As per India legal news reports, the Madras High Court has held that the courts in the country have jurisdiction to address matrimonial cases, which involve Hindus and are governed by the Hindu Marriage Act, including those cases where the opposite party is a foreign citizen, residing outside India.
India has always boasted of having a patriarchal society. Most festivals of India celebrate the importance of the male as the head of the family through elaborate customs and festivals. For example, Bengal’s Jamaishoshti festival celebrates the son-in-law. The North Indian festival called the Karva Chauth requires the wife to hold fast for the long life of her husband on that day. Male centric customs and festivals have always been a part of Indian life, mirroring the special social status given to men. Unfortunately, these male-focused customs also paved the way for the practice of demanding dowry on behalf of the male. Indian law treats it as an offence to give or receive dowry but it is practiced openly in the society.
Divorce is the formal termination or legal dissolution of a marriage. Every nation has distinct laws safeguarding the rights of both the spouses in a marriage. In India, the laws take into account religious distinctions. Divorce of Hindus, Sikhs and Jains is governed by the Hindu Marriage Act of 1955, divorce of Muslims is governed by the Dissolution of Muslim Marriages Act of 1939 and Christians need to follow the laws laid down under the Indian Divorce Act of 1869. There are separate laws for inter-cast or inter-religion marriages. These fall under the Special Marriage Act of 1954.
Since time immemorial, there is social stigma surrounding a child who is not born to legally wedded/married parents. This is no different under Hindu law. A child is considered illegitimate when he/she is born to parents who were not legally married to each other at the time of the child’s birth. In a landmark case, Mongal Chandra v. Dhirendra, AIR 1976 Cal. 129, the court recognized an illegitimate son as the son of a permanent and exclusive mistress of a particular person.
Hindu law does not recognize the legal right of a concubine to claim maintenance. A concubine is a woman who cohabits with a man to whom she is not legally married. Simply put, we are talking about a mistress. A concubine is usually given an inferior position in the Indian society as compared to a legally wedded wife. In Hindu law, such a woman is termed as ‘Avarudha Stri.’ In earlier times, it was believed that such a woman should live in the family home of her paramour.
Under Indian marriage laws, a marriage can be set aside if the consent for it was secured by fraud or misrepresentation of facts. This is not so easy to prove. However, it must be noted that fraud is not defined in the Indian marriage laws. So, any type of fraud cannot be taken as a ground for matrimonial relief.
Under Indian marriage laws, collusion is an illicit clandestine agreement between the parties so as to further a common object by in the garb of hostility. According to Rayden, ‘collusion means an agreement or bargain between the parties to a suit or their agents, whereby the initiation of the suit is procured or its conduct provided for.’
The Hindu Minority and Guardianship Act, 1956, regulate the laws pertaining to minority and guardianship among Hindus. It extends to whole of India except for the state of Jammu and Kashmir. Few important definitions under the Act are:
In every family, certain relationships impose legal obligations and responsibilities depending on the nature of the relationship. In Hindu law, a daughter has a right to claim maintenance from her father. The term ‘maintenance’ includes provisions for basic facilities, such as food, clothing, shelter, education and medical treatment. On the event of the father’s death, the unmarried or widowed daughters can be considered as his dependents and they can claim maintenance from his property.
The Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, was framed by the government to amend and codify the existing Hindu marriage laws. The Act extends to the whole of India except for the state of Jammu and Kashmir. It is applicable to all Hindus, Buddhists, Jains and Sikhs domiciled in the territories under the Act.