Void Marriages – Detailed

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Marriage is considered an important part of life. Marriages can be of three types: Void, Voidable and Valid Marriage. This article will discuss Void Marriages in detail.

What is a Valid Marriage?

Section 5, Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, has laid down the conditions for a valid marriage. These are as follows:

1. There should not be any spouse living at the time of marriage.
2. At the time of marriage, the party should not be –
Suffering from a mental disorder, insanity, or unsoundness of mind.
3. The age of the bride should be 18 years or above, and the groom should be 21 years or above.
4. The parties should not belong to the prohibited relationships.
5. The parties should not be in a sapinda relationship (blood relations)

If the above conditions are met then marriage is considered valid. However, if these conditions are not fulfilled the marriage will be either void or voidable, depending on the nature of the marriage.

What is a Void Marriage?

Section 11, Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, deals with void marriage. Marriages that are not enforceable by law are called Void Marriage. A marriage can be void ab initio, i.e., from the beginning. As the marriage is not recognized by law, there is no need to dissolve the marriage.

What are the grounds for void marriage?

Section 5, Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, provides conditions for a valid marriage. If a marriage does not fulfill these conditions, it is considered a void marriage.

Following are the grounds or conditions that make a marriage void:

1. Bigamy

Suppose a person has a partner living during the marriage. If any partner is alive from an earlier marriage, their subsequent marriage is not lawful marriage. It’s void and non-existent.

2. Prohibited relationships

If a person marries someone belonging to a prohibited relationship. Prohibited relationships are
a) ascendants of a person in lineage such as father and daughter, mother and son, etc.
b) wife or husband of the lineal ascendant or descendants like father’s widow, son’s wife, etc.
c) wife of brother, father’s brother, maternal uncle, grandfather’s or grandmother’s brother.
d) other relatives like uncle and niece, aunt and nephew, children of two sisters, or brothers, or a brother and sister.
e) sapinda relationship

Marriage between persons belonging to the prohibited or sapinda relationship is void, except if the customs permit such marriage.

3. Sapinda Relationship

Sapinda relationship means extended relationship through ancestors like father, grandfather, etc. A person is in a sapinda relationship with each other in lineal ascendant through father for up to five generations and the case of a mother for up to three generations.

Sapinda Relationships can be described as follows;

Assume A as a child. If he is considered first-generation, his Sapinda relationships will be his relatives falling from his father’s side in four more generations.
A’s father, A’s grandfather, A’s great-grandfather, and A’s grandfather’s father are all A’s Sapinda relations.
But on the mother’s side, this chain spans only three generations, including A. Therefore, only A’s mother and A’s maternal grandmother will be A’s mother’s Sapinda relations, A being the first generation. Such relationship marriages are void.

What is Voidable Marriage?

To understand void marriage, let us also understand what a voidable marriage is.

Section 12, Hindu Marriage Act states that voidable marriage is a marriage that is recognized by law but can be challenged by either spouse. In other words, a marriage that was valid at the time it was conducted can be invalidated or voidable at the instance of the party to a marriage.

A marriage is voidable on the following grounds, namely;
· Impotence
· Consent is given during unsoundness of mind
· Consent obtained through fraud or force.
· Pregnancy of wife with another person’s child at the time of solemnization of marriage.

In a voidable marriage, either party can approach the court for annulment of marriage.

Some common questions relating to void marriage are given below:

What happens when a marriage is void?

In a void marriage, the couples are not recognized as husband and wife. Such marriage is not valid from inception. The parties to the marriage are at the discretion of getting the marriage nullified by the court or treating it as void themselves. The parties to the marriage have no obligations towards each other.

Can a marriage be nullified in India?

Yes, a petition for a decree of nullity can be filed by either party of the marriage to declare the marriage null and void.

What are the wife’s maintenance requirements?

Another important question emerging now is, whether the wife whose marriage is void under Section 11 of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 may demand maintenance from her husband of the void marriage. The Supreme Court held that if a marriage is invalid, the wife can not claim maintenance under Section 488 of CrPC. However, it is a widely accepted rule that the wife is entitled to maintenance under Section 18 of the Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act and under Section 24 of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955.

Are children born of void marriages legitimate?

Hindu Marriage Act 1955 provides legitimacy to children born from void marriages. Accordingly, the direct implication of section 16 of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 is that if a child is born out of wedlock that is subsequently ruled null and void, the child will not be considered illegitimate but will be deemed valid despite the marriage being unlawful from its inception. The section provides the children with a cushion of void marriages and prevents penalization.


In India, marriage is considered sacred, and dissolving a marriage is deemed to be taboo. Since the enactment of the Hindu Marriage Act 1955, it has become easy for couples to dissolve the marriage and get out of it. Marriage can be valid, void, or voidable. Section 5 of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, has put forward conditions for a valid marriage. Depending on the scenario, any marriage in contravention of these conditions is declared void or voidable. A void marriage is not recognized by law from the beginning. A voidable marriage is invalid but can be dissolved at the parties’ discretion. You do not have to get a decree to nullify a void marriage. However, a void marriage can be nullified by the decree of annulment by the court. A child born out of the void or voidable marriage is treated as legitimate.


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