New Delhi, April 12
Sikh couples will soon be able to get their marriages registered under the Anand Marriage Act, 1909, instead of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955.
Accepting the long-standing demand of Sikhs, the Cabinet today approved amendments to the Anand Marriage Act, 1909, to provide for registration of Sikh marriages. A Bill to this effect would be introduced in Parliament when the Budget Session resumes later this month.
The Cabinet also approved the introduction of a Bill to amend the Registration of Births and Deaths Act, 1969, to include registration of marriages as well. The move aims at utilising the existing administrative mechanism to maintain marriage records on the lines of records of births and deaths.
The amendment would allow couples to get their marriages registered independent of their religion, though the option of getting marriages registered under the Hindu Marriage Act and the Special Marriages Act would continue.
Though the Law Ministry note in respect of this amendment talked of compulsory registration of marriages, HRD Minister Kapil Sibal clarified, “Those who wish can get their marriage registered under this new law. The issue of mandatory registration will be discussed when the Bill reaches the Standing Committee .”
After Parliament passes the amendment Bill, Sikh marriage certificates won’t be issued under Section 2 of the Hindu Marriage Act (as is the case now). The Cabinet decision comes a year after the government decided to drop the proposal of amending the Anand Marriage Act and Salman Khurshid informed the Rajya Sabha of the decision.
The Tribune was the first to report the move on August 29, 2011, following which the Sikhs began fresh agitations for a demand that had once been approved by the Standing Committee on Law when Veerappa Moily was the Law Minister. But later the move fell flat.
Khurshid recently proposed religion-neutral registration of all marriages — a move which the Sikhs slammed. Former Chairperson of the National Minority Commission Tarlochan Singh wrote a protest letter to Law Minister Salman Khurshid, demanding amendment to the Anand Marriage Act and not a religion-neutral marriage registration law.
“This is the victory of Sikhs; we had fought for this right for decades,” Tarlochan Singh said today. Akali Dal’s Rajya Sabha member Naresh Gujral also welcomed the decision saying. “It’s sad that Sikhs who sacrificed so much for the country had to feel alienated over such a small demand. We thank the PM and the Cabinet as this decision reassures minorities that their interests are protected. We want to congratulate Tarlochan Singh, former MP, who spearheaded the campaign in Parliament.”
In the Cabinet, Information Minister Ambika Soni proposed that the amendment Bill be titled Anand Karaj Amendment Bill, 2012. This title is likely to be retained. So far, marriages amongst Sikhs, Hindus, Jains, Buddhists and other communities, except Muslims, Christians, Parsis and Jews, were covered under the Hindu Marriage Act.