| Year 2008 Canonical Studies
Christian Civil Law and Penal Provisions
(- Dr Sebastian Champappily1)

1. M.A., LLM, Ph.D; Advocate, High Court of Kerala. Tel: 0484 – 3575702, 9895815122

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The laws relating to Christians in India are manifold. The ecclesiastical law has its overwhelming significance in the ecclesiastical field and to a certain extent they have their impact on the personal law as recognized by civil law of Christian in India. There are different areas like marriage, divorce, adoption, guardianship, custody of children, maintenance, restitution of conjugal rights, judicial separation, alimony, succession, sacramental effect of marriage and administration of church and its properties where the ecclesiastical law has to meet and interact with the civil law regime. Almost the entire spectrum is covered by civil law. The civil law defines the contours of the civil conduct and prescribes penalties for the violation of the norms laid down by the civil law and the civil court. The civil and penal consequences include restitution, payment of compensation and imprisonment. The word ‘penal’ in the context of civil law has to be understood as to mean imprisonment/or the suffering of restitution and payment of compensation.

As far as the Church is concerned, the most vital aspect of civil law that have a bearing on their conduct, is in the realm of matrimony and Church administration. In the field of matrimony there are several enactments that have a vital bearing on the conduct and performance of duties by the ecclesiastical personnel. They are:

1. THE INDIAN CHRISTIAN MARRIAGE ACT OF 1872

This is a law enacted by the British Indian administration and is applicable throughout India except in the State of Jammu and Kashmir, Manipur and parts of Kerala and Tamil Nadu which fell within the territorial boundaries of the former princely States of Travancore and Cochin. In Cochin as far as the civil marriages of Christians are concerned the Cochin Christian Civil Marriages Act of 1920 still holds good. In Jammu and Kashmir, Manipur and Travancore and Cochin areas, sacramental marriages are solemnized by the ecclesiastical authorities in accordance with the provisions of Canon Law among Catholics and customary law among non Catholics. Even in the Malabar area of the State of Kerala the Indian Christian Marriage Act is still applicable.

Persons authorized to solemnize marriages

Under the provisions of the Indian Christian Marriage Act, marriages can be solemnized by:

(i) Firstly by any person who has received Episcopal ordination in accordance with the rules, rites, ceremonies and the customs of the Church of which he is a minister,

(ii) Secondly by any clergymen of the Church of Scotland in accordance with rules, ceremonies and customs of the Church of Scotland,

(iii) Thirdly by any minister of religion licensed under the Act,

(iv) Fourthly by a marriage register appointed under the Act,

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