Madras HC comes down hard on bigamy

The Madras High Court said it is the most inhuman form of insult when a man gets married again while the first wife is alive and tries to justify the second marriage by giving a gift of property to the first wife.

Voluntary consent doesn’t matter

Delivering the judgment on a case filed recently in the court, Justice S. Vimala said, even assuming that consent is voluntary, there cannot be consent for performing an illegal act, as bigamy is a punishable offence under the Indian Penal Code.

Dharmarajpillai and Swarnathammal had no children after 26 years of marriage. Therefore, Dharmarajpillai wished to marry again, and did so with the consent of Swarnathammal.

He married Jayalakshmiammal on December 3, 1965. Through a settlement deed, Dharmarajpillai gave his property to his first wife.

As per the deed, after her death, the property would go to her child.

If she does not have children, it would be transferred back to him.

However, Dharmaraj passed away first, following which Swarnathammal sold the property.

Jayalakshmiammal then filed a petition saying Swarnathammal, contrary to the terms of the settlement, had sold the property, and claimed the property was willed to her.

After hearing the arguments, Justice Vimala, in her order, said, “When the property is given to a female Hindu, towards her maintenance after the commencement of the Act, she becomes the absolute owner thereof, from the moment she is placed in possession of the said property.”

‘Matrimonial injury’

Women alone are not responsible for inability to bear children, she said.

The husband choosing to take another wife when the first wife is still alive constitutes matrimonial injury and cruelty to the first wife.

It is recognised grounds for the first wife to seek maintenance after divorce.

The conferment of property will not and cannot lessen her distress or her feelings of neglect, said Justice Vimala.

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Printable version | Jun 15, 2021 9:45:42 AM |

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