April 19, 2012: The Union Cabinet of the republic of India in a meeting on April 12, 2012, chaired by the Prime minister Dr. Manmohan Singh, decided to restore the Anand Marriage Act and gave the approval to table the bill in the parliament in the budget session to be resumed from 24th of April 2012. (http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2012-04-13/india/31336799_1_anand-marriage-act-nri-sikhs-separate-marriage)

THE enactment of Anand Marriage Act  would enable the Sikhs to register their marriages right in accordance with their creeds and traditions which were earlier registered under the Hindu Marriage Act 1955 (http://lawcommissionofindia.nic.in/51-100/Report71.pdf).
Before the division of Sub-continent, Sikh marriages were registered under Anand Marriage Act 1909 (http://www.vakilbabu.com/laws/Acts/AMAct/AMAct.htm)  which guaranteed the separate identity of the community.But unfortunately after 1947 the Union government of India, made the Anand Marriage Act non-operational and left no choice for Sikhs to get their marriages registered under the Hindu Marriage Act 1955. Consequently, a number of Sikh marriages began to remain unregistered resulting in multiple matrimonial issues. It created a great sense of deprivation among the community and the Sikh clergy began to oppose this move. Since then, the community, along with other demands, was striving for the restoration of the Anand Marriage Act. The struggle gained momentum in 2006 when the Supreme Court of India made the registration of marriages mandatory. The Director, Voices for Freedom, Suldip Minhas, commenting on the recent decision of the Union Cabinet, said: “The decision has surfaced on a significant moment. The Sikh community is celebrating Vaisakhi with festivity in the back drop of high tensions with reference to Balwant Singh Rajoana’s execution”.  See (http://www.hindustantimes.com/audio-news-video/AV-India/Protests-held-against-hanging-of-Balwant-Singh/Article2-831935.aspx.The Union government has sent a positive message to the people of Panjab which was the nerve centre of the trauma. We hope that all the parties, in the parliament, would support the bill forgetting all their differences.”  The former chairman national commission for minorities, Tarlochan Singh appreciating the government’s step, termed it, as a step forward towards “acquiring independent identity”. The Anand Act already existed. We found that it lacked the provision for the registration of Sikh marriages. Now, the amendment would do the needful,” Tarlochan added. (http://www.hindustantimes.com/Punjab/Chandigarh/Sikhs-to-have-own-law-for-registering-marriages/SP-Article1-839823.aspx) VFF appreciates and congratulates the Union government for taking a step in the right direction and believes that the parliament would not send it to cold storage as it is not the matter of bringing the laws in line with Supreme court’s verdict only, it has to do with an old demand of the community which has already borne much hardships. VFF also hopes that the Indian government would soon revisit Article 25(2) (B) which reads: “The reference to Hindus shall be construed as including a reference to persons professing the Sikh, Jaina or Buddhist religion, and the reference to Hindu religious institutions shall be construed accordingly.” (Constitution of India, Article 25(2) (b)Gurvinder Singh Sidhu, General Legal Counsel for VFF, said, “The Article 25(2)  (B) clearly submerges the separate Sikh identity and should be altered.”VFF takes the Union Cabinet’s recent decision as a beginning of a new era acting as a healer to the wounds of the Sikh community.

Simranjeet Singh
Director, Voices For Freedom
Director Voices For Freedom
Advocate Chandigarh and Haryana High Court