Kuldip Singh, J.
“The State shall endeavour to secure for the citizens a uniform civil code through-out the territory of India” is an unequivocal mandate under Article 44 of the Constitution which seeks to introduce a uniform personal law–a decisive step towards national consolidation.
Questions for our consideration are whether a Hindu husband, married under Hindu law, by embracing Islam, can solemnise second marriage? Whether such a marriage without having the first marriage dissolved under law, would be a valid marriage qua the first wife who continues to be Hindu? Whether the apostate husband would be guilty of the offence under Section 494 of the Indian Penal Code?
Petitioner 1 is the President of “KALYANI” – a registered society – which is an organisation working for the welfare of needy-families and women in distress.
Petitioner 2, Meena Mathur was married to Jitender Mathur on February 27, 1978. Three children (two sons and a daughter) were born out of the wed-lock. In early 1988, the petitioner was shocked to learn that her husband had solemnised second marriage with one Sunita Narula @ Fathima. The marriage was solemnised after they converted to Islam.
Marriage is the very foundation of civilised society. The relation once formed, the law steps in and binds the parties to various obligations and liabilities thereunder. Marriage is an institution in the maintenance of which the public at large is deeply interested. It is the foundation of the family and in turn of the society without which no civilisation can exist.
Where a marriage takes place under Hindu Law the parties acquire a status and certain rights by the marriage itself under the law governing the Hindu Marriage and if one of the parties is allowed to dissolve the marriage by adopting and enforcing a new personal law, it would tantamount to destroying the existing rights of the other spouse who continues to be Hindu. We, therefore, hold that under the Hindu Personal Law as it existed prior to its codification in 1955, a Hindu marriage continued to subsist even after one of the spouses converted to Islam. There was no automatic dissolution of the marriage.
The position has not changed after coming into force of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, rather it has become worse for the apostate.
A marriage performed under the Act cannot be dissolved except on the grounds available under section 13 of the Act. In that situation parties who have solemnised the marriage under the Act remain married even when the husband embraces Islam in pursuit of other wife. A second marriage by an apostate under the shelter of conversion to Islam would nevertheless be a marriage in violation of the provisions of the Act by which he would be continuing to be governed so far as his first marriage under the Act is concerned despite his conversion to Islam. The second marriage of an apostate would, therefore, be illegal marriage qua his wife who married him under the Act and continues to be Hindu. Between the apostate and his Hindu wife the second marriage is in violation of the provisions of the Act and as such would be non est.
Necessary ingredients of Section 494 IPC are: (1) having a husband or wife living; (2) marries in any case; (3) in which such marriage is void; (4) by reason of its taking place during the life of such husband or wife.
It is no doubt correct that the marriage solemnised by a Hindu husband after embracing Islam may not be strictly a void marriage under the Act because he is no longer a Hindu, but the fact remains that the said marriage would be in violation of the Act which strictly professes monogamy.
The expression “void” for the purpose of the Act has been defined under Section 11 of the Act. It has a limited meaning within the scope of the definition under the Section. The expression “void” under section 494, IPC has been used in the wider sense. A marriage which is in violation of any provisions of law would be void in terms of the expression used under Section 494, IPC.
A Hindu marriage solemnised under the Act can only be dissolved on any of the grounds specified under the Act. Till the time a Hindu marriage is dissolved under the Act none of the spouses can contract second marriage. Conversion to Islam and marrying again would not, by itself, dissolve the Hindu marriage under the Act. The second marriage by a convert would therefore be in violation of the Act and as such void in terms of Section 494, IPC. Any act which is in violation of mandatory provisions of law is per-se void.
The real reason for the voidness of the second marriage is the subsisting of the first marriage which is not dissolved even by the conversion of the husband. It would be giving a go-bye to the substance of the matter and acting against the spirit of the Statute if the second marriage of the convert is held to be legal.
A matrimonial dispute between a convert to Islam and his or her non-Muslim spouse is obviously not a dispute “where the parties are Muslims” and, therefore, the rule of decision in such a case was or is not required to be the “Muslim Personal Law”. In such cases the Court shall act and the Judge shall decide according to justice, equity and good conscience. The second marriage of a Hindu husband after embracing Islam being violative of justice, equity and good conscience would be void on that ground also and attract the provisions of Section 494, IPC.
Looked from another angle, the second marriage of an apostate-husband would be in violation of the rules of natural justice. Assuming that a Hindu husband has a right to embrace Islam as his religion, he has no right under the Act to marry again without getting his marriage under the Act dissolved. The second marriage after conversion to Islam would, thus, be in violation of the rules of natural justice and as such would be void.
The interpretation we have given to Section 494 IPC would advance the interest of justice. It is necessary that there should be harmony between the two systems of law just as there should be harmony between the two communities. Result of the interpretation, we have given to Section 494 IPC, would be that the Hindu Law on the one hand and the Muslim Law on the other hand would operate within their respective ambits without trespassing on the personal laws of each other. Since it is not the object of Islam nor is the intention of the enlighten Muslim community that the Hindu husbands should be encouraged to become Muslims merely for the purpose of evading their own personal laws by marrying again, the courts can be persuaded to adopt a construction of laws resulting in denying the Hindu husband converted to Islam the right to marry again without having his existing marriage dissolved in accordance with law.
All the four ingredients of Section 494 IPC are satisfied in the case of a Hindu husband who marries for the second time after conversion to Islam. He has a wife living, he marries again. The said marriage is void by reason of its taking place during the life of the first wife.
R.M. SAHAI, J.
The problem with which these appeals are concerned is that many Hindus have changed their religion and have become convert to Islam only for purposes of escaping the consequences of bigamy. For instance, Jitendra Mathur was married to Meena Mathur. He and another Hindu girl embraced Islam. Obviously because Muslim Law permits more than one wife and to the extent of four. But no religion permits deliberate distortions. Much misapprehension prevails about bigamy in Islam. To check the misuse many Islamic countries have codified the personal Law, `Wherein the practice of polygamy has been either totally prohibited or severely restricted. (Syria, Tunisia, Morocco, Pakistan, Iran, the Islamic Republics of the Soviet Union are some of the Muslim countries to be remembered in this context’.
The law may provide that every citizen who changes his religion cannot marry another wife unless he divorces his first wife. The provision should be made applicable to every person whether he is a Hindu or a Muslim or a Christian or a Sikh or a Jain or a Budhist.
O R D E R
For reasons and conclusions reached in separate but concurring judgments the Writ petitions are allowed in terms of answers in the opinion of Kuldip Singh, J.