chapter  1
38 Pages

- Marriage: Inability to handle tradition, or skill in abusing it?

In social reality, and therefore in legal practice, cases often come up in Indian law where one party claims that a particular Hindu marriage does not exist or, more precisely, that there is or was no legally binding marriage between two particular spouses. Such cases may come up many years after the death of a particular spouse, often when a succession is contested. Litigation of this kind is not concerned with exploring the concept of marriage in an academic sense, and is are not designed to clarify the law. Quite on the contrary: litigants (and their professional advisers) often seek to obfuscate and to confuse. Cases of this type tend to arise because one party to a marriage, usually the husband or the husband's relatives, seek to divest a woman (or those claiming entitlements through her) of financial or property entitlements, be it maintenance or inheritance. 1 As we shall see, the resulting problems for claimants may be multiplied if the woman concerned was a wife who had been previously married. Problems over our understanding of customary Hindu marriage rituals and their legal recognition become evident in such complex scenarios, which naturally lend themselves to abuse by ruthless litigants and their unscrupulous professional advisers.