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HomeExclusiveTelangana High Court Rules Hindu Marriage Act Applicable to 'Substantially Hinduised' Tribal Members

Telangana High Court Rules Hindu Marriage Act Applicable to ‘Substantially Hinduised’ Tribal Members

In a significant ruling, the Telangana High Court has declared that members of tribal communities who adhere to Hindu customs and traditions in their daily lives, thereby becoming “substantially Hinduised,” can invoke the provisions of the Hindu Marriage Act for the dissolution of their marriages. This clarification was made despite Section 2(2) of the Hindu Marriage Act, which traditionally excludes its application to Scheduled Tribe (ST) members unless directed otherwise by a central government notification in the official gazette.

The issue arose when a trial court in Kamareddy rejected a petition filed by a Lambada couple, who belong to the ST community, under Section 13(B) of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, seeking a divorce. The couple, dissatisfied with this decision, appealed to the Telangana High Court. Justice Alishetty Laxminarayana presided over the appeal and provided crucial insights into the interpretation of Section 2(2).

Justice Laxminarayana noted that the exclusion clause in Section 2(2) is intended to safeguard the customary practices of recognized tribes. However, he emphasized that if individuals from these communities voluntarily follow Hindu traditions and customs, they should not be restricted to customary courts. This interpretation holds especially when the individuals themselves acknowledge their adherence to Hindu rites, customs, and traditions.

The judge reviewed evidence presented by the petitioners, including a wedding card and photographs that showed their marriage was conducted according to Hindu customs, such as the Saptapadi ceremony. The marriage invitation also followed Hindu customs, reinforcing their claim of substantial Hinduisation.

Justice Laxminarayana ruled that tribal community members who choose to follow Hindu customs, traditions, and rites should not be excluded from the provisions of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955. This decision allows them to seek legal remedies under the Act, provided they have substantially integrated Hindu customs into their lives.

The ruling, however, is case-specific and does not constitute a blanket opinion on the applicability of Section 2(2) of the Act to all petitions filed by Scheduled Tribe members. The High Court emphasized that trial courts should handle each case based on its individual facts and circumstances. Courts must carefully consider the evidence presented to determine whether the petitioners are following Hindu customs and traditions to a substantial degree.

This judgment underscores the nuanced approach required in applying personal laws to tribal communities and highlights the importance of voluntary cultural assimilation in legal interpretations. The decision is expected to influence how similar cases are adjudicated in the future, ensuring that the cultural practices and personal choices of individuals from tribal communities are respected within the legal framework.

Overall, this ruling by the Telangana High Court provides clarity on the intersection of tribal customs and the Hindu Marriage Act, ensuring that those who have integrated Hindu traditions into their lives can access legal remedies under the Act.

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