Punishment under Section 494 IPC for bigamy is applicable on all citizens whether they are Hindu/ Muslim/Christian

Kerala High Court: On a petition filed by a public spirited person before this Court challenging that the provisions of Section 494 IPC are discriminatory on the ground of religion, a division bench of Ashok Bhushan and A.M. Shaffique JJ held that Section 494 IPC does not discriminate between Hindu/ Muslim/ Christian and can be proceeded against any citizen who commits the offence of bigamy irrespective of his/her personal law, provided that ingredients of Section 494 are made out.

In the instant case, looking at the increasing instances where culpable bigamous marriages have been resorted to harass and dupe innocent ladies in the name of personal law, a public spirited person filed a petition seeking a direction to register case under Section 494 of IPC against all citizens who commit the offence of bigamy irrespective of their personal laws. Rajit, the counsel for the petitioner contended that under Section 494 IPC there is no concept of any personal law and the section envisages punishment to everyone whosoever conduct a bigamous marriage.

The Court stated that “there cannot be any dispute to the submission as advanced by the counsel for the petitioner as the Indian Penal Code is a general code for India”. The Court read the crucial words in Section 494 IPC and made it clear that the main ingredient to attract Section 494 IPC is to prove that the marriage contracted (second marriage in the event of husband or wife living) is ‘void’ on account of husband or wife living.

The Court noted that “any marriage performed by a Hindu after enforcement of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 where a spouse is living is void, and the person contracting such marriage shall be punishable under Section 494 IPC for bigamy”. The Court further noted that “Muslim personal law allows a Mohammaden to take four wives together, therefore if a Muslim male marries a fifth wife he can very well be prosecuted under Section 494 IPC.  Similarly, a Muslim female contracting a second marriage can be proceeded with for offence under Section 494 IPC”. The Court concluded that Section 494 IPC does not discriminate between an offender belonging to Hindu/ Muslim/ Christian male or female belonging to any cast or creed and can be proceeded against any citizen irrespective of their personal laws provided that ingredients of Section 494 are made out.

The Court further made clear that a complaint under Section 198 (1); of CrPC for prosecution of offences against marriage can be made by a ‘person aggrieved by the offence’, therefore the prayer made by the petitioner (a public spirited person) cannot be entertained in the instant case, and accordingly dismissed the writ petition. Venugopal K. v. Union of India2015 SCC OnLine Ker 798

For a more detailed analysis of Bigamy see post here.

15 comments

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    Sir, my brother’ s daughter was married in India in 2002 the husband went to Kuwait & got married to another woman in Kuwait in 2007 .The first wife came to know in 2014 about this . she managed to get his marriage certificate from Kuwait & filed a CC 494 IPC. Now the judge is asking to get sanction u/s 188 CRPC
    from central government. No one knows here How to & whom to contact to get this from HOME AFFAIRS IN NEW DELHI. CAN YOU PLEASE TELL US WHO IS THE ISSUING AUTHORITY.

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    I got married in last year n it was legal marriage..we did court marriage but my husband not taking my responsibility and he didnot inform his family about me.. I told his family about our marriage but they didnot give any response. Now my husband keep asking me to get separate.. I dont want to give divorce..What should i do? His family planning to get married him again.

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      Hello ma’am
      you can file a petition before District Court for Restitution of conjugal rights under Hindu Marriage Act, 1955
      or at the same time you may claim for other alternative relief also.

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    I have a friend whose husband was married to a girl in a village and after 3 days left her and absconded. Later found this girl and married without telling the fact that he was married earlier. Is this a case of Bigamy.

    Now they are married since last 10 years but do not have a happy married relation as the husband has always been dominating her and kept her under his control. My friend has come to know of his previous marriage and wants to take divorce. What is the legal opinion for her to come out of this wedlock. As per Hindu Marriage Act, this marriage is null and void since at the time of this marriage the spouse was already having another living spouse.

    Request your opinion on this to help her come out of this mess

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      Hello ma’am
      it’s a case of Bigamy so second marriage is null and void. and his second wife shall claim for compensation or other alternative reliefs are also available to his second wife.

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    Section 494. – Marrying again during lifetime of husband or wife: Whoever, having a husband or wife living, marries in any case in which such marriage is void by reason of its 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.
    The wording is crystal clear. Please note the use of indefinite article ‘a’ before the words ‘husband or wife’ indicating that both the nouns are in singular number. A strict and narrow interpretation of the section means the second, third ,fourth marriage, all automatically become void by reason of their taking place during the life such spouse(s). According to well established Rules of interpretation of Statutes, all penal laws must be interpreted in their strict and narrow sense. IPC being a secular law must be applied uniformly to all, without exception, irrespective of their religion, caste, race, creed or gender. Moreover, secular law must be given precedence over personal law or else, it will amount to discrimination creating inequality before law where as Article 14 of Constitution of India guarantees equality before law. Hence imposing criminal liability u/s 494 IPC on a Muslim male only when he marries a fifth wife while all four wives are alive, thereby giving precedence to personal law over secular law, seems to discriminate in favour of one group against all other groups and infringe the constitutional right to equality before law and equal protection of law.

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    Since after my marriage in Jan 2015, my wife and her parents had started torching me and my mother on daily basis. My wife beats me regularly,she also beats my mother in my absence. She demands 30lacs on very next day of our marriage, despite my several requests, her parents told me to keep patience against her violence as her father says that she must have some gynecologic problem and take her to some good doctor, we had tried a lot to take her to doctors but she denied as she was taking few ayurvedic medicines from some kerala doctor. Her father suggested me to do daily puja paath and warned me to beware with her specially on full moon and on amavasya dates. Since that day I started all Puja paaths and start believing on her father’s way. They had requested me to give her more gold ornaments and give precious stones like yellow sapphire and diamond, even after giving everything I realized zero change in her attitude. As of now I had lost everything ( My health, wealth, reputation in local area due to her mental behavior) . My landlord requested me to vacant that particular society due to her regular cruelty on me and on my mother. Society suggested me to file a divorce case even.
    During shifting I found a 8page handwritten letter in my wife’s cupboard, She wrote the letter before marriage and unable to handover me that particular letter. Letter was to inform me that she wanted to give this letter to me before marriage and she had mentioned her FIRST MARRIAGE in that letter, she had mentioned that her father had pushed her for early marriage( Baal Vivah) in age of 11years, her father had arranged a fake Merit certificate to show her qualification for her marriage. She had also mentioned that her first husband died early and she lived their as widow. There was a long story in that 8page letter. I was surprised and unable to understand the situation that time. My senses allowed me to keep that letter with me as an Important document to save my life.

    Even after shifting to a different society her behavior was not changed and she started beating me more hardly, in fact she used to beat me in front of her parents, they are also afraid with her behavior.
    After a hell kind of experience, I decided to filed a divorce case under DV . I do ve few voice cum video recordings in which she is beating me in presence of her mother. in that particular video, she had committed even to kill herself and trying to hit herself to file a fake case against me. Later on I was able to manage few recordings again in which she was demanding 20lacs. We had also lodge a FIR in local PS, my mother had submitted a letter to local Mahila Aayog & S.P office for our protection.

    Even after all such, She is living in our premises and regularly giving warning to us to file three or four cases on me and my whole family.

    Here I would like to understand following things:

    1) Can I file 494 against her and her family as they had not shared her first marriage status.
    2) Is my marriage valid as we dnt have any registered marriage certificate.
    3) If my marriage will be considered as null thn do I need any divorce certificate.

    Pls help me with your valuable suggestions.

    Thanks in advance

    Regards
    Abhinav

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    I am a disabled person. my wife say that “i am not living with u”. My mother-in-law says”my not going to ur home and not to divorce “. That condition what i bo.my relationship break past 4 years, any type not contact to me and my wife. very disturbing in my life through that condition. please help.

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      you can file a petition under sec. 9 of Hindu marriage act. for the restitution of your conjugal rights.

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    I AM muslim lady and my husband is a state govt employe when cases are pending in various courts can he marry

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    sister as per Islamic laws he can marry why you want to offend islam and take punishment from Allah?

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    I am a muslim lady married from last 9 years. My husband wants to marry a Hindu girl now. What I want to say is when we are citizens of India law should be equal for everyone. Even Muslim men should not be allowed to do second marriage. Indian law should be applied .

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      If u go as per Islamic law then he has every right to marry another lady…but what you are saying is totally agreeable as per Indian law and it’s apply to Indian citizens it is crime to do second marriage while 1st marriage still subsist. And it should apply equally to every citizens irrespective of religion. Law should be equal for everyone who is Indian citizen.

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