Ajay Banerjee, Tribune News Service
New Delhi, May 21. The Rajya Sabha today unanimously passed an amendment to the Anand Karaj Marriage Act 1909, paving the way for separate registration of Sikh marriages.
This meets the 63-year-old demand of the community that so far gets its marriages registered under the Hindu Marriage Act 1955. The Anand Marriage (Amendment) Bill 2012 is expected to be tabled in the Lok Sabha tomorrow and once it clears the final hurdle — it should keeping in mind the consensus — it will become a law. The amendment to the marriage laws was introduced on May 7.
Shiromani Akali Dal members Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa and Balwinder Singh Bhunder praised the Prime Minister for this move and demanded the amendment of Article 25 of the Constitution, which hinders Sikhs from having a distinct identity. At present, Sikhs are clubbed with Hindus under the Constitution and the amendment in Article 25 has been one of the major demands of the community.
Speaking for the Congress, MS Gill lavished praise on the PM while Avinash Rai Khanna welcomed the move. Avtar Singh Karimpuri (BSP), Naresh Aggarwal (SP) and Kanwardeep Singh (TMC) welcomed the move and supported it on behalf of their parties. Dhindsa, Bhunder, and Karimpuri spoke in Punjabi.
Naresh Gujral of the SAD suggested that Law Minister Salman Khurshid issue instructions that Sikh couples who had earlier registered their marriages under the Hindu Marriage Act be allowed to register under the new law.
Once it becomes a law, it will help millions of Non Resident Indians. As of now, marriages registration certificates of NRIs term them as Hindus while their passports define them as Sikhs, resulting in confusion and rejection in visas.
The new Act does not have a provision for divorce as the Sikh clergy could not arrive at a consensus on the issue. The opinion among Sikhs is that the divorce clause could be added later, if the need be.
Parsis, Christians and Muslims already have separate laws for the registration of marriages under their own customs. The Sikh wedding is distinctive from a Hindu wedding and is called an ‘Anand Karaj’. The number of circumambulations (pheras) in Sikh weddings is lesser than those in Hindu weddings. The Sikh priest reads out from the verses from the Guru Granth Sahib.
Sikh couples that get their marriages registered under the Anand Karaj Marriage Act “shall not be required to get their marriages registered under the registration of Births, marriages and Deaths Act, 1969 or any other law for the time being in force (including state Acts)”.
The Anand Marriage Act was promulgated during British times, but was not adopted at the time of framing of the Constitution of Independent India.