Annulment of Marriage in India

Law Family Law
30-Apr-2022
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In India, marriage is considered a religious sacrament between a man and a woman. Historically, marriage was considered a holy alliance that was not dissolvable. However, with the advancement and social awareness, various laws have been enactment by the government to make the present-day separation procedure in India.

Prima facie, two types of separation procedures are practiced in India, namely annulment and divorce. The two procedures may look similar, but they hold two different meanings.

What Is An Annulment of Marriage?

Annulment of marriage refers to declaring a voidable marriage as void. You may feel confused with these two words, void, and a voidable marriage. Let’s break these terms down -- a void marriage doesn’t need any evidence to declare a marriage null. It has already been an empty marriage since its commencement. But, in the case of Voidable marriage, either of the partners approaches the court for annulment of their marriage. 

Annulment VS Divorce: What is the difference?

Divorce is the dissolution of the formal ending of a marriage. It is a legal declaration of ending or terminating a valid marriage. Under divorce, the validity of a marriage is not questioned, but the continuation of marriage remains in question.

On the other hand, annulment of marriage refers to making a voidable or void marriage invalid. It is a legal procedure of nullifying a marriage that did not meet legal requirements at the time of marriage. Voidable marriages are valid unless their validity is questioned. 

You might be interested in: GROUNDS OF DIVORCE UNDER THE HINDU MARRIAGE ACT, 1955

Grounds for Nullity of Marriage vs grounds for Divorce of Marriage

There are different grounds for the annulment of marriage and divorce. 

As per Hindu Law, cruelty, adultery, conversion, desertion, mental illness, communicable disease, the presumption of death for five years, and renunciation of the world are grounds for divorce.

Whereas, the grounds for annulment of marriage may vary sometimes, but are generally limited to bigamy, deceit, blood relationship, and mental incapacity as mentioned below:

  • If either spouse was already married to someone else when the marriage took place;
  • If either spouse did not attain the age of marriage as per law;
  • If either spouse was intoxicated at the time of the marriage;
  • If either spouse was insane or ill at the time of the marriage;
  • If the marriage consent is based on any fraud or force;
  • It is either spouse was physically incompetent to be married;
  • If either spouse is incapable of a physical relationship in a marriage.
  • Criminals who have already been sentenced to life imprisonment may not marry.

In simple words, annulment of marriage is a way of terminating a never-existed matrimonial bond that is not valid due to any of the above-mentioned reasons.

You might be interested in: Difference Between Judicial Separation and Divorce

The Period for Annulment of Marriage

There is no prescribed time for annulment of marriage through the Family Court. Depending on the court's calendar, the entire process may take six months to four years. Annulment of marriage may take as much time as a divorce case, depending upon the facts of the case. However, unlike a divorce where one must wait up to one year before either spouse can apply, one can apply for an annulment at any time after the wedding.

How to Annul a Marriage in India?

Unlike divorce, the process of annulment of marriage in India is relatively shorter and has fewer intricacies involved. Additionally, the procedure of obtaining a nullity decree under all personal laws in India is almost similar. 

Below is a brief of the procedure for the annulment of marriage in India.

  • The parties' residence plays an important role in deciding the jurisdiction of the matter. 
  • Either partner can file a petition where she/he was born, where the marriage was solemnized, or has been living together and has to stay for a continuous 90 (ninety) days period before applying.
  • A petition should be presented before the concerned court under different personal laws. Such as, under the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 and Special Marriage Act, 1954, one can refer to the Family court or city civil court to decide the matter. Under Muslim law, a matter is decided by religious practice.
  • After filing the annulment petition, the court issues a notice to the respondent providing a chance to reply and present before the court.
  • After proving a marriage void or voidable, the court will pass a decree as per the pieces of evidence and arguments made by the parties.
  • Once, the decree of nullity is passed, one can obtain a copy of the decree and annulment papers by paying the requisite fee.

The process of annulling a marriage can be overwhelming as the plaintiff bears the responsibility to furnish proof of the invalidity of the marriage. Hence, the most hassle-free way of annulling a marriage is by consulting an experienced matrimonial dispute lawyer. 

Conclusion

To sum it up, annulment is a process that nullifies marriage by making it invalid as though it never technically existed. The concept of annulment is fairly lesser-known in comparison to a divorce. An annulment can be exercised when marriage was solemnized through fraud, performed under intoxication, insane, or married as a minor. 

The terms of annulment are often mistaken to be simpler and shorter than divorce. The reality, however, differs. The length of a marriage practically has no relevance to the process of annulment. 

The process of annulling a marriage can be extremely tedious and can be emotionally taxing for individuals. An experienced lawyer can ease the process and help you pursue the right legal recourse. The goal should be to not make the tormenting process any more complex. The ideal choice should be a decent family lawyer or an attorney with expertise in matrimonial disputes. 

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