajeswaran and Justice P N Prakash in its order said, "We hold that the certificate of solemnisation issued by advocates will not be proof of solemnisation of marriage in a matrimonial dispute."

The bench made it clear that "no registration of marriage can be done under the Tamil Nadu Registration of Marriages Act 2009 without the physical presence of the parties to the marriage before the Registrar, except under special circumstances after recording reasons."

The bench while making it clear that neither the act nor the rules insist upon the presence of the priest during the Registration of Marriages said, "There is no question of law or legal question involved in such an enquiry for the advocate to be present and give clarification to the Registrar of Marriages. We find there is no scope for the presence of the Lawyer-cum-Priest for effecting registration of a marriage."

The bench was deciding on two Habeas Corpus Petitions before it in which it became suspicious with regard to the marriage certificates produced and the alleged marriages performed by advocates in their office premises.

The bench said it was shocked after it found from reports submitted that most marriages were solemnised in the offices of advocates and in bar associations.

"The marriages performed in secrecy in the chambers of Advocates and Bar Association Rooms, will not amount to solemnisation and only women who are victims of such marriage can question the same in matrimonial proceedings before the appropriate court as a question of fact."

The bench lauded the responsibility of lawyers who encourage inter-caste and inter-religious marriages for bringing social harmony and breaking the rigours of the caste system.

"To that extent the lawyer has to play a very pro-active rule as a person in public service but on the contrary it is unfortunate for the legal community to look upon such youngsters as potential clients and adorn the role of a priest and issue a marriage certificate, as if the marriage was solemnised in the lawyer’s office or in the Bar Association room."

"If the prestige of legal profession falls, it does not fall alone, it takes with it the entire court system to the crematorium and on the funeral pyre, there will be dance of anarchy," the bench said.

"A priest-cum-lawyer will also be liable for disciplinary action before the Bar Council, on the complaint of the aggrieved," it added.

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