The Delhi High Court has issued a contempt notice to SDM Southwest Chandra Shekhar for sending a notice to the residence of a woman who, along with her partner, had approached the marriage officer last year to register their interfaith marriage under the Special Marriage Act.
Following the official intimation, the woman had been detained by her family and was released only after her partner filed a habeas corpus before the court.
“Issue notice to the respondent to show cause why contempt proceedings be not initiated against him for obstructing the administration of justice and for committing contempt of court,” said Justice Najmi Waziri in an order, while seeking response from the officer in two weeks and listing the case for hearing on September 8.
While hearing the contempt petition filed by the couple through advocate Utkarsh Singh, in which a 2009 High Court verdict was cited, Justice Waziri said there is a prohibition to send such notices which could jeopardise the plans of the applicants or become a cause “for threat to their lives or limb”.
“At best, the notice can be displayed at the notice board of the office in accordance with law. The marriage officers were specially directed to follow the said procedure and not to dispatch notices to the residences of the applicants/petitioners, who sought solemnisation under Chapter II of the Special Marriage Act, 1954,” said the court.
It also said the Delhi government, in pursuance of the HC order of September 18, 2009, had issued directions to all Deputy Commissioners. The government had asked the DCs to inform the Registrar of Marriages under their jurisdiction about the order and ensure strict adherence to the judicial pronouncement.
“The aforesaid issuance of notice is in clear breach of this court’s directions dated 08.04.2009. Prima facie, the court is of the view that the respondent has committed contempt of court,” Justice Waziri said, while referring to the notice issued by the SDM at the couple’s residences on February 25 last year.
The woman, a Muslim, and the man, a Hindu, decided to get married last year and applied for registration of their marriage. However, contrary to the 2009 ruling, the notice about their intended marriage was circulated at their residences by the marriage officer. After receiving the information, the woman’s father and brother detained her.
She was later produced before the High Court after her friend – now her husband – filed a habeas corpus. While her family was counselled by the court, the woman said she doesn’t want to return to her parental home. Accorded police protection by the court, the couple got married in May 2020.
While directing a marriage officer to not send notices to the residence of a couple, the High Court in 2009 had observed that it is to be kept in mind that the Special Marriage Act was enacted to enable a special form of marriage for any Indian national professing different faiths or desiring a civil form of marriage.
“The unwarranted disclosure of matrimonial plans by two adults entitled to solemnise it may, in certain situations, jeopardise the marriage itself. In certain instances, it may even endanger the life or limb of one or the other party due to parental interference,” it had said, while holding such a procedure to be completely whimsical and without authority of law.