Personal law is defined as a law that applies to a certain class or group of people or a particular person, based on the religions, faith, and culture. In India, everyone belongs to different caste, religion and have their own faith and belief. Their belief is decided by the sets of laws. Indians are following these laws since the colonial period. In India personal laws are of three types- Hindu, Muslims and the Christian.
Laws relating to marriage have been clearly codified in different Acts which are applicable to people of different religion. These acts are:
The Converts’ Marriage Dissolution Act, enacted during 1866
The Indian Divorce Act, enacted in 1869
The Indian Christian Marriage Act, enacted during 1872
The Kazis Act, enacted during 1880
The Anand Marriage Act, enacted in 1909
The Indian Succession Act, enacted during 1925
The Child Marriage Restraint Act, enacted in 1929
The Parsi Marriage and Divorce Act, enacted in 1936
The Dissolution of Muslim Marriage Act, enacted during 1939
The Special Marriage Act, enacted during 1954
The Hindu Marriage Act, enacted during 1955
The Foreign Marriage Act, enacted in 1969 and
The Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act, enacted in 1986.
In personal cases, courts are required to work with the personal laws when the issue is not being covered by any statutory law. For instance, let’s take a brief look at Hindu personal law.
Hindu Personal Laws
The ‘Shruti’ which contains all the four Vedas, namely Rig Veda, Sama Veda, Yajurva Veda, and Atharva Veda.
The ‘Smritis’ which are handed down teachings and sayings of Rishis and holy men of Hindu religion and the commentaries written by many historic authors about the ‘Smritis’. There are three types of Smritis, namely: Codes of Manu, Yajnavalkya, and Narada.
Personal Laws and customs as recognised by the statutory law regulate the Hindus. These are applicable to legal issues related to matters of inheritance, succession, marriage, adoption, co-parenting, the partition of family property, obligations of sons to pay their father’s debts, guardianship, maintenance and religious and charitable donations.
Sources of Muslim Personal Law
The Holy Quran
The sayings and teachings of Prophet Mohammed carefully preserved in tradition and passed down generation to generation by holy men.
Ijma, the agreement of Muslim scholars, companions, and disciple of Prophet Mohammed on matters of religion.
Kiyas, an analysis made using Quran, sayings of Prophet Mohammed, and Ijma when any individual one
Digests and commentaries on Muslim law, written by ancient Muslim scholars. The most famous include Hedaya(composed in the 12th century) and Fatawa Alamgiri, compiled under the instructions of Mughal emperor Aurangzeb Alamgiri.
Personal laws and customs govern the Muslims. It applies to all matters relating to inheritance, wills, succession, legacies, marriage, dowry, divorce, gifts, wakfs, guardianship and pre-emption.
Christian Personal Law
The Christian Marriage Act, enacted during 1972 has instructions on dealing with matters related to matters of marriage. Indian divorce act enacted during 1869 contains matters related to divorce.
Under the directions of this act, the husband can appeal for divorce on grounds of adultery by the wife.
Similarly, the wife can appeal for divorce on the grounds that the husband has converted to another religion or has married another woman or if he is found guilty
Under that section the husband can seek divorce on grounds of adultery on the part of his wife and the wife can seek divorce on the ground that the husband has converted to another religion and has gone through marriage with another woman or has been guilty of any of the acts mentioned in the act.
(The author is Lecturer at Sopore Law College. Views are his own)