The Irish High Court has declined to quash the refusal of a Civil Registrar to allow a couple enter a civil marriage following uncertainty as to the status of a prior Islamic marriage.
The first applicant, a Pakistani national, entered the UK in 2009. The second applicant, a UK citizen, was a student at university. The applicants entered into a relationship and had an Islamic marriage in February 2015. They were given an Islamic Marriage Certificate from their mosque, however they did not register the marriage in the UK. They moved to Ireland in June 2015 and wished to have a civil ceremony. At a meeting with the Civil Registrar they were asked to provide a number of documents, at which stage they also submitted their Islamic Marriage Certificate.
The Civil Registrar was of the view that the status of their marriage was unclear, therefore the civil marriage could not go ahead. The applicants believed that a religious marriage was different to a civil marriage, therefore their Islamic marriage should have no bearing on their wish to have a civil ceremony. The applicants therefore sought an order of the court quashing the refusal to allow them proceed with their marriage.
Section 2(2)(b) of the Civil Registration Act 2004 states that ‘if one of the parties to the marriage is, or both are, already married’ then there is an impediment to the proposed marriage. Section 46(1)(b) of the 2004 Act requires the parties to make a declaration that there is no impediment to their proposed marriage.
The High Court considered the case of M.A. v J.A.  in which a Muslim couple had an Islamic marriage in England. The wedding ceremony was performed by the Imam at the mosque, however he was not registered as an ‘authorised marriage celebrant’. The Court in that case found that the couple did have a valid marriage under UK legislation, even though the marriage was not registered.
Therefore, the Court confirmed that the Registrar was rightly unable to conclude that there was no impediment to the applicants marrying in the State. With the information that was provided to her she could not be satisfied as to the validity of the declaration required under Section 46(1)(b) without knowing the legal status and effect the applicants’ Islamic marriage, evidenced by the certificate furnished.
Click here for the decision in Farooq and Sajal v The Superintendent Registrar of the Civil Registration Service and the HSE.