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SARLA MUDGAL v. UNION OF INDIA AND OTHERS

CITATION

(1995) 3 SUPREME COURT CASES 635


NAME OF HON’BLE JUDGES INVOLVED IN THE JUDGMENT

HON’BLE JUSTICE KULDEEP SINGH

HON’BLE JUSTICE R.M. SAHAI


INTRODUCTION TO THE CASE

This case study deals with one of the landmark judgments in the field of family law. This case study tries to answer the questions which were prevalent in the late 20th century. The questions were that-

a. Whether a Hindu husband, married under Hindu law, by embracing Islam, can solemnize a second marriage?

b. Whether such marriage is a valid marriage even though the first marriage is not dissolved?

c. Whether such husband is guilty under Section 494 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC)?

All these questions were answered by the Hon’ble Supreme Court in the landmark judgment of Sarla Mudgal in 1995 and this paper will travel through all the aspects related to that case.


FACTS OF THE CASE

1. Four writ petitions were filed before the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India under Article 32 of the Constitution of India.

2. There were two petitioners in a single writ petition and one petitioner each in rest of the three petitions.

3. The first petitioner was the Smt. Sarla Mudgal (P1) who was the ‘President of Kalyani’, an organization which works for the welfare of the distress women.

4. The second petitioner was Meera Mathur (P2) who married to Jitendra Mathur. They had three children. In 1988, petitioner’s husband married to Sunita Narula @ Fathima by embracing the Islam and they had one child.

5. The third petitioner was the Sunita Narula @ Fathima (P3) who alleged that her husband under the influence of his first wife re-converted himself back to Hinduism but she continues to be Muslim and her husband refused to maintain her and she had also no protection under either of the personal laws.

6. The fourth petitioner was the Geeta Rani (P4) who alleged that her husband, Pradeep Kumar, ran with one Deepa and after converting to Islam married her.

7. The fifth petitioner was the Sushmita Ghosh (P5) who was married to G.C. Ghosh. In 1992, her husband told her that he did not want to live with her and he also embraced Islam and going to married with one Vinita Gupta.

8. All of them filed the writ petition before the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India for seeking relief in their matters.


ISSUES RAISED IN THE CASE

There were basically three issues raised before the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India.

a) Whether a Hindu husband, married under Hindu law, by embracing Islam, can solemnize second marriage?

b) Whether such a marriage without having the first marriage dissolved under the law, would be a valid marriage qua the first wife continues to be Hindu?

c) Whether the apostate husband would be guilty of the offence under section 494 of the Indian Penal Code?


JUGDMENT OF THE CASE

The judgment of the case was delivered by the Hon’ble Justice Kuldeep Singh while the Hon’ble Justice R.M. Sahai delivered a concurring judgment.

1. The Hon’ble Supreme Court dealing with the first issue referred to the doctrine of indissolubility of the marriage. The Court stated that the conversion to another religion by one or both the Hindu spouses did not dissolve the first marriage. The Court held that the marriage celebrated under a particular statute and according to one personal law cannot be dissolved according to another personal law, simply because one of the parties changed his or her religion.

The Hon’ble Supreme Court of India held that a Hindu husband married under Hindu law, by embracing Islam, can’t solemnize second marriage. Parties who have solemnized the marriage under the Act remain married even when the husband embraces Islam in pursuit of another wife. A second marriage by an apostate under the shelter of conversion to Islam would nevertheless be a marriage in violation of the provisions of the Act by which he would be continuing to be governed so far as his first marriage under the Act is concerned despite his conversion to Islam. The second marriage of an apostate would, therefore, be illegal marriage qua his wife who married him under the Act and continues to be a Hindu

2. The Hon’ble Supreme Court of India while dealing with the second issue refer to the Section 15 of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955.

15. Divorced persons when may marry again. - When a marriage has been dissolved by a decree of divorce and either there is no right of appeal against the decree or, if there is such a right of appeal, the time for appealing has expired without an appeal having been presented, or an appeal has been presented but has been dismissed, it shall be lawful for either party to the marriage to marry again.

The Court held that a Hindu can marry again when his or her first marriage is dissolved by the decree of divorce in accordance with the provision contained in the Act. In all of the above writ petition, the husband of all the petitioner solemnized the second marriage by embracing Islam while their first marriage is not dissolved as the decree of divorce is not granted.

The Court answering the second issue held that a Hindu marriage solemnized under the Act can only be dissolved on any of the grounds specified under the Act. Till the time a Hindu marriage is dissolved under the Act none of the spouses can contract second marriage. Conversion to Islam and marrying again would not, by itself, dissolve the Hindu marriage under the Act. The second marriage by a convert would therefore be in violation of the Act and as such void in terms of Section 494, IPC. Any act which is in violation of mandatory provisions of law is per-se void.

3. The Hon’ble Court while answering the third issue referred to the provision of Section 494 of the Indian Penal Code

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.


There are four ingredients in the offence of bigamy provided under Section 494 of the IPC-

1. Has a husband or wife living

2. Marries again

3. Second marriage is void

4. The reason of voidness is that because its takes place during the life of such husband or wife

The Court held that all the four ingredients of Section 494 IPC are satisfied in the case of a Hindu husband who marries for the second time after conversion to Islam. He has a wife living, he marries again. The said marriage is void by reason of its taking place during the life of the first wife. The apostate husband shall be guilty of offence under Section. 494 of the IPC.


ORDER OF COURT

The Hon’ble Court ordered that though the answers to the issues are given in separate but concurring judgment the writ petitions are allowed in terms of the answers to the issue posed in the opinion of Hon’ble Justice Kuldeep Singh.

The Court allowed the petitioners to seek any remedy available to them by virtue of this judgment.


CONCLUSION

The judgment of this case in its simplest terms puts out the need for the implementation of Uniform Civil Code given under Article 44 of the Constitution of India. The Hon’ble Court under para 8 held that till the time we achieve the goal – Uniform Civil Code for all the citizens of the India – there is a open inducement to Hindu husband, who wants to enter into a second marriage while the first marriage is subsisting, to become a Muslim.

The Court also explained the relationship between Article 44 and Article 25 of the Constitution of India. The Court expressed that the concept of Article 44 is that there is no necessary connection between religion and personal law in civilized society. It was held that Article 25 guarantees religious freedom while Article 44 seeks to divest religion from social relation and personal laws. The Court also held that the it is judicially acclaimed in the United States that the practice of polygamy is injurious to the public morals.

In the concluding words, if the Parliament enacts the Uniform Civil Code by not violating the basic structure of the Constitution of India, then it will pave the way for India to be a developed country as well as the largest economy of the world.



This article is written by Anshul Pandey of Atal Bihari Vajpayee School of Legal Studies, Department of Legal Studies, Chhatrapati Shahu Ji Maharaj University, Kanpur.

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