By: Robin Pandey Date: 08/03/2022
Bigamous marriages are dealt in the following two provisions:
(1) 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.
Exception: This Section does not extend to any person whose marriage with such husband or wife has been declared void by a Court of competent jurisdiction, nor to any person who contracts a marriage during the life of a former husband or wife, if such husband or wife, at the time of the subsequent marriage, shall have been continually absent from such person for the space of seven years, and shall not have heard of by such person as being alive within the time provided the person contracting such subsequent marriage shall, before such marriage takes place, inform the person with whom such marriage is contracted of the real state of facts so far as the same are within his or her knowledge.
(2) Section 495: Same offence with concealment of former marriage from person with whom subsequent marriage is contracted: Whoever commits the offence defined in the last preceding Section having concealed from the person with whom the subsequent marriage is contracted, the fact of the former marriage, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to ten years, and shall also be liable to fine.
Section 494 relates to bigamy. As it goes, whoever:
(i) having a husband or wife living,
(ii) marries in any case in which such marriage is void by reason of its taking place during the life of such husband or wife, is guilty of bigamy.
The punishment provided for the offence is seven years' imprisonment and also fine.
Section 495 is the aggravated form of an offence of bigamy and thus lays down a harder punishment. Anyone who commits the offence of bigamy and is doing so he conceals the fact of his former marriage from the person with whom the Subsequent marriage contracted will be punished with imprisonment up to 10 years' and also fine. Concealment of the fact of previous marriage amounts to cheating and hence severe sentence is justifiable.
Exceptions to Section 494: Section 494 lays down two exceptions whereby the second marriage does not become an offence:
(1) When the first marriage is declared void by a court of competent jurisdiction.
(2) When the husband or wife has been continually absent or not heard of for seven years' provided that the facts be disclosed to the person with whom the second marriage is contracted.
It is clear that the above exceptions lay the following three conditions so that the same could become operative:
(i) Continuous absence of one of the spouses for a period of seven years.
(ii) The absent spouse not having been heard as being alive within that time:
(iii) The party marrying is to inform the other party of the above real state of facts.
Object and Scope: The offence can be committed either by a wife or by her husband but the person with whom the woman remarries can only be charged with abetment of the offence under Section 494. Bigamy is an offence which is tantamount to defiance of the marriage institution and its rules. As far as marriage is concerned, monogamy is the order of the day. Before 1955 Hindus and Muslims in India practised polygamy but from 1955 this evil has been stopped. However, a Muslim can even now have four wives at a time. The position calls for reformation. The Section applies to Hindus, Mohammedan females and to Christians and Parsis of either sex.