Allahabad High Court: Sudhir Agarwal, J., found a government servant to be guilty of the offence of bigamy.
The instant petition was filed against the decision passed by the Senior Superintendent of Police, Agra dismissing the petitioner from the post of Fireman and therefore mandamus was sought to direct respondent not to interfere in working of the petitioner as a fireman and to pay his full salary for the period of suspension.
Another challenged placed by the petitioner was with regard to the validity of Rule 29 of the U.P. Government Servants Conduct Rules, 1956, claiming the same to be unconstitutional.
Petitioners wife i.e. respondent 5 had alleged him of bigamy since he had married another woman.
Petitioner submitted that respondent 5 was married to his maternal uncle and after his death, she started living with an elder maternal uncle from whom she conceived a child also. She has also been receiving the pension of his maternal uncle. Further, he added that there is no relationship between husband and wife with respondent 5 and on the other hand he married Anita Yadav in the presence of all relatives and friends.
Further, the petitioner added that respondent 5’s motive and the intent was only to extract some monetary benefits from him.
In view of respondent 5’s complaint, petitioner was suspended.
Chief Fire Officer, Agra in his report submitted that there was no evidence of respondent 5’s marriage with the petitioner. However, both were living together and their relationship resulted in the birth of a child.
S.P. City Agra in his report submitted that respondent 5 and the petitioner were married. In 1994, petitioner without respondent 5’s knowledge solemnised the second marriage. Respondent 5 on knowing the said fact took various legal steps and also filed maintenance applications, wherein she was awarded the same by Additional Chief Judicial Magistrate.
Thereafter, a regular disciplinary proceeding was initiated against the petitioner under the U.P. Subordinate Police Officers (Punishment and Appeal) Rule, 1991, after the enquiry was completed, petitioner was held guilty of bigamy and, therefore, guilty of misconduct under Rule 29 of Conduct Rules, 1956.
Disciplinary Authority in light of the above-stated passed the impugned order of dismissal.
Analysis and Decision
Bench observed that in the cases pertaining to the disciplinary enquiry, the scope of judicial review is very limited and is confined to the extent of decision-making process and not to appreciate the decision itself unless it is found to be vitiated in law on account of malafide, bias or in violation of natural justice, or in case it can be shown that the findings recorded in the disciplinary proceedings are based on no evidence at all.
With regard to the contention that the charge of bigamy is false and there is no proof or evidence showing the valid marriage of the petitioner with respondent 5 i.e. Munni Devi, counsel for the petitioner submitted that there was no evidence of solemnization of marriage between the petitioner and Munni Devi who claimed to be his legally wedded first wife. It is also submitted that assuming that the petitioner and Munni Devi were living together and maintaining a relationship of husband and wife, yet in the absence of any proof of solemnization of marriage it cannot be held that the petitioner was guilty of bigamy and therefore violated Rule 29 of the Conduct Rules.
A very significant observation made by the Court was that,
Admittedly there was no evidence showing solemnization of marriage with Hindu rituals but there was evidence that petitioner and Munni Devi married in Court, blessed with a daughter out of their relationship of living together as husband and wife and in various documents Munni Devi was shown as the wife of the petitioner.
In these circumstances, Bench stated that it cannot be stated that the findings recorded by the Enquiry Officer and accepted by the Disciplinary enquiry that the petitioner was guilty of bigamy are based on no evidence at all. The evidence of a marriage between the petitioner and Munni Devi does exist and the sufficiency or adequacy thereof is not within the realm of judicial review of this Court.
Court cited the decision of Supreme Court, R.S. Saini v. State of Punjab, (1999) 8 SCC 90, wherein it was held that the standard of proof required in disciplinary proceedings is that of the preponderance of probability and where there is some relevant material which the competent authority has accepted and such material if can reasonably support the conclusion drawn by the disciplinary authority regarding the guilt of the employee, the court will not reappreciate such evidence to arrive at a different conclusion since the question of adequacy or reliability of evidence can not be canvassed before the court.
In Bombay High Court’s decision of Bombay v. Shashikant S. Patil, (2000) 1 SCC 416, it was held that the disciplinary authority, is the sole judge of the facts if the enquiry has been properly conducted. If there is some evidence on which the findings can be based then adequacy or even reliability of that evidence is not a matter to be canvassed before the Court
Hence, in view of the above discussion, petitioners contention that he was not guilty of bigamy was not accepted.
The validity of Rule 29 of the Conduct Rules
Petitioner contended that Rule 29 is arbitrary, unjust and illegal, no guidelines have been given as to when the permission will be granted for the purpose of second marriage under the proviso to the said rule and therefore, it is ultra vires.
Bench found the above-stated submission to be wholly baseless and misconceived.
No law, custom or practice has been brought to the notice of the Court showing that solemnizing more than one marriage is necessary religious or otherwise activity.
Decades ago people used to marry more than once inspite of having spouse living. It is said that in Muslim Personal Law, marriage with four women is permissible.
However, to the knowledge of the court, no personal law maintains or dictates it as a duty to perform more than one marriage.
No religious or other authority has been brought to Court’s notice providing that marrying more than one woman is a necessary religious sanction and any law providing otherwise or prohibiting bigamy or polygamy would be irreligious or offence the dictates of the religion.
Polygamy cannot be said to be an integral part of any religious activity, may be Hindu, Muslim or any other religion.
A distinction has to be drawn between religious faith, belief and religious practices. Even Article 25 of the Constitution guarantees only the religious faith and belief and not the religious practices which if run counter to public order or health or policy of social welfare which the state has embarked, then the religious practices must give way before the good of the people of the state as a whole.
Bench also observed that various statutes have prohibited both bigamy and polygamy.
A Division Bench of this Court also considered the validity of Rule 27 of the U.P. Government Servant (Conduct) Rules (old) prohibiting bigamy in the case of Ram Prasad Seth v. State of Uttar Pradesh, 1960 SCC OnLine All 128 and the Court observed that there is no law, making it necessary to solemnize a second marriage. It was held that even under the Hindu religious belief marrying a second wife in order to obtain a son when the first wife can not provide one was only a practice followed by the people and not a sanction or mandate of law.
In view of the above discussion, the Court held that Rule 29 cannot be said to be non-arbitrary or illegal and ultra vires.
Concluding with its decision, Bench held that
In any country where bigamy is an offence, a government servant guilty of committing an offence cannot ask to continue in service after award of the minor or lesser punishment.
In view of the above, petition was dismissed. [Veerpal Singh v. SSP, Agra, 2006 SCC OnLine All 1628, decided on 18-05-2006]