Justice P B Suresh Kumar heard arguments on behalf of the state government, which is not in favor of online solemnization of marriages under the Act, and several petitioners who have contended that personal physical presence of the bride and groom is not necessary for solemnization of nuptials under the law.
The state government said that under the Act, solemnization of marriage was mandatory before registering it under the SMA, and therefore, the presence of the two sides and the witnesses are required before the Marriage Officer.
It also said that if an online mode of solemnization was permitted, it would mandate maintaining an electronic register of marriages and setting up an online mode of payment both of which are not in place presently.
It also said that another requirement for solemnization of the marriage was that at least one of the two parties has to be a resident of the area within the territorial limits of the Marriage Officer for a minimum of 30 days before issuing the notice of the intended nuptials.
Therefore, two persons living abroad cannot have their marriage solemnized online if they do not satisfy the residence requirement.
The petitioners have contended that when marriages under SMA can be registered online, therefore, solemnization too does not need the physical presence of the parties involved.
They have claimed that various judgments say that appearing via video conferencing is akin to being present in a person with the sole difference that parties cannot be touched.
They said that under SMA the marriage can be solemnized by any means, like exchange of garlands or shaking of hands, as long as both parties make the declaration that they take each other as the lawfully wedded husband and wife.
They also said that signatures can be submitted via digital format and the same was recognized under the Information Technology Act. After hearing substantial arguments from all stakeholders, the court reserved its order in all the petitions before it on the issue of online solemnization of marriages under SMA.