Women Safety Issues – Marital Rape, Domestic Violence, Swadhar, Nirbhaya Fund, etc.

Delhi HC upholds Ban on Sapinda Marriages: Legal Insights


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Sapinda Marriages

Mains level : Read the attached story


  • The Delhi High Court recently dismissed a challenge to the constitutionality of Section 5(v) of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 (HMA), which prohibits sapinda marriages among Hindus unless custom permits.
  • The court’s decision affirms the legal restrictions on such marriages and emphasizes the importance of regulating marital choices.

For Aspirants with Sociology Optional, this article is of immense importance under: “Systems of Kinship- Family, household, marriage” in both Paper I and Paper II.

Understanding Sapinda Marriages

  • Definition: Sapinda marriages involve individuals closely related within specified degrees, as per Section 3(f)(ii) of the HMA.
  • Prohibition: The HMA prohibits sapinda marriages within a certain range of lineal ascent, ensuring that marriages do not occur between individuals with a common lineal ascendant within the defined limits.

Legal Framework

  • Void Marriages: Sapinda marriages that violate Section 5(v) and lack an established custom permitting them are declared void, meaning they are considered invalid from the outset.
  • Customary Exception: The sole exception to this prohibition arises when both parties’ customs permit sapinda marriages, as defined in Section 3(a) of the HMA.
  • Custom Criteria: To qualify as a custom, it must be continuously observed, uniform, reasonable, and not opposed to public policy, gaining legitimacy among Hindus in a particular area or community.

Grounds for Challenging the Law

  • Constitutional Challenge: The petitioner contended that Section 5(v) violated the right to equality under Article 14 of the Constitution by requiring proof of custom for sapinda marriages.
  • Lack of Proof: The woman argued that sapinda marriages exist even without documented custom, and the consent of both families validated the marriage.

High Court’s Decision

  • No Established Custom: The Delhi HC found no stringent proof of an established custom supporting sapinda marriages, which is crucial under the law.
  • Regulation of Marriages: The court upheld the idea that the choice of a marriage partner can be subject to regulation.
  • No Violation of Equality: The petitioner failed to provide compelling legal grounds to challenge the prohibition against sapinda marriages on grounds of violating the right to equality.

International Perspectives

  • European Laws: In several European countries, laws related to incestuous relationships are less stringent compared to India, allowing marriages between consenting adults.
  • Examples: France, Belgium, Portugal, and Italy have different laws regarding incestuous relationships and marriages.
  • US Laws: In the United States, incestuous marriages are banned in all 50 states, but some states allow incestuous relationships between consenting adults.


  • The Delhi HC decision reaffirms the legal framework regulating sapinda marriages in India and emphasizes the importance of established customs in permitting such unions.
  • It also highlights the differing legal approaches to incestuous relationships and marriages in various countries.

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