May 7, 2024
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Bigamy is the practice of getting married to somebody while you are legally married to a different person. It is a controversial and complex legal dispute. This offense is governed by Sections 494 and 495 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), along with a few additional exclusions and limitations that make the application and interpretation of the law difficult and nuanced.

bigamy: Its History

  • Bigamy has been practiced in India since the days of the warrior factions and wealthy merchants, who had multiple wives at the same time.
  • Numerous factors led to this action, including the need to increase the region’s exchequer, seal peace treaties, and expand the controlling territory.
  • Except for polygamous unions, the law of marriage has, nevertheless, always been predicated on the idea of monogamy since the time of Manusmriti.

Bigamy in IPC

  • Bigamy is the practice of getting married to someone while you are still legally married to someone else.
  • Whether a couple separates formally or informally, has no bearing on their marital status.
  • When a person is going through a divorce, they are considered to be legally married until the divorce becomes final or absolute according to the applicable jurisdiction’s laws.    

section 494 ipc

Section 494 ipc declares:

  • If a person who is married to one of their spouses and gets married again while they are still alive, their second marriage is null and void because it happened while their spouse is still alive.

section 494 ipc punishment

  • According to Section 494 of the IPC, getting married a second time while the original marriage is still going strong with the spouse still alive is illegal.
  • According to this section for bigamy charges, a maximum sentence of seven years in jail is imposed for such an offense. There was no minimum sentence specified for the convicted party in the Penal Code.
  • However, the proper court will determine the penalty for bigamy by reviewing the particular facts and circumstances of each case. In addition, the Court will choose whether to impose simple or harsh imprisonment based on the merits of the case.

who can file complaint under section 494 ipc?    

  • Either the husband, wife, or legal spouse of the person who committed the chargeable offence according to Section 494 of the IPC may submit a complaint against that person.
  • There are no prejudiced limitations stating that the victim or party who has been wronged must only be a wife. If a wife commits such a serious offense, her husband may successfully punish her by establishing all the requirements of Section 494 of the IPC before a court of competent jurisdiction, after filing a complaint with the proper authority.

adultery and bigamy: Major Difference

  • The act of performing a second bigamous marriage while being married to someone else is illegal and is known as bigamy.
  • Contrarily, adultery only punishes a man for engaging in sexual activity with another person’s wife without that person’s permission.

bigamy in hindu law

  • Bigamy is forbidden in India, according to Section 17 of the Hindu Marriage Act of 1955, and anyone caught committing the crime shall face the appropriate punishment.
  • When determining the punishment for bigamy, the requirements of Sections 494 and 495 of the IPC shall be applied.
  • Any Hindu marriage consummated between two individuals is null and void if, at the time of the marriage, one or both of them had a spouse who was still alive and legally theirs at the time of the second marriage’s solemnization.
  • Hinduism views marriage as the sacred union of one man and one woman, and monogamy is seen as the ideal type of marriage.

bigamy in islam

  • According to Muslim law, bigamy entails two happy women who are married to the same guy living with him and receiving from him all a wife could possibly want.
  • The Quran commands the husband to continue being a monogamist in cases where this is not feasible.
  • There is no mention of bigamy law in Islamic legal literature that permits the kind of bigamy that is currently common in India, where the first wife is completely abandoned and subjected to torture while the second wife is permitted to take her place in the husband’s family.

bigamy in ipc: Case Laws

  • In the case of Khushboo v Kanniammal & Anr, the Supreme Court held that cohabitation between a man and a woman does not constitute a crime. Additionally, the Apex Court ruled that premarital sex and live-in partnerships were not restricted or prohibited by law.
  • In the case of Sarla Mudgal v Union of India and Ors., after converting to Islam, which permits bigamous marriage, the contentious topic of whether a Hindu married man might legally consummate a second marriage while maintaining the integrity of his first marriage was resolved by the Supreme Court. Because bigamy met all the requirements to qualify as a crime, the court declared the second marriage to be null and void and found the accused guilty under Section 494 of the IPC.

Bigamy in IPC FAQs

  1. What are the exceptions of bigamy?

Laws against bigamy do not apply to individuals who are legally married but are in a de facto or cohabitation relationship. The pair is not wedded if the previous marriage is void for whatever reason, therefore they are allowed to get married again without breaking the bigamy laws.

  • Who can complain for bigamy?

Section 494 of the Indian Penal Code allows for the prosecution of a husband or wife who remarries while the previous spouse is still alive and continues to live in their previous home.

  • Is bigamy compoundable?

Bigamy is a non-cognizable offense that can be compounded with the consent of the court and is subject to bail. It carries a maximum seven-year prison sentence, a fine, or both. To commit bigamy by hiding the fact of a previous marriage is a crime that carries a 10-year jail sentence, a fine, or both.

  • What prosecution must prove in bigamy?

In order for bigamy charges to be successful, the prosecution must first demonstrate that a lawful marriage existed at the time of the second marriage. There would be no conviction in cases where the evidence of either marriage was insufficient.

  • Is bigamy criminal or civil?

Bigamy is illegal under Indian penal codes and a crime that opposes marriage in India. The bigamy statute applies to Christians, Jews, Sikhs, Buddhists, Parsis, and Hindus [apart from Muslims]. One of the reasons for filing for divorce under the Hindu Marriage Act of 1955 is bigamy.

  • Can bigamy be a ground for divorce?

A person who has indulged in a second marriage may not be held accountable for the bigamy offense under certain extraordinary conditions. However, if bigamy is committed, it will still be grounds for a divorce as long as all of its requirements are met.

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