Patna HC Annuls Marriage After Groom Claims Forced Union at Gunpoint


LI Network

Published on: November 25, 2023 at 00:05 IST

The Patna High Court has nullified a marriage on the grounds that the groom was coerced into the union at gunpoint, and the crucial Hindu wedding ritual of ‘Saptapadi’ (seven steps around a sacred fire) was not performed, rendering the marriage incomplete under the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955.

A Bench consisting of Justice PB Bajanthri and Justice Arun Kumar Jha emphasized that a traditional Hindu marriage lacks validity without the completion of specific rites and ceremonies, including the pivotal ‘Saptapadi.’

The court pointed out that, as per the Hindu Marriage Act, the marriage becomes complete and binding only when the seventh step is taken during the Saptapadi.

The High Court also referred to a 2001 Supreme Court judgment reinforcing the requirement of ‘Saptapadi’ and ‘Datta Homam’ (offering of ghee into a sacred fire) for the validation of a traditional Hindu marriage.

The case unfolded when an Army signalman approached the court, claiming he was forced into a marriage after his uncle was kidnapped during prayers at a Lakhisarai temple in 2013. The petitioner alleged that, under the threat of a gun, he applied vermilion on the bride’s forehead and entered into a marriage without the completion of the customary rituals.

Despite efforts by the petitioner’s uncle to file a complaint with the police, they purportedly declined to address the issue. Subsequently, the petitioner sought legal recourse by filing a criminal complaint and concurrently attempted to annul the forced marriage through a family court.

However, his plea was dismissed on January 27, 2020, prompting him to approach the High Court for redress.

On November 10, 2023, the High Court granted relief to the petitioner, concluding that the marriage ceremony was indeed forced upon him. The court found the bride’s opposition unconvincing, stating that the ceremony appeared far from normal.

Several anomalies were noted by the court, including the lack of essential knowledge exhibited by the priest who officiated the marriage, the absence of the groom’s relatives at the wedding ceremony, and the insufficient exhibition of photographs as evidence.

Dismissing contentions of undue delay in filing the petition, the High Court stated, “The petitioner has explained the situation, and there is no undue delay, even the petitioner took steps post marriage through his Officer in the Army Command. So, it cannot be said that the petitioner slept over the matter.”

With these findings, the High Court annulled the forced “marriage” and set aside the family court’s verdict. Advocates Jitendra Kishore Verma, Anjani Kumar, Ravi Roy, Shreyash Goyal, Abhay Nath, and Shweta Raj appeared for the petitioner, while Advocate Shashank Shekhar represented the respondent.

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