‘Nikahnama must say polygamy an offence’

NEW DELHI: Stressing that there was no place for practices not essential to a religion to be preserved as personal law, the Law Commission has suggested that the nikahnama, as followed in Muslim personal law, should make it clear that polygamy was a criminal offense and Section 494 of the Indian Penal Code would apply in case of violation.

Releasing a consultation paper on reforms in family law on Friday, the law panel said it was clear that polygamy was a criminal offense and Section 494 of IPC would apply to all communities. “This is not recommended owing to merely a moral position on bigamy, or to glorify monogamy, but emanates from the fact that only a man is permitted multiple wives which is unfair,” the panel said while clarifying that since the matter was pending before the Supreme Court, the commission reserved its recommendation.

“Polyandrous relationships where the consent of the wife has not been taken are violative of her marital rights. Further, bigamous relationships, where men are permitted more than one wife, are a blatant violation of equality,” the paper said.

It said even in Islamic countries like Pakistan, laws had prevented bigamous marriages. In 2017, a Lahore court in a progressive judgment held that a second marriage conducted without the permission of the existing wife amounted to ‘breaking the law’, it said. The court ordered the man to serve a six-month jail term and pay a fine of 200,000 Pakistani rupees.

The panel mooted changes in the Muslim Marriages Act and the Dissolution of Muslim Marriages Act to include suggestions common to all marriage laws with respect to grounds for divorce and share in the property.

It said the changes should apply uniformly to both men and women.