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THE CONVERTS MARRIAGE DISSOLUTION ACT, 1866

Year : 1866

[2nd April, 1866.]

An Act to legalize under certain circumstances, the dissolution of marriages of 1* * * Converts to Christianity.

WHEREAS it is expedient to legalize, under certain circumstances, the dissolution of marriages of  Converts to Christianity deserted or repudiated on religious grounds by their wives or husbands;

It is enacted as follows:-

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1. The Act has not been extended to the State of Manipur, vide Act 30 of 1950, s.3 (2) and Sch. has been repealed in its application to Bellary district by Mysore Act 14 of 1955.The Act has been extended to Dadra and Nagar Haveli by Reg. 6 of 1963, s. 2 and Sc. 1.

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This Act may be cited as the 1* Converts Marriage Dissolution Act, 1866 2*.

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1. The word "Nativa" omitted by the A. O. 1950.

2. In its application to Pondicherry, after section 1, insert-2.Saving.-

Nothing contained in this Act shall apply to the Renoncants of the Union territory of Pondicherry."-(Vide Act 26 of 1968).

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Commencement of Act. Rep. by the Repeating Act, 1874 (16 of 1874), s.1 and Sch. I.


In this Act-

"Husband".-" husband" shall mean a married man domiciled in 1*[India], who shall have completed the age of sixteen years, and shall not be a Christian, a Muhammadan nor a Jew:

"Wife".-"wife" shall mean a married woman domiciled in 1*[India], who shall have completed the age of thirteen years, and shall not be a Christian, a Muhammadan nor a Jewess:

"Personal law".-"2*[Personal law]" shall mean any law, or custom having the force of law, of any persons domiciled in 1*[India] other than Christians, Muhammadans and Jews:

"Month"and "Year," Month " and " year " shall respectively mean month and year according to the British calendar:

3* * * * *

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1. Subs. by the A. O. 1950, for "the Provinces" which had been subs. by the A.O. 1948, for "British India".

2. Subs. by the A.O. 1950, for "Native law".

3. The paragraph relating to "Number" rep. by Act 10 of 1914, s.3. and Sch. 11, and the definition of "High Court" rep. by the A. O.
1937.

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If a husband change his religion for Christianity, and if in consequence of such change his wife, for the space of six continuous months, desert or repudiate him, he may sue her for conjugal society.


If a 1* * * wife change her religion for Christianity, and if in consequence of such change her 2* * * husband, for the space of six continuous months, desert or repudiate her, she may sue him for conjugal society.

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1. The words "shall bear a stamp of two rupees, and" rep. by Act 7 of 1870, s.

2. Sch. III, pt. II.

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If the respondent, at the time of commencement of such suit, reside within the local limits of the ordinary original civil jurisdiction of any of the High Courts of Judicature, the suit shall be commenced in such Court; otherwise it shall be commenced in the principal Civil Court of original jurisdiction of the district in which the defendant shall reside at the commencement of the suit.



The suit shall be commenced by a petition in the form in the First Schedule to this Act, or as near thereto as the circumstances of the case will allow. The statements made in the petition shall be verified by the petitioner in the manner required by law for the verification of plaints; and the petition may be amended by permission of the Court.

A copy of the petition shall be served upon the respondent, and the Court shall thereupon issue a citation under the seal of the Court and signed by the Judge.



In ordinary cases the citation shall be in the form in the Second Schedule to this Act, or as near thereto as the circumstances of the case will allow. But where the respondent is exempt by law from personal appearance in Court, or where the Judge shall so direct, the citation shall be in the form in the Third Schedule to this Act, or as near thereto as the circumstances of the case will allow.



A copy of the citation sealed with the seal of the Court shall be served on the respondent; and the provisions of the Code of Civil Procedure (5 of 1908) as to the service and endorsement of summonses shall apply, mutates mutants, to citations under this Act.



If the respondent shall not obey such citation, and comply with every other requirement made upon her or him under the provisions of this Act, she or he shall be liable to punishment under section 174 of the Indian Penal Code. (45 of 1860).



On the day fixed in the citation the petitioner shall appear in Court, and the following points shall be proved:-

(1) The identity of the parties:

(2) The marriage between the petitioner and the respondent:

(3) That the male party to the suit has completed the age of sixteen years, and that the female party to the suit has completed the age of thirteen years:

(4)The desertion or repudiation of the petitioner by the respondent:

(5) That such desertion or repudiation was in consequence of the petitioners change of religion:

(6) And that such desertion or repudiation had continued for the six months immediately before the commencement of the suit.



The respondent, if such points be proved to the satisfaction of the Judge, shall thereupon be asked whether she or he refuses to cohabit with the petitioner, and, if so, what is the ground of such refusal. In ordinary cases such interrogation and every other interrogation prescribed by this Act shall be made by the Judge, but when the respondent is exempt by law from personal appearance in Court, or when the Judge shall, in his discretion, excuse the respondent from such appearance, the interrogations shall be made by Commissioners acting under such commission as hereinafter mentioned.



Every interrogation mentioned in this Act and made by the Judge may, at the discretion of the Judge, take place in open Court or in his private room. If any such interrogation take place in open Court, the Judge may, so long as it shall continue, exclude from the Court all such persons as he shall think fit to exclude.

If the respondent be a female, and in answer to the interrogatories of the Judge or Commissioners, as the case may be, shall refuse to cohabit with the petitioner, the Judge, if upon consideration of the respondents answers and of the facts which may have been proved by the petitioner he shall be of opinion that the ground for such refusal is the petitioners change of religion, shall make an order adjourning the case for a year, and directing that, in the interim, the parties shall, at such place and time as he shall deem convenient, have an interview of such length as the Judge shall direct, and in the presence of such person or persons (who may be a female or females) as the Judge shall select, with the view of ascertaining whether or not the respondent freely and voluntarily persists in such refusal.



At the expiration of such adjournment the petitioner shall again appear in Court and shall prove that the said desertion or repudiation had continued up to the time last here in before referred to; and if the points mentioned in section 12 and this section of this Act shall be proved to the satisfaction of the Judge, and if the respondent on being interrogated by the Judge or Commissioners, as the case may be, again refuse to cohabit with the petitioner, the respondent shall be taken to have finally deserted or repudiated the petitioner, Decree.-and the Judge shall, by a decree under his hand and sealed with the seal of his Court, declare that the marriage between the parties is dissolved.



If the respondent be a male, and in answer to the interrogatories of the Judge or Commissioners, as the case may be, shall refuse to cohabit with the petitioner, the Judge, if upon consideration of the respondents answers and of the facts which may have been proved by the petitioner he shall be of. opinion that the ground for such refusal is the petitioners change of religion, shall adjourn the case for a year. At the expiration of such adjournment, the petitioner shall again appear in Court; and if the respondent on being interrogated by the Judge or Commissioners, as the case may be,, again refuse to cohabit with the petitioner the Judge shall thereupon pass such a decree as last aforesaid:

Provided
that if the petitioner shall so desire (but not otherwise), the proceedings in the suit shall, mutates mutants, be the same as in the case of a female respondent.



Notwithstanding anything here in before contained, if it shall appear at any stage of the suit that both or either of the parties had not attained puberty at the date of their marriage, and that such marriage has not been consummated; and if, in answer to the interrogatories made pursuant to section 13 of this Act, the respondent shall refuse to cohabit with the petitioner, and allege, as the ground for such refusal, that the petitioner has changed his or her religion, the Judge shall thereupon pass such a decree as last a fore said.



When any decree dissolving a marriage shall have been passed under the provisions of this Act, it shall be as lawful for the respective parties thereto to marry again as if the prior marriage had been dissolved by death, and the issue of any such remarriage shall be legitimate, any 1*[personal law] to the contrary notwithstanding:

Provided always that no minister of religion shall be compelled to solemnize the marriage of any person whose former marriage may have been dissolved under this Act, or shall be liable to any suit or penalty for refusing to solemnize the marriage of any such person.

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1 Subs. by the A. O. 1950, for "Native law".

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In suits instituted under this Act,the Judge shall order a commission to issue to such persons, whether males or females or both, as he shall think fit, for the examination on interrogatories or otherwise of any persons so exempt as aforesaid. The provisions of the Code of Civil Procedure (5 of 1908 ) shall, so far as practicable, apply to commissions issued under this section.



At any stage of a suit instituted under this Act, cohabitation as man and wife shall be sufficient presumptive evidence of the marriage of the parties, and proof of the respondents refusal or voluntary neglect to cohabit with the petitioner, after his or her change of religion and after knowledge thereof by the respondent, shall be sufficient evidence of the respondents desertion or repudiation of the petitioner, and shall also be sufficient evidence that such desertion or repudiation was in consequence of the petitioners change of religion, unless some other sufficient cause for such desertion or repudiation be proved by the respondent.



The provisions of the Code of Civil Procedure (5 of 1908) as to the summoning and examination of witnesses shall apply in suits instituted under this Act.



If at any stage of the suit it be proved that the male party to the suit is or was at the institution thereof under the age of sixteen years, or that the female party to the suit is or was at the same time under the age of thirteen years, or that the petitioner and the respondent are cohabiting as man and wife, or if the Court is satisfied by the evidence adduced that the respondent is ready and willing so to cohabit with the petitioner, the Court shall pass a decree dismissing the suit and stating the ground of such dismissal.



If at any time within twelve months after a decree dismissing the suit upon any of the grounds mentioned in the last preceding section, the respondent again desert or repudiate the petitioner upon the ground of his or her change of religion, the suit may be revived by summoning the respondent; and upon proof of the former decree and of such renewed repudiation or desertion, the suit shall recommence at the stage at which it had arrived immediately before the passing of such decree; and, after the proofs, interrogations, interview and adjournment which may then be requisite under the provisions here in before contained, the Judge shall pass a decree of the nature mentioned in section 16 of this Act.



If at any stage of the suit it be proved that the respondent has deserted or repudiated the petitioner solely or partly in consequence of the petitioners cruelty or adultery, the Court shall pass a decree dismissing the suit and stating the ground of such dismissal. A suit dismissed under this section shall not be revived.



If the petitioner, being a male, has at the time of the institution of the suit two or more wives, he shall make them all respondents ; and if at any stage of the suit it be proved that he is cohabiting with one of such wives as man and wife, or that any one of such wives is ready and willing so to cohabit with him, the Court shall pass a decree dismissing the suit and stating the ground of such dismissal. The provisions as to revival contained in section 24 of this Act shall apply, mutates mutants, to a suit dismissed under this section.



A dissolution of marriage under the provisions of this Act shall not operate to deprive the respondents children (if any) by the petitioner of their status as legitimate children, or of any right or interest which they would have had, according to the personal law applicable to them, by way of maintenance, inheritance, or otherwise, in case the marriage had not been so dissolved as aforesaid.



If a suit be commenced under the provisions of this Act, and it appear to the Court that the wife has not sufficient separate property to enable her to maintain herself suitably to her station in life and to prosecute or defend the suit, the Court may, pending the suit, order the husband to furnish the wife with sufficient funds to enable, her to prosecute or defend the suit, and also for her maintenance pending the suit. If the suit be brought by a husband against a wife, the Court may by the decree order the husband to make such allowance to his wife for her maintenance during the remainder of her life as the Court shall think just, and having regard to the condition and station in life of the parties. Any allowance so ordered shall cease from the time of any subsequent marriage of the wife.



No appeal shall lie against any order or decree made or passed by any Court in any suit instituted under this Act ; but if, at any stage of the suit, the respondent shall allege by way of defence that the marriage between the parties has been dissolved by the conversion of the petitioner, and that consequently the petitioner is not a 1*** husband or a 2* * * wife (as the case may be) within the meaning, of this Act, the Judge, if he shall entertain any doubt as to the validity of such defence, shall, either of his own motion or on the application of the respondent, state the case and submit it with his own opinion thereon for the decision of the High Court.

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1. Subs. by the A.O. 1950, for "Native law".

2. The word "Native" omitted, ibid.

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Every such case shall concisely set forth such facts and documents as may be necessary to enable the High Court to decide the questions raised thereby, and the suit shall be stayed until the judgment of such Court shall have been received as hereinafter provided.



Every such case shall be decided by at least three Judges of the High Court,if such Court be the High Court at any of the presidency- towns; and the petitioner and respondent may appear and be heard in the High Court in person or by advocate or vakil.



If the High Court shall not be satisfied that the statements contained in the case are sufficient to enable it to determine the questions raised thereby, the High Court may refer the case back to the Judge by whom it was stated, to make such additions thereto or alterations therein as the High Court may direct in that behalf.


It shall be lawful for the High Court, upon the hearing of any such case, to decide the questions raised thereby, and to deliver its judgment thereon containing the grounds on which such decision is founded; and it shall send to the Judge by whom the case was stated a copy of such judgment under the seal of the Court and the signature of the Registrar, and the Judge shall, on receiving the same, dispose of the case conform ably to such judgment.



Nothing contained in this Act 1* * * shall be taken to render invalid any marriage of a 2* * * convert to Roman Catholicism if celebrated in accordance with the rules, rites, ceremonies and customs of the Roman Catholic Church 3* * *.

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1 The words and figures " or in Acts Nos. XXV of 1864 and V of 1865 " rep. by Act 16 of 1874, s. 1 and Sch.

2 The word "Native" omitted by the A. O. 1950.

3 The words "and no Clergyman of such Church shall be liable to any suit or penalty under the provisions of either of the two Acts last here in before mentioned, for solemnizing any such marriage " rep. by Act 16 of 1874, s.1 and Sch.

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This Act extends to 2*[the whole of India 3*[except the State of Jammu and Kashmir and the Union Territory of Manipur].

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1 Subs. by the A. O. 1948, for the former s. 35.

2 Subs. by the A. O. 1950, for "all the Provinces of India".

3 Subs. by Act 48 of 1959, s. 3 and Sch. I, for certain words (w.e.f. 1-2-1960).

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Last updated on September, 2016

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