Amend ‘Bigamy’ in Hindu law: Law panel

New Delhi: The Law commission after carefully going through ‘bigamy’ issue among Hindus suggested “swift legislative action” against Bigamy as historical data was indicative of the practice among many Hindus.

The panel said historical data says Hindus converted to Islam in order to practise Bigamy and it still exists to continue along with having recognition despite stringent laws against Bigamy in Hindu religion, TOI reported.

Section 494 of Indian Penal Code deals with Bigamy law and a person shall be punished with imprisonment, which may extend to seven years, if he/she marries during the lifetime of their spouse.

“Anthropological evidence has shown that bigamous arrangements among Hindus continue to exist. In fact, data suggests that many Hindus convert to Islam in order to practise bigamy as highlighted by the Sarla Mudgal vs Union of India case in 1994,” the panel said.

It also said that these conversions took place despite the law that such conversion will not be considered valid if the previous partner continued to remain of the religion under which the marriage was solemnised.

Although the previous law commissions have examined the issue and discussed the rights of spouses in cases of conversion, the panel says, “This, however, needs to be clarified by statute rather than on a case to case basis.”

While Section 495 of the IPC deals with the offence of bigamy is committed by not disclosing the fact of former marriage to the person with whom the subsequent marriage is contracted, it shall be punished with imprisonment which may extend to 10 years and fine.

The law panel said the second wife’s, as well as her chidren, suffer the most in the society when her marriage is declared void as per the law.

“Women tend to be on the receiving end of society’s disapproval of bigamy. Often, the second wife whose marriage is declared void suffers without maintenance and bears the burden of maintaining her children who are deemed illegitimate. Therefore, Section 16 should be amended to include all children born out of wedlock and not just those from the void and voidable marriages,” it said, adding that the term “illegitimate” should not be used in any statute or document.