The Hindu Marriage Act of 1955 is applicable to Hindus, Jains, Sikhs and Buddhists. A religious marriage which has already been solemnized can be registered under the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955. The Hindu Marriage Act is applicable in cases where both husband and wife are Hindus, Buddhists, Jains or Sikhs or where they have converted into any of these religions. The Hindu Marriage Act provides for the conditions of a marriage where under the bridegroom should be the age of 21 years and bride of 18 years; they both should not be within the degree of prohibited relationship. Three other important acts were also enacted as part of the Hindu Code Bills during this time: the Hindu Succession Act (1956), the Hindu Minority and Guardianship Act (1956), the Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act (1956).
3.) Hindu view of marriage
The main purpose of the act was to amend and codify the law relating to marriage among Hindus and others. Besides amending and codifying Sastrik Law, it introduced separation and divorce, which did not exist in Sastrik Law. This enactment brought uniformity of law for all sections of Hindus. In India there are religion-specific civil codes that separately govern adherents of certain other religions.
Section 2 of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 says:
1. This Act applies -
a. to any person who is a Hindu by religion in any of its forms or developments, including a Virashaiva, a Lingayat or a follower of the Brahmo, Prarthana or Arya Samaj;
b. to any person who is a Buddhist, Jain or Sikh by religion; and
c. to any other person domiciled in the territories to which this Act extends who is not a Muslim, Christian, Parsi or Jew by religion, unless it is proved that any such person would not have been governed by the Hindu law or by any custom or usage as part of that law in respect of any of the matters dealt with herein if this Act had not been passed.
This section therefore applies to Hindus by religion in any of its forms and Hindus within the extended meaning i.e. Buddhist, Jaina or Sikh and, in fact, applies to all such persons domiciled in the country who are not Muslims, Christians, Parsi or Jew, unless it is proved that such persons are not governed by the Act under any custom or usage. The Act applies to Hindus outside the territory of India only if such a Hindu is domiciled in the territory of India.
The Act was viewed as conservative because it applied to any person who is Hindu by religion in any of its forms, yet groups other religions into the act (Jains, Buddhists, or Sikhs) as specified in Article 44 of the Indian Constitution. However, with the passage of Anand Karj marriage act, Sikhs now also have their own personal law related to marriage.
Section 5 of Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 states:-
"Section 5. A marriage may be solemnized between any two Hindus, if the following conditions are fulfilled, namely-
1. neither party has a spouse living at the time of the marriage
2. at the time of the marriage, neither party-
a. is incapable of giving a valid consent to it in consequence of unsoundness of mind; or
b. though capable of giving a valid consent, has been suffering from mental disorder of such a kind or to such an extent as to be unfit for marriage and the procreation of children; or
c. has been subject to recurrent attacks of insanity or epilepsy;
3. the bridegroom has completed the age of twenty-one years and the bride the age of eighteen years at the time of the marriage;
4. the parties are not within the degrees of prohibited relationship unless the custom or usage governing each of them permits of a marriage between the two;
5. the parties are not sapindas of each other, unless the custom or usage governing each of them permits of a marriage between the two."
Marriage can be solemnized between two Hindus if neither party has a living spouse at the time of marriage;
The conditions also stipulate that at the time of the marriage, neither party is incapable of giving valid consent or suffering from a mental illness that inhibits their fitness for marriage or procreation of children or suffering from recurrent episodes of insanity or epilepsy. In the original Act, the age of valid marriage was fixed at 18 for the boys and 15 for the girls, however this age requirement was later raised to 21 and 18 respectively for the boys and the girls through the Child Marriage Restraint (Amendment) Act 1978. Marriage of a female less than 18 years of age or a male of less than 21 years of age is voidable but not void: The marriage will become valid if no steps are taken by the minor spouse to seek a declaration that the marriage is void Finally, the Act specifically disallows marriages between prohibited degrees of relationships.
Section 6 of the Hindu Marriage Act specifies the guardianship for marriage. Wherever the consent of a guardian in marriage is necessary for a bride under this Act, the persons entitled to give such consent are the following: the father; the mother; the paternal grandfather; the paternal grandmother; the brother by full blood; the brother by half blood; etc] The Guardianship For Marriage was repealed in 1978 after the Child Marriage Restraint Amendment was passed. This was an amendment that increased the minimum age requirement for marriage in order to prevent child marriages.
Section 7 of the Hindu Marriage Act recognizes the ceremonies and customs of marriage. Hindu marriage may be solemnized in accordance with the customary rites and ceremonies of either party. Such rites and rituals include the Saptapadi—the taking of seven steps by the bridegroom and the bride jointly before the sacred fire. The marriage becomes complete and binding when the seventh step is taken.