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Hindu Marriage Act in Indian Law – Does it apply to Hindu Marriages Performed Outside India?

Can a family court in India settle a marriage dispute – decide on divorce petition – between two Hindus under the Hindu Marriage Act in Indian Law, even if the marriage had taken place outside India? The Supreme Court of India will be soon taking a decision on this tricky issue – as such divorce cases are on increase.

The Hindu writes about this issue

The Supreme Court has been moved to decide an important question of law: whether a family court in India has jurisdiction to try a matrimonial litigation involving two Hindus governed by the Hindu Marriage Act even in cases where the opposite party is a foreign national having his domicile outside the country.

Actor Sukanya, who married R. Sridharan, has applied for divorce in India. The marriage took place as per traditional Hindu customs at the Balaji temple in New Jersey, U.S. in April 2002. However, Ms. Sukanya returned to India in January 2003 and thereafter never went back to the U.S.

On a writ petition filed by Mr. Sridharan challenging the matrimonial proceedings on the ground that he could not be subjected to Indian laws, a single judge and a Division Bench of the Madras High Court held that Ms. Sukanya was entitled to file the petition in the place where she was staying. The present appeal filed by his advocate K.K. Mani is directed against this judgment.

In his special leave petition, Mr. Sridharan said the plea raised important questions of law — whether the Hindu Marriage Act would apply when admittedly the marriage was performed in the U.S. and registered with the marriage officer in the U.S. and in that case would not the provision of Foreign Marriage Act, 1969 apply?

The SLP said it was settled law that in order to apply the provisions of the Hindu Marriage Act both parties must be ‘domiciles' of India and it was not enough that one of them alone was a domicile of the country.

As the appellant was a U.S. citizen, he could not be subjected to Indian jurisdiction and face the matrimonial proceedings which were not maintainable in law, it said.