Second wife can also sue husband for bigamy, says SC
Promiscuous men beware! Not just your legally-wedded wife but even the second woman with whom you solemnise a marriage can land you in jail for bigamy. The Supreme Court has ruled that a woman with whom second marriage is performed is also entitled to drag the man to court under section
494 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) which makes bigamy a criminal offence, punishable with a jail term of maximum seven years.
“To hold that a woman with whom second marriage is performed is not entitled to maintain a complaint under section 494 IPC though she suffers legal injuries would be height of perversity,” a bench headed by justice JM Panchal said while ordering the prosecution of an Andhra Pradesh policeman for bigamy.
Rejecting the policeman’s contention that complaint of dowry harassment against him by the second woman was not maintainable because she was not his legally wedded wife in view of subsistence of his first marriage, the bench restored the charges under section 498A of IPC. The section 494 of IPC is a gender neutral, but, generally it is men who are at the receiving end of this provision and it is the first wife who as an “aggrieved person” invokes the anti-bigamy law.
Maintaining that section 494 is intended to achieve “laudable object of monogamy,” the bench said it “does not restrict right of filing complaint to the first wife and there is no reason to read the said section in a restricted manner…”
Senior advocate Geeta Luthra said: “The judgement explains the meaning of the phrase aggrieved person and also gives an alternative to many women who cannot take benefit of section 498A because of them being victims of an illegal/second marriage…”