Nuptial bliss is some time away

by Salil Deshpande, DNA India, February 16, 2008

Mumbai, India -- The Buddhist community in Mumbai may have to wait a while before they can legally get married the Buddhist way.

For years, neo-Buddhist couples had to grapple with a moral dilemma. They could choose to marry as per Buddhist rites, and forego the hope of getting a legal sanction to the marriage, or, they could marry as per the rites prescribed by Hinduism.

This quandary arose from fact that Buddhist marriages were governed by the Hindu Marriage Act, which made no allowances for neo-Buddhist rituals.

Children born out of the former type of marriages, by implication, became 'illegitimate' and their mothers were concubines.

However, the budget session of Maharashtra's state assembly may see a Buddhist Marriage Bill being tabled, something that will bring cheer to lakhs of neo-Buddhists in the state.

“The government was asked by the court to make a law to cover Buddhist marriages. The law commission gave its recommendations, but nothing happened beyond that,” says Nitin Raut, an MLA from Nagpur, who is pushing for a separate Buddhist Marriage Act.

“I finally met chief minister Vilasrao Deshmukh, who has agreed to introduce a bill to the effect in the forthcoming budget session of the assembly,” says Raut.

Lawyers, however, caution that it's not going to be as easy as it sounds. As per the Constitution of India, Buddhists are, simply put, considered Hindus for all legal purposes.

By implication, the lawmakers will have to pass a notification and ensure a statutory amendment if something like the proposed Buddhist Marriage Act has to stand.