Indian State of Maharashtra Mulls Separate Law for Buddhist Marriages
In response to long-standing calls from community leaders and segments of the population, the government of the western Indian state of Maharashtra is considering introducing separate legislation for Buddhist marriages.
Marriages between Buddhists, Jains, and Sikhs are currently covered under India’s Hindu Marriage Act, enacted in 1955. Former state cabinet minister Nitin Raut proposed a separate Buddhist marriage act in 2007 after a Nagpur court ruled that the marriage of a Buddhist couple was invalid as it had only been solemnized in accordance with Buddhist rituals.
“The rituals of a Buddhist marriage are very different. They don’t fit in with the prevailing provisions of the Hindu Marriage Act,” said state minister for Social Justice and Empowerment, Rajkumar Badole. “Hence, a separate legislation is necessary for the community. The committee constituted to vet the draft will have its first meeting in the next eight days.” (The Indian Express)
Badole said that his department had prepared a draft of the new legislation and had formed a 13-member committee that included Minister of State Social Justice Dilip Kamble, principal secretaries from the social justice and empowerment, and law and judiciary departments, two advocates, a retired judge, a director of the Babasaheb Ambedkar Research and Training Institute, the social welfare commissioner, and representatives of the Buddhist community. The committee has been given a month to finalize the draft and present it to the state government.
Legislative council member Jogendra Kawade observed: “This has been a demand ever since Dr. B. R. Ambedkar and his followers embraced Buddhism in 1956. The rituals are vastly different. The Hindu Marriage Act says that unless a Saptapadi [the most important rite in a Hindu marriage ceremony] is performed, the marriage cannot be recognized, while we don’t have Saptapadi in Buddhist marriages at all. Our separate religious identity does not stand out under the current legal framework.” (The Indian Express)
Buddhists account for about 0.7 percent of India’s population of more than 1.2 billion people, according to data from the 2011 Census of India, of whom more than 73 percent live in Maharashtra. The call for a separate law for marriages within the Buddhist community dates back to 1956, after jurist, economist, politician, and social reformer Dr. Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar converted to Buddhism. Ambedkar inspired the modern Buddhist movement in India and was a campaigner against social discrimination.
Maharashtra mulls separate law for Buddhist marriages (The Indian Express)
Maharashtra intent on separate Buddhist marriage law, says minister (The Times of India)
Maharashtra Government Proposes Separate Marriage Law for Buddhists (The New Indian Express)