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 India, 2015 SCC OnLine Ker 798
For a more detailed analysis of Bigamy see post here.