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Consent of first wife immaterial in offence of bigamy
Anand Vs Chandramma
Criminal Petition No. 9849 of 2021
About/from the judgment:
The High Court recently held that the consent of the first wife would be immaterial for consideration of the offence of bigamy.
The Court was hearing a plea seeking quashing of a complaint under Section 494 (Bigamy) of the Indian Penal Code on the ground that the later marriages were with the first wife’s consent, and there was a delay in filing the complaint.
“It being with the consent of the 1st wife or with the consent of the 1st and 2nd wives for the third time would become immaterial for consideration of offence of bigamy”, the Court ruled.
The case before the Court was one against a 76-year-old man who had been married thrice. His first wife moved the complaint against him, his third wife, his family members and friends.
The husband informed the court that all of them were living peacefully together, and the marriages were with the other wives’ consent. However, on certain properties being gifted by the husband to the third wife, the first wife was unhappy and initiated the proceedings.
Although he did not deny his marriages, the husband argued against the private complaint being registered 25 years after the third marriage.
Therefore, the primary issue before the High Court was of whether bigamy was a continuing offence or whether it stood obliterated on the grounds of delay.
To answer this, reliance was placed on a judgment of the Supreme Court in State of Bihar v Deokaran Nenshi wherein it was held that a continuing offence was one which was distinguishable from an offence committed once and for all.
Therefore, the single-judge found that since the husband admitted to being married to three women at one time, he was in the web of the offence of bigamy.
“In the teeth of the admitted facts of the petitioner marrying thrice and its subsistence even as on day, the plea of delay in registration of the crime would pale into insignificance, as bigamy in the case at hand is a continuing offence,” the Court said.
However, the complaint against the husband’s family members and friends was quashed as the Court was of the opinion that they could not be hauled into these proceedings unless there were instances to demonstrate that they were responsible for the marriages.
“It is for the protagonists in the quadrangle to resolve the issue amongst themselves and not drag other persons into these proceedings. If the proceedings against other petitioners are not quashed, it would become an abuse of the process of law, result in miscarriage of justice and quadruplet harassment,” the judgment stated.
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