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Annulment of Marriage
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Annulment of Marriage
Annulment of Marriage

A marriage is a foundation that sets out the rules and regulations that defines obligations, duties, rights, responsibilities and privileges of husband and wife.  It is considered as a contractual agreement between two parties which lays out expectations of behaviour and carrying out duties. Marriage is a social bounding which stabilizes and formalizes the social relationship that comprises a family.

As marriage is considered a contract, like every contract, there are specific terms and conditions through which the marriage can be revoked. One such process, through which the marriage can be ended, is “Annulment of Marriage.”

Annulment of Marriage

Annulment of Marriage refers to the legal procedure which erases the marriage as if the marriage never took place.  It declares the marriage null and void. The main issue under Annulment of marriage is that whether a valid marriage took place or not. It questions the validity of the marriage, rather than questioning the sustainability of marriage. Annulment is generally filed by those couples who don’t want any further duties or obligations with respect to each other after the marriage is over.

However, it is crucial to understand that the Annulment of Marriage is not the same as Divorce. Though both the terms deal with termination of a marriage, but in reality, they are dissimilar in many ways.

Basis of differentiation

Annulment of Marriage

Divorce

Purpose

To declare the marriage null or void which was invalid

To end a valid marriage.

Status

Single/Unmarried

Divorced

Marriage previously existed

No

Yes

Legality

A high degree of legal procedures

Low degree of legal procedures

Alimony

No (as no obligations or duties exist)

Possible (depends upon the parties)

Witness and Proof

Yes, as it is essential to prove that marriage was null or invalid

No ( if it is a mutual or no-fault divorce)

Grounds-specific

Yes

No (if it is a mutual or no-fault divorce)

Division of Property

No (As after annulment, both the parties lose all their rights on one another)

Yes (Depends on the decision of both the parties)

Children considered Legitimate

Yes

Yes (child custody can remain with both or either with a single parent)

Length of time required for filing

Immediately

No prescribed time period

Grounds of annulling a Marriage

The grounds for annulling a marriage are as follows:

  1. At the time of marriage, if one of the spouses is under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Merely consuming alcohol at the time of marriage is not called “Influence of Alcohol”. The court will consider this ground only if it is proved that all the rituals which took place was unknown to the spouse or he/she was not in the capacity to understand the scenario due to the consumption of Drugs or Alcohol.
  2. If anyone of the spouses was already married at the time of the marriage, if the spouse is married and is marrying for the second time, such a type of marriage is considered as null or void. It cannot be registered or called a legitimate marriage.
  3. If either of the party is too young for the marriage, i.e. he or she is not of the legal marriage age. In such scenarios, the marriage is voidable.
  4. A mentally incompetent person who is unable to understand the necessary foundation of the relationship or a person mentally unstable at the time of marriage. However, if either of the spouses gets mentally unstable after marriage due to some circumstances, then the marriage cannot be dissolved for annulment and divorce would be the only solution left.
  5. Any marriage done under societal pressure is considered to be voidable. Parties involved in the marriage can seek an annulment. Although this shall defer from case to case basis as it is difficult to define ‘societal pressure’.
  6. If either of the parties involved in the marriage, commits a fraud, the other party can ask for the annulment of the marriage.
  7. The law prohibits marriages based on blood relationships. It is known as “Prohibited degree of Consanguinity”.  Marriages between 2nd cousins are a legal relationship, whereas laws relating to marriages between 1st cousins vary in India.
  8. If either of the spouses is subject to life imprisonment by the court. A person who has been convicted for life imprisonment if has recently married, his/her marriage can be legally annulled.
  9. If either of the spouses is physically incapable of consummating the marriage.
  10. Facts are concealed. (For example, concealment of drug addiction or past criminal record of an individual).

Laws relating to Annulment of Marriage in India

Several laws deal with the nullity of marriages in India. They are:

  1. Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 (Amended in 1976)

A Hindu marriage is applicable for annulment if either of the spouses:

  • Due to unsoundness of mind, the person is incapable of giving consent to a marriage
  • Though consent is given, still one of the spouses is suffering from a mental disorder to the extent which may result in difficulties in the procreation of children or is unfit for the marriage
  • Marriage can also be considered as null and void if the person was impotent.
  • Any consent granted under fraud or coercion also declares a marriage null and void.
  • If the woman was impregnated by some other person, then according to the law, the marriage can be annulled in the future.
  1. Indian Divorce Act (1869)  For Christians (Amended in 2001)

A Christian marriage is applicable for annulment if either party:

  • Either party’s former husband or wife was living at the moment and the marriage with the former one was then in force.
  • Either party was impotent (Physically incompetent)
  • Any spouse was insane or had a mental disorder.
  • The parties involved in the marriage are connected through “Prohibited degree of Consanguinity”.
  1. Parsi Marriage Act (1936)

A Parsi Marriage is applicable for annulment if either party:

  • Does not consummate the marriage due to natural causes. Then such a marriage can be declared null and void.
  1. Dissolution of Muslim Marriages Act (1939) and Muslim Personal Law

A Muslim marriage is applicable for an annulment if either party:

  • At the time of marriage is mentally unstable, then a marriage under Muslim Law is declared as null and void. However, there is an exception to it. If the guardian of the insane is ready to take all the monetary obligations of the marriage and considers this marriage to be in his interest and in the interest of the society, then such a marriage can take place.
  1. Special Marriage Act (1954)

This law is applicable to those people, who belong to any religion undergoing a civil marriage.

  • Either of the party has a living spouse.
  • The age of the boy is less than 21 years, and the age of the girl is less than 18 years.
  • The parties involved in the marriage are within the “degree of consanguinity” that is they are related due to blood relations.
  • Either of the party is impotent
  • A marriage under this law is considered to be void if any one of the spouses is of unsound mind or he/she is mentally unstable.

 

Procedure for obtaining Nullity

Step 1: Petition for annulment of a marriage shall be presented before the court of law.

Step 2: The Jurisdiction of the case is decided, depending upon where the respondent and defendant resides or the place where the marriage took place.

Step 3: The court then issue notices to either the respondent or defendant to submit a reply before the court.

Step 4: After hearing both the parties and witnessing the evidence, the court decides the matter and grants a relief accordingly.

Under the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 and Special Marriage Act, 1954, the court is the Family Court or the City Civil Court. On the other hand, Under the Parsi Marriage Act, the court is the one which is established under the act. It is also important to note that, the court does not decide annulment of Muslim Marriages, but it is instead determined by their religious practices.

Child Status in a Void or Voidable Marriage

  • As per Section 16, the children born in an annulled marriage are considered to be Legitimate. When a child is deemed to be legitimate, he/she is entitled to all the rights that a normal child has who is born in a Legal Marriage.
  • However, such children are entitled only to share the property of their parents and not the extended family. In case, it is a Joint Family Property or ancestral property, then their share would be only in their father or mother’s property. Logically, on the partition of ancestral property, the property falling in the share of the parents of such children is termed as their absolute and self-acquired property.

Rights of Wife

It has always been a topic of debate, whether a wife should be entitled to alumni or maintenance by her husband in cases where a marriage is declared null and void by the court. A woman is considered to be an “ex-wife” if she has been divorced or out of a marriage. According to some recent Supreme Court verdicts, a wife is entitled to maintenance from her husband, if the marriage is declared null and void due to the mischief or the wrongs committed by the husband under Section 125 of Cr.P.C. However, both the husband and wife are not subject to any kind of responsibilities or duties towards each other after the marriage is annulled. The wife and husband are free and

Case Laws

Various judgments have been passed by the Supreme Court in situations where either party demands nullity of a marriage.

T K Surendran Vs P Najima Bindu

IA No. 1/2016

The above case deals with the situation, where the wife filed a petition for annulling a marriage due to the impotence of the husband. Under such situation, the Supreme Court of India granted maintenance rights to the wife by the husband on the grounds that, in the current scenario the marriage is being declared null due to the husband’s wrong or mischief and therefore maintenance would be awarded to the wife under Section 125 of Cr.P.C. Supreme Court upheld the Kerala High Court judgment of making husband liable to pay compensation to the wife.

Kollam Chandra Sekhar Vs. Kollam Padma Latha

In this case, the husband filed the petition seeking annulment of the marriage. The husband stated that the wife was suffering from a disease known as schizophrenia (a mental disability). The Supreme Court in this situation did not granted annulment stating that schizophrenia cannot be a suitable ground to dump the wife. The court further observed that schizophrenia is a mental disability which can be put on par with hypertension and diabetes. Supreme Court stated illness has its problems, but it cannot be considered for declaring a marriage void,especially after a child is born. The Court directed the wife to continue with the treatment.

Conclusion

In India, marriages are governed through different laws; likewise, annulment of marriage is also regulated through various laws. Marriages in India are considered to be a religious practice which is necessary for the future of a family. Therefore, it is essential that they should take place legally and not under force or any societal pressure. Facts of both the girl and boy should not be concealed to lead a happy married life. However, an annulment is a better process to set off a marriage then divorce, if the necessary grounds are available. It is highly advisable to appoint a legal person to go through the process of annulment so that there are no adverse consequences, and the process could be conducted smoothly.

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