A group of women has moved the Supreme Court challenging the provisions in the Shariat Act and Indian Penal Code which allow the practice of bigamy in the Muslim community.
The plea filed through Advocate Vishnu Shankar Jain, said that though there are UN conventions against bigamy, “in India the irony is that bigamy has been made punishable under Section 494 of IPC subject to applicability of personal law”. The practice is disallowed by Hindu, Christian and Parsi laws but permitted under Section 2 of the Muslim Personal Law (Shariat) Application Act, 1937, the plea said, adding this “is opposed to public policy, decency and morality and is discriminatory within the meaning of Article 14 of the Constitution of India”.
“Therefore, the provision of Section 2 of Shariat Act in so far it protects the bigamous marriages by Muslims is liable to be struck down being unconstitutional and void,” the petition prayed.
The plea said Section 494 of IPC provides that “whoever, having a husband or wife living, marries in any case in which such marriage is void by reason of its taking place during the life of such husband or wife, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to seven years, and shall also be liable to fine”.
Thus “it is clear that the offence of bigamy is punishable only when the second marriage is void. It means that the validity of second marriage depends on the recognition of such marriage under personal law”. The petitioners questioned how the state can make a penal law “in such a manner which may create discrimination and same act may be punishable for someone but for others enjoyable”.
The plea has been filed by Kashika Sharma from Himachal Pradesh, Usha Sinha from Bihar, Kiran Singh, Suvid Praveen Kanchan and Parul Khera from Uttar Pradesh and the Lucknow-based Jan Udghosh Sansthan.