In the Indian state of Madhya Pradesh, couples who tied the knot this month may have a fight on their hands in trying to prove that the marriage is official, as the state government has declared that weddings held secretly during the May lockdown are illegal.
In order to curb the spread of coronavirus, the Madhya Pradesh government decided to ban weddings. However, the ban was widely ignored - at least 130 marriage ceremonies have had to be disrupted by the authorities and 30 people booked in the past 25 days, according to reports.
Several district authorities of the state issued a separate order to declare such marriages illegal and asked the registrar's office not to issue any certificates for weddings which took place in May. Officials have also reportedly been warned that they may be booked for disobedience.
"Even after the ban, because of a lack of clarity on the level of punishment, people performed marriages in secret. Now we have decided that all the marriages that were conducted secretly will be declared illegal. We will also take strict action against couples, their family, and even priests. This is necessary to send a loud and clear message. However, those who were married in other states will be exempted", a state official told Sputnik.
After the ban, many couples moved their wedding to the neighbouring state of Uttar Pradesh. Earlier this month, a case was registered against three men, including two COVID-19 patients, for allegedly breaking quarantine rules and spreading the disease at a wedding in Madhya Pradesh's Niwari district.
In another case from the state, a man who had tested positive for COVID-19 went ahead with his wedding and married his bride in PPE kits. The video of the wedding went viral on social media leaving users astonished. However, the wedding took place with the local administration's blessing and police were on hand during the ceremony.
On Thursday, the state's Home Minister Narottam Mishra announced that the Madhya Pradesh government has decided to relax the Janata curfew in districts where the COVID-19 positivity rate is under 5 percent and resume normal activities from 1 June.
Weddings will also be allowed but with no more than 20 attendees - including the bride and the groom - and guests will have to get their Rapid Antigen Tests done, Mishra added.
"Places of worship will be reopened for people but not more than two people will be allowed to enter the premises at a given time. However, the ban on larger social, religious, cultural, and political functions will continue. The crisis management committee will decide when to lift the ban", the minister added.
On Tuesday, Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan announced an easing of restrictions from 1 June after a stark improvement was seen in coronavirus infections.
According to the state's health department, the COVID-19 tally in Madhya Pradesh rose to 773,855 on Thursday, with 1,977 fresh cases, and 70 more deaths pushed the fatality count to 7,828.