Is Bigamy Valid Under Indian Law?
Marrying anyone who has already been married and had not obtained divorce before moving to the next marriage is not legal under the Indian Law. The term which defines this kind of activity is known as Bigamy i.e., marrying more than one person. This kind of marriage can happen either intentionally or unintentionally. Marriage is considered as a very pure and sacred activity in the Indian Culture but many a times this tends to get shaky and result in unwanted situations. One situation is where the spouse cheats on the other spouse by marrying someone else without legally being separated from them.
The Indian Penal Code of 1860 has put forth the definition of Bigamy under Section 494 and it states that “Whoever, having a husband or wife living, marries again in any case in which such marriage is void by reason of it taking place during the life of such husband or wife shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to seven years, and shall also be liable to fine” Bigamy is an offence punishable under Section 495 of the Indian Penal Code of 1860.
There are various provisions under various laws under different religions which lays the legalities if Bigamy takes place.
I. UNDER HINDU MARRIAGE ACT OF 1955 – Section 17 of this Act states that anyone who has been defined as Hindu under this Act will be held liable and punishable if they marry again during the life of their first wife or husband. They will be punished under the laws mentioned in the Indian Penal Code.
II. UNDER THE CHRISTIAN MARRIAGE ACT – This Act does not have explicit provisions which mentions Bigamy is punishable yet it mentions Under section 60 that anyone who wants to get married should not already have a spouse. If they violate this then they will be held liable and punished under Section 193 of the Indian Penal Code.
III. PARSI MARRIAGE AND DIVORCE ACT –Section 5 of this Act has mentioned that Bigamy is not valid and will be considered void and null. Penalties are taken from Section 494 and Section 495 of the Indian Penal Code.
IV. SPECIAL MARRIAGE ACT OF 1954 – This Act under Section 44 mentions that Bigamy is punishable under Section 494 and Section 495 of the Indian Penal Code.
V. FOREIGN MARRIAGE ACT OF 1969 – Under Section 19 of this Act it has been stated that Bigamy is not valid and is punishable under Section 494 and Section 495 of the Indian Penal Code.
VI. MUSLIM MARRIAGE LAW – There is no laws or provisions which state that men cannot marry more than one time, the laws for this is subject to the Sharia laws of 1937.
However, there are few exceptions to this kind of marriages,
i. If the court after analyzing the facts and issues of the situation has deemed the first marriage invalid or void.
ii. If after marriage either the husband or wife is not in proper communication with the other for a period of seven years such as the spouse does not know if they are alive or not then the first marriage will not be a hindrance for the second marriage.
iii. With respect to the condition that before bigamy marriage the spouse informs about this to the other person who is in this contract about it i.e., they should be aware of this.
A question arises as to if a person can change religions for the purpose of marrying again? It has been held in the case of “Sarla Mudgal Vs. Union of India” the apex court stated that any man who changes his religion to Islam for getting into a second marriage without ending the first marriage then such second marriage is void and will be considered illegal, he will be subjected to the same penalties if he had not changed religion i.e., he will be punished and fined under Section 494 and Section 495 of the Indian Penal Code. The second wife cannot claim the husband’s property but has the power to ask for interim maintenance. For anyone to file a case against a Bigamy marriage they will have to prove that the necessary ceremonies were performed to make it valid as a marriage.
Even though the concept of Bigamy marriages are not legal and invalid, void and null the second wife will at times have the power to claim maintenance under the family laws of India.
Hindu Marriage Act of 1955 under Section 16 states that any child borne out of the second marriage will not be considered as illegal but is valid under the law. The child will also be able to get maintenance and support from the father with respect to the decision of the judges. People tend to find loopholes and do illegal activities with respect to doing a second marriage. For this purpose, the court felt that there should be a uniform civil code which governed everyone in India irrespective of any discrimination. However, this has not been done yet completely.
India is a nation with various religions, customs and traditions and similarly it also has various laws and provisions with respect to all the different religions and customs. Therefore, it is not very tough for people or advocates to find loopholes to change the not legal situation into a legal one. Therefore, hiring the perfect advocate who will help in winning cases with respect to Bigamy is very Important. Adv. Bindu Dubey is one the finest divorce lawyer in Navi Mumbai who will with full caution analyse the situation and provide the best legal consultation and solution.
Nevertheless, with all the laws and provisions Bigamy has definitely reduced in India but is not completely abolished, legislation and judiciary must work towards abolishing them.