Sikhs married in the presence of a Granth Sahib and a congregation at the Gurdwara, in a ceremony called the “Anand Karaj”, will henceforth be able to register their wedding under the Anand Marriage Act in Delhi. Hitherto, the weddings were registered under the Hindu Marriage Act. This caused inconvenience to the Sikh diaspora, who carried certificates of being married under the Hindu Marriage Act. Within India, it hurt and angered Sikhs who wanted to assert their distinct religious identity. The Shiromani Akali Dal, the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandak Committee and the Akal Takhat had always vocally apprehended that their identity was being subsumed in the larger Hindu context.
The Delhi government notified the Delhi Anand Marriages Rules 2018 on February 9, fulfilling a century old demand of the Sikhs. The National Capital Territory has at least three Sikh dominated assembly constituencies, and enough members of the community to have a robus Delhi Gurdwara Management Committee, with elections to this body being fiercely contested.
Now, both the AAP government which notified the rules, as well as the BJP have claimed the credit for the rules.
The Sikhs had a law governing their weddings from the pre-Independence era, in the form of the Anand Marriage Act of 1909. This, however, did not include provision for registration of such weddings, resulting in them being registered under the Hindu Marriage Act.
To correct this, the UPA government under Manmohan Singh amended the Act in 2012, and it got the presidential nod. In fact, as this was being debated in Parliament in the presence of Akali Dal leader and now minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal, it was pointed out that many smaller religious communities including the Jains, were sailing in the same boat.
Jalandhar-based advocate Malkit Singh explained that Sikhs who have their weddings registered under the Anand Marriage Act will not be required to go through the registration under the Hindu Marriage Act while dealing with the Registrar of Births, Marriages and Deaths under the law of 1969.
However, some states, having a sprinkling of Sikhs, have yet to notify rules which will help the competent authorities register the Anand Karaj weddings.
In fact, the 2012 amendment providing for registration, followed the Supreme Court asking the government, in a scathing manner, “Can you call it The Buddhist Marriage Act and apply it to other communities?” Birender Kaur, who had gone to the apex court, had maintained that her fundamental right to preach and practice her relgion had been violated.
The state government in Haryana, which has Sikhs in large numbers in the districts of Karnal and Kurukshetra, framed the rules and appointed competent authorities to register Anand Karaj weddings in 2014.
The Union Territory administration of Andaman and Nicobar Islands notified the Anand Marriages Registration Rules 2017 in November 2017, making it possible for those married in the “Anand Karaj” ceremony to get the marriage registered under the Anand Marriage Act instead of the Hindu Marriage Act. The Lt Governor could authorise officers to execute such registration under these rules.
Ironically enough, in Sikh majority Punjab, the rules were notified only in December 2016. This despite the Shiromani Akali Dal having been in power for two full terms ending March 2017!