1. This is a suit by one Ratan Behari Dutt for declaration that the marriage solemnized between him and one Margaretha Heh is null and void. The parties went through a form of marriage under the Special Marriage Act, Act 3 of 1872. According to that Act, the parties have to make certain declarations in accordance with the terms of Section 2 of the Act, before the Registrar of Marriages appointed under Act 3 of 1872. The declarations made by the parties' have been proved. Ratan Behari Dutt declared that he professed the Hindu religion, while Margaretha Heh declared that she did not profess the Christian, Jewish, Hindu, Mahomedan, Parsi, Buddhist, Sikh or Jain religion. In short she did not profess to follow any religion at all. They made other declarations which are not material for the purposes of this suit. The plaintiff says that this marriage is null and void inasmuch as it offends against the provisions of Section 2, Special Marriage Act.
2. In my opinion, the contention on behalf of the plaintiff must be given effect to. Section 2, Special Marriage Act, consists of two portions. Under the first portion, persons who do not profess the Christian or Jewish or Hindu or Mahomedan or Parsi or Buddhist or Sikh or Jain religion are permitted to be married under the Act. The present case does not come under this part of the Section inasmuch as Ratan Behari Dutt has declared that he professes the Hindu religion. The next part of the Section permits the marriage of persons each of whom professes one or other of the following religions, namely, the Hindu, Buddhist, Sikh or Jain religion. It is clear from the Section therefore that two classes of persons only may be married under this Act, viz., (1) persons who do not profess any of the religions mentioned in the first part of Section 2, and (2) persons each of whom professes one or other of the four religions mentioned in the second part of the Section. There cannot, therefore, be a marriage celebrated under this Act between a person who professes the Hindu religion and a person who does not profess any one or other of the following four religions, viz. the Hindu, Buddhist, Sikh or Jain religion. In the present case the plaintiff professed the Hindu religion while the defendant professed none of the last-mentioned four religions. That being so, the marriage is null and void.
3. The case is an undefended one, but I consider that it is necessary to pronounce a judgment at some length in view of the importance of the question involved. There can be no doubt that the Marriage Registrar did not understand the true import of Section 2, Special Marriage Act, with the result that he allowed two persons to go through a form of marriage which marriage is now found to be null and void. I need hardly say that it is of the utmost importance that cases of this kind should not recur and I trust that Marriage Registrars will be duly instructed in such a way as to prevent their performing invalid marriages of this description. Learned Counsel appearing on behalf of the plaintiff very properly drew my attention to the case in Otto Guenter Wenkenbach v. Henrietta Violet Taylor (1937) 41 C.W.N. 270n wherein a contention was raised that in the circumstances of that case the suit should have been brought in this Court in its Matrimonial Jurisdiction and not in its Ordinary Original Civil Jurisdiction. That case however is clearly distinguishable from the present one and in my opinion the present case has rightly been brought in this Court in its Ordinary Original Civil Jurisdiction. The marriage of the plaintiff is declared null and void. The suit is decreed. There will be no order for costs.