Marriage is a holy arrangement adopted and recognized by the society and religion, between a man and a woman called as husband and wife respectively. It is a religious sacrament sometimes referred as contract between a man and woman to live together as husband and wife. The concept of holy wedlock has given it a religious sacramental status in religion. In India marriage is a legal status under different personal laws such as Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, Parsi Marriage and Divorce Act, 1936, Indian Christian Marriage Act, 1872, Special marriage Act,1954. Under Muslim Law Marriage is a contract. Though marriage is a sacrament for life but due to some complexity and prospective development in modern society there are legal grounds for nullity of marriage. Hence the term ‘nullity of marriage’ is a legal declaration by the court that that there existed no marriage between the two people and that the marriage was invalid.
Before the parliamentary enactment there was no concept of end of marriage or nullity of marriage under the Hindu personal law. But after the Hindu Marriage Act,1955 was enforced certain grounds were mentioned on which a marriage shall be declared null and void if it was solemnized in violation of impediments of marriage which were considered absolute.
A marriage can be annulled only if it is void or voidable in law.
Void Marriage:- A void marriage is one that is invalid from the very beginning, i.e., void ab initio. Void marriages are considered to be unlawful in themselves, they do not need any formalities to be terminated.
According to the Section 11 of the Hindu marriage Act,1955 –any marriage solemnized after the commencement of this act shall be null and void and may, on a petition presented by either party thereto against the other party, be so declared by a decree of nullity if it contravenes any one of the conditions specified in clause (i), (iv), (v) of Section 5.
The grounds are –
a) If either party has a living spouse at the time of marriage i.e., bigamy.
b) If married between the prohibited relationship unless custom and usages allows such marriage
c) If married between sapindas unless custom and usages allows such marriage.
Voidable Marriage:- A voidable marriage is one that is flawed in its validity but continues to exist. Voidable marriages will be invalid only after one party applies to court to have the marriage declared void.
According to Section 12 of the Hindu Marriage Act,1955 – Any marriage solemnized, whether before or after the commencement of this act, shall be voidable and may be annulled by a decree of nullity on following grounds-
a) Impotency of the respondent
b) Incapacity to give valid consent or forced consent of parties or mental illness or person unfit for procreation of child.
c) Under aged marriage
d) If respondent was pregnant by some other person at the time of marriage.
In India marriage is considered to be a holy religious sacrament which is essential for the smooth functioning of the society. Hence it is necessary that it should be done without force. Nullity of marriage makes a person free from an unwanted marriage which is like a burden over them.