Polygamy not an offence for Muslims: Gujarat high court

Ahmadabad: In an important ruling, the Gujarat High Court has held that Muslim men can’t be booked for polygamy under provisions of Indian Penal Code as Muslim Personal Law allows them to have more than one wife.

However, the court observed that “it is an exception and not a rule”.

The ruling was given by Justice J B Pardiwala on a petition by one Jafar Abbas Rasool Mohammed Merchant, a resident of Raipur locality in Ahmedabad.

Merchant had filed the petition seeking quashing of an FIR lodged against him on the basis of a complaint by his first wife Sajedabanu. She had left her husband and shifted to her parents in Bhavnagar in 2001.

Since Sajeda refused to return to her husband due to some dispute between the two, Merchant married another wife. Sajeda lodged a complaint with Women’s Police Station in Bhavnagar, on charges of bigamy and for demanding dowry and causing harassment.

In her complaint, she had stated that since she was not divorced by Merchant and hence, by by marrying another woman, Merchant had committed crime of bigamy under Section 494 of IPC.

Merchant moved the high court, contending that provisions of section 494 of IPC was not applicable to him as Islam permitted him to marry more than one wife.

Justice Pardiwala, while pronouncing the judgement on Thursday, said that offence of bigamy under provisions of Section 494 of IPC was not applicable to a Muslim man because he was governed in the case by the Muslim Personal Law, in the absence of a uniform civil code. He quoted several judgements of the supreme court in this connection.

However, the judge observed that “while the second marriage can not be held void under the Muslim laws, polygamy is not encouraged and is an exception and not a rule”.