Allahabad High Court Rules on ‘Saptapadi’ in Hindu Marriages: Implications for Validity

The Allahabad High Court recently issued a significant ruling regarding the importance of the “Saptapadi” ceremony in Hindu marriages under the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955. In the case of Smriti Singh & Ors v. State & Ors, the court quashed a case of bigamy against a woman.

“Saptapadi” is a crucial Hindu wedding ritual where the bride and groom take seven symbolic steps around a sacred fire during the marriage ceremony. This ritual symbolizes their unity and commitment to each other, signifying the sacred bond of marriage. The court’s decision reaffirms that the performance of the “Saptapadi” ceremony is essential for a Hindu marriage to be considered legally valid under the Hindu Marriage Act.

In this particular case, the dispute stemmed from a failed marriage. The parties involved had married in 2017 but eventually grew apart. The wife filed a First Information Report (FIR) against her in-laws, alleging dowry harassment, which led to a chargesheet being filed against her husband and his family.

Subsequently, in 2021, the husband filed a complaint, alleging that his wife had committed bigamy by marrying another man before their divorce was finalized. As a result of the husband’s complaint, a magistrate court issued summons to the wife.

In response, the wife approached the Allahabad High Court, seeking to quash the summons. She argued that her husband’s allegations were baseless and that she had not remarried during the pendency of their divorce proceedings.

Upon examining the evidence presented, the High Court noted that there was no proof of the necessary ceremonies being conducted to solemnize the alleged second marriage. Section 7 of the Hindu Marriage Act outlines the essential ceremonies required for a valid Hindu marriage, including the “Saptapadi” ceremony.

The court emphasized that, when a marriage is disputed, it is not sufficient merely to establish that a marriage took place. Rather, the rites and ceremonies required to constitute a legal marriage must be conclusively proven. In the absence of convincing evidence, it becomes challenging to accept the complainant’s contention regarding the occurrence of the “Saptapadi” ceremony.

Ultimately, the Allahabad High Court found the husband’s complaint to be an instance of malicious prosecution. Consequently, it quashed the criminal proceedings initiated against the wife for the offense of bigamy under Section 494 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).

This ruling serves as an essential precedent, reaffirming the significance of adhering to customary Hindu marriage rituals, including the “Saptapadi” ceremony, to establish the validity of a Hindu marriage under the law. It highlights the importance of providing clear and convincing evidence when disputes arise regarding the solemnization of marriages, especially in cases involving allegations of bigamy.

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