I went to New Delhi to attend the wedding of Dildeep Singh, son of Amrik Singh (Heathrow) with Jaspreet Kaur of Moti Nagar. The wedding took place on 16 January and I did not leave till the early morning of the 22nd and therefore I noticed how much time and money goes into registering the marriage.
The first step was to get a certificate from the Gurdwara stating that the marriage took place. Instead of having to go back to the Gurdwara the next day it would have been helpful if a witnessed certificate was made up on the day.
The next step was to get a ‘no objection certificate’ from the British High Commission. Without this certificate you cannot register the marriage between a UK and an Indian citizen. The High Commission issues these certificates without checking if the UK citizen is already married. The text on the certificate says, in a polite way, that it is meaningless, but you are charged Rs 3500 regardless.
Step three was a day excursion to Tis Hazare. Tis Hazare is both a notorious jail and a court complex surrounded by lawyer’s offices. These lawyers might do your work for a modest fee or for a fee that for ordinary Indians is astronomical, and the quality of their work is not necessarily related to the amount you pay.
Via local contacts Amrik Singh and family managed to find somebody who did the work for a fairly reasonable amount. And what is the result ? Dildeep Singh and Jaspreet Kaur are now registered as man and wife under the Hindu marriage act !
After all this effort and expenditure you get what you do not really want …
UK Gurdwaré and other places of worship can conduct a marriage according to their own tradition and at the same time act as a registry office. Under the British Raj the Anand Karaj was recognised as a legal form of marriage and even Pakistan has now recognised the Sikh marriage ceremony.
While India and Pakistan kept a lot of the colonial legislation, neither country kept the Anand Karaj Act on the statute book. India adopted article 25 of the constitution which treats Buddhist, Jains and Sikhs as Hindus. Seen from article 25 it is ‘logical’ that followers of these three Dharmic traditions come under the Hindu marriage act. Whether the Anand Karaj Act was taken off the statute book immediately in 1947 or only after the adoption of the constitution I do not know.
Maybe stimulated by the activities of the Dal Khalsa and non-Indian Sikh organisations the SGPC is actively lobbying Pardhan Mantri Manmohan Singh on the issue. But will Madam Sonia allow him to recognise the Anand Karaj ? If Badal & son were to support the Anand Karaj would that damage their pact with the BJP ?
If Maharaja Amarinder Singh, the leader of the Panjabi Congress, came out in support of a new Anand Karaj Act without waiting for permission from Madam, that would be very helpful. Whatever happens, any change in India will take time.