SMT. SARLA MUDGAL, PRESIDENT, KALYANI VS UNION OF INDIA & ORS

TITLE OF THE CASE: Smt Sarla Mudgal, President, Kalyani vs Union of India & ors

CITATION: AIR 1995 SC 1531; 1995 SCC (3) 635

JUDGES INVOLVED: Justice Kuldip Singh, Justice R.M. Sahai

PETITIONER: Smt. Sarla Mudgal, president, Kalyani & ors.

RESPONDENT: Union of India & ors.


INTRODUCTION

‘Marriage is the very foundation of civilized society’- Justice Kuldeep Singh.

Marriages in India are highly religious and the rules under various religious acts differ from each other.

Monogamy is only permitted in Hindu Marriage Act ,1995 whereas, Polygamy (having more than 1 wife) is permitted under the Muslim personal law (Shariat) application act 1937.

Petitions in the Supreme Court were filed under the Article 32 of the constitution of India, highlighting the issue of men converting into Islam and following the practice of bigamy/polygamy.

Individual petitions filed under the same, were filed by petitioner Sarla Mudgal, Meena Mathur, Geeta Rani and Sushmita Ghosh and were clubbed together by the Supreme court to form one case.

A landmark judgment (passed on 10th May 1995) highlights the urgent need of the Uniform Civil code in the nation and its implementation in a codified manner also ruling out the various loopholes in the various marriage acts under different religions.


FACTS OF THE CASE

Four petitions were filed under the Article 32 of the constitution:

1. The first petition (Writ petition 1079/89) was filed by Sarla Mudgal and Meena Mathur

Sarla Mudgal, the president of an NGO named – Kalyani, which works towards the welfare of families and women in need.


a. Meena Mathur, who was married to Jitender Mathur. In early 1988, Meena Mathur got to know about her husband’s second marriage with Sunita Narula (Fathima). Jitender Mathur got converted to Islam to marry Sunita Narula and to protect himself from section 494 of the IPC.

2. The second petition (Writ petition 347 of 1990) was filed by Sunita Narula alias Fathima.

Fathima had converted into Islam to marry Jitender Mathur. They had a child born out of the wed-lock but under the influence of his first Hindu Wife, Jitender converted back to Hinduism while Sunita remained Muslim.

She was not being maintained by her husband and due to the conversion, she did not have any protection under the personal laws of both the religions.


3. The third petition (Writ petition 424 of 1992) was filed by Geeta Rani

Geeta Rani was married to Pradeep Kumar as per Hindu rites on 13 November 1988 and was subjected to physical and mental violence by her husband.

In December 1991, Pradeep eloped with Deepa and married her after converting into Islam.


4. The fourth petition (Civil Writ petition 509 of 1992) was filed by Sushmita Ghosh

Sushmita Ghosh was married to G.C. Ghosh as per Hindu rituals in 1984. Her husband had asked her for mutual divorce after revealing that he had married a woman named Vinita Gupta after converting to Islam. G.C. Ghosh had obtained a certificate dated 17 June 1992 from a Qazi indicating that he has embraced Islam.


ISSUES OF THE CASE

The following were the issues presented in front of the court:

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

2. Whether such a marriage without having the first marriage dissolved under law, would be a valid marriage as the first wife\ husband continues to be Hindu?

3. Whether the apostate husband would be guilty of the offense under Section 494 of IPC?


CONTENTIONS OF THE PETITIONER

1. Petitioner 1 (Meena Mathur)- Meena Mathur was of view that her husband has converted to Islam only for the purpose of marriage with Sunita Narula (Fathima) and saving himself from the punishment under Section 494 of IPC.

2. Petitioner 2 (Sunita Narula alias Fathima)- Sunita Narula argued that her husband Jitender Mathur, converted back to Hinduism and she, still being a Muslim does not have any protection under the personal laws of either of the religions.


3. Petitioner 3(Geeta Rani) – Geeta Rani purported that the conversion to Islam by her husband Pradeep Kumar was only with the intention of marrying Deepa.


4. Petitioner 4(Sushmita Ghosh)- Sushmita Ghosh pleaded that her husband G.C. Ghosh should be prevented from entering into a second marriage with Vinita Gupta.


CONTENTIONS OF THE RESPONDENT

The respondents in all the petitions asserted a common contention that after converting to Islam, they can have a second wife, irrespective of the fact that their first wife is Hindu.

Therefore, making them ineligible for the punishments under Section 494 of IPC and Section 17 of the Hindu Marriage Act.

OBITER DICTA

1. Justice R.M. Sahai ruled out that implementation of the Uniform Civil Code will lead to worse than good.

2. A uniform personal right can only be established when there is harmony between people of all religions and when their religion does not feel threatened.

3. Recommendation was made to the government to establish a committee to enact the ‘Conversion of Religion Act’ to check the abuse of religion by another religion.


JUDGMENT

1. The division Bench of the Supreme Court held that a Hindu Marriage solemnized under the Hindu Marriage Act can be dissolved under the provisions of the same act.

2. Conversion to Islam and then marrying other women will not dissolve the first marriage.

3. Certain rights are acquired by both the spouses when a marriage is solemnized under the act and if one of the spouses is given the permission to dissolve the marriage, after adopting a new personal law, it would dismantle the rights of the other.

4. The court ruled that in such cases, the husband will be held guilty and liable for punishment under the Section 494 of IPC.


CONCLUSION

The case Smt. Sarla Mudgal, President, Kalyani & Ors. v. Union of India & Ors., widely known as Sarla Mudgal Case, is a landmark judgment in the history of family and matrimonial cases in India. It gave a constructive approach towards the concept of bigamy, and provided a new dimension to expression ‘void’ under S. 494 of IPC.

It points out the need for establishment of a Uniform Civil Code, to reduce the loopholes created due to different faiths and beliefs practiced in the nation. A conflict in different personal laws was seen in this case. A positive approach by the court was seen in order to punish the person who converted himself to Islam and solemnise the second marriage and save himself from the provisions mentioned in the IPC and the Hindu Marriage Act.



This article is written by Reya Dutta of Christ University Bangalore.

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