New Delhi: Merely having a certificate of an alleged previous marriage will not be sufficient to hold the current married relationship a nullity till a decree is passed to that effect, the Supreme Court has said.
A bench of justices P Sathasivam and Ranjan Gogoi held that until a decree of nullity is passed, the court will proceed as if "the relationship between the parties is one of marriage and not in the nature of marriage."
"Mere production of a marriage certificate issued under Section 13 of the Special Marriage Act, 1954 in support of the claimed first marriage of the appellant was not sufficient for any of the courts, including the high court, to render a complete and effective decision with regard to the marital status of the parties and that too in a collateral proceeding for maintenance.
"In the absence of any valid decree of nullity or the necessary declaration, the court will have to proceed on the footing that the relationship between the parties is one of marriage and not in the nature of marriage," the bench said.
The apex court was hearing the plea of a woman, who had challenged a judgement of the Jharkhand High Court which had relied on a certificate of her alleged earlier marriage, produced by her husband, to hold that her marriage to him was null and void.
The couple was involved in litigation over maintenance sought by the woman.
The trial court had awarded the woman Rs 2,000 per month as maintenance which was challenged by her husband in the high court, during pendency of which he sought recall of the earlier order on the basis of her alleged subsisting first marriage.
When the trial court refused to grant him relief, the man had moved the high court which on April 9, 2010 had declared the couple`s marriage as void, subsequent to which the woman had moved the apex court.
The apex court setting aside the high court`s order said, "the interference by the high court" in maintenance granted in favour of the woman was "not at all justified".