Read Judgment: Reena Chadha & Anr vs. Govt. of Nct of Delhi

Pankaj Bajpai

New Delhi, September 13, 2021:The Delhi High Court has opined that personal appearance for purposes of registration of marriage would include appearance through Video Conferencing.

The Single Judge Bench of Justice Rekha Palli therefore directed that the parties seeking registration of their marriage under the Registration Order 2014, will be entitled to submit a physical copy of their application through their attorney and also enter personal appearance, as and when required, through Video Conferencing, which application would be duly processed by the registering authority.

The inaction of the State to provide for a suitable mechanism to facilitate registration of marriage of spouses separated by distance, has to be addressed, added the Bench.

The observation came pursuant to a petition filed by an Indian couple residing in the USA, seeking a direction to the concerned Sub-Divisional Magistrate (SDM), New Delhi to register their marriage in accordance with the provisions of the Delhi (Compulsory Registration of Marriage) Order, 2014, without insisting on their physical appearance before him.

It was the petitioner’s case that since they, alongwith their minor son, had already relocated to Singapore before 2014, they could not apply for registration of their marriage when the Registration Order came into effect.

It was contended that they had relocated to USA, where they require a marriage registration certificate for grant of a green card in USA. However, even though their application for a Green card in the USA stood approved, the same was not processed for want of a marriage registration certificate from the concerned SDM in Delhi, where their marriage was solemnized.

It was pleaded that in early June, 2021, the petitioners tried to make an online application but were unable to do so, as they did not possess an Adhaar card or a Voter ID card, which are mandatory to apply through the portal.

Consequently, the petitioners, through their counsel, tried to submit a physical application to the SDM, through their counsel, which was also not accepted and they were informed that their physical presence was essential. The petitioners followed that up by submitting a representation, which remained unanswered. Hence, present petition.

After considering the arguments and precedents, Justice Palli found that respondents’ plea that the physical presence of the parties is necessary to ascertain whether they are of sound mind and are entering into marriage without any fear or coercion, overlooks the fact that the task assigned to the Registering Authority under the Registration Order is to register a marriage which has already been solemnized.

Stating that she cannot overlook the fact that The Delhi (Compulsory Registration of Marriage) Order, 2014 is welfare legislation, promulgated at the instance the Supreme Court to encourage registration of marriages, Justice Palli opined that a welfare or beneficial legislation must be interpreted in such a manner so as to ensure that the object for which the statute was effectuated is fulfilled, and that there are no unnecessary obstacles to the beneficiaries obtaining the benefits of the same.

Keeping in view the fact that the issuance of the registration order is to promote registration of marriages, the High Court observed that Clause 4 must be interpreted in such a manner that encourages parties to easily get their marriages registered.

Justice Palli further observed that the insistence of physical appearance even when their personal appearance can be easily secured through video conferencing, will definitely make it more cumbersome for parties to come forward for registration of marriages.

This will negate the very purpose of enactment of the Registration Order and cannot be permitted, added Justice Palli.

The High Court therefore concluded that the term ‘personal appearance’ in Clause 4 of the Registration Order has to be read to include presence secured through Video Conferencing.

Any other interpretation, would not only frustrate the very purpose of this beneficial legislation, but, it would also undermine the use of this important and easily accessible tool of Video Conferencing, added the Court. 

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