Bigamy is the offense of marrying someone when that person already has a living spouse with whom no divorce has occurred yet. Marrying twice or bigamy is considered as a criminal offense in India. Bigamy is an offense which is quite common in India and even though it is quite immoral but we cannot deny the fact.
The punishment of bigamy is imprisonment in India. Many of the people who commit bigamy ignore this fact and try to suppress their present spouse from going to the police or any other authority figure.
Bigamy is going on in India for centuries and because of this reason people thinks it’s OK to commit bigamy and that they can get away from the law after committing this non-cognizable offense.
The person who commits bigamy has no respect for their spouses and their second spouses cannot guarantee that they won’t do the same with them also.
History of bigamy in India
Having more than one spouse at the same time is considered as crime in the last few decades but before that it was not. In fact the kings almost always had more than one wives at the same time like Samrat Ashoka who had more than one wife at the same time.
History proves that there are many other kings who married and had more than one wife at the same time. So, we can safely say that marrying again while the other spouse is still alive and not separated from the person legally is going on in India since ancient times and is still going on.
Image Credit: Source
In the recent decades bigamy is considered as a crime and can cause the person committed the crime imprisonment but previously as time is a witness of the history, can say that it wasn’t used to be considered as crime before.
In fact before even the commoners or the people who did not hold any title before their name, can marry more than one people even though their spouse is alive and they are not separated.
However, the custom of having more than one spouses were limited to the men of the society as women that time did not have that much freedom.
But in the Mahabharata, one of the two major Sanskrit epics of ancient India, it is mentioned that Draupadi had five husbands at the same time. So there is no specific time when having more than one spouse at the same time started but we do know that it is still going on in India.
Bigamy as per Indian law
The Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, said that neither party should have a spouse living at the time of the marriage. In this act it was mentioned that spouses can seek divorce if the other is found to have committed bigamy. In the Hindu Marriage Act, 1956, it is mentioned that the second marriage is void in the eyes of law.
Section 494 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) 1860, states that “Marrying again during lifetime of husband or wife: 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”.
Bigamy in case of Muslims
Muslim marriage law is different compared to the other religions marriage law. Muslims personal laws permit that a man can marry not one or two times but four times. The Quranic verse on bigamy states that – you may take one, two, three or four wives, provided that you do justice between them and which you cannot do, so take just one wife.
However, the first wife should give permission to her husband and only then the husband can marry another woman. Bigamy under Muslim law is an exception to the general rule of monogamous marriage.
In India same rule applies. However, at present, there are many Muslim men who are not interested in having more than one wife and because of that the percentage of having more than one wife in Muslims has decreased quite a lot.
A person who commits bigamy or marry again when their spouse are alive and still married to him or her, is considered as a criminal and can put the person behind bars for maximum 7 years. Bigamy is greatly frowned upon in Indian society.
However, in ancient times having two spouses wasn’t a criminal offense and the history is the proof of that as many kings had more than one wife at the same time. In the last few decades’ society started to consider bigamy as a crime.
There is an exception to this rule. Muslims have their own law which states that a man can have maximum four wives at the same time. This is stated in the Quran. However, the man needs the permission of their first wife before marrying another.
So, bigamy committed by a Muslim is not punishable by law. On the other hand the present generation of Muslim men stopped marrying again recently.
Bigamy is considered as a crime not only in India but also in almost all the countries and each of them have different kind of punishment against the person who did the crime which varies from different number of years that they have to spend in prison to different amount of fine given by them.