The solemnization of a marriage often involves specific rites, rituals, and ceremonies that the parties must undertake. Failure to adhere to these requirements may raise doubts about the validity of the marriage.

Case Title: Bhaurao Lokhande & Anr. v. State of Maharashtra
Court: Supreme Court of India
Citation: AIR 1965 SC 1564
Judges: Dayal(J), Justice Raghubar(J), J.R. Mudholkar(J), V. Ramaswami(J)
Date of Judgment: 01/02/1965

Introduction

Bigamy is a serious offence as it strikes a severe blow to the institution of marriage. Bigamy refers to a situation wherein one already married person remarries another while his previous marriage still exists. The same is dealt with under section 494 of the Indian Penal Code as an offence, further, any Hindu marriage which takes place when the first marriage is still existing is invalid in the eyes of law. However for a person to be liable under section 494 of the Indian Penal Code 1860 the second marriage must have been solemnized like a valid marriage under Hindu Law. For a marriage to be solemnized there are various rites, rituals, and ceremonies which are required by the parties to go through, in the absence of the same the validity of the marriage can be questioned. 

The case of Bhaurao Shankar Lokhande & Anr v. State of Maharashtra deals with the validity of the second marriage to make such a person liable for the offence of bigamy.

Facts

In the present case, appellant no. 1 namely, Bhaurao Shankar Lokhande had married Indubai (hereinafter referred to as the complainant/respondent) in the year 1956. Appellant no.1 further during the subsistence of his first marriage married another woman namely Kamlabai in February 1962. Initially, those tried for the offence under section 494 of the Indian Penal Code were appellant no.1, along with his brother Deorao Shankar Lokhande (appellant no.2), Kamlabai, Kamlabai’s father and a barber. Everyone apart from the Appellants No. 1 and 2 were acquitted by the Magistrate. Appellant no.1, the husband was convicted for an offence under section 494 of the Indian Penal Code which is bigamy. Whereas the brother of the husband or the appellant No. 2 was convicted under Section 494 as well as 114 of the Indian Penal Code which is punishment as an abettor.

Further, the Appellants appealed in the Sessions Court which was dismissed, their revision to the High Court also failed. In the present case, they appealed in the Supreme Court by a Special Leave Petition.

Issues

  • Whether the second marriage entered into by appellant No. 1 properly solemnized according to the proper ceremonies and religious rites?
  • Whether the marriage was valid for the appellant to be held accountable for the offence of bigamy?

Arguments

Appellants

According to the appellants, the marriage with Kamlabai (appellant no.1’s second marriage) was performed without the essential religious rites and ceremonies and hence was not valid.

Respondents

According to the respondents, the second marriage of appellant no.1 was performed as per the customs of Gandharva marriage and any kind of marriage undertaken by a spouse during the subsistence of his previous marriage shall fall within Section 494 is bigamy under the Indian Penal Code.

Judgment

The Hon’ble Supreme Court opined that a person must marry another person legally to be held under Section 494 of the IPC 1860; in other words, the marriage must be solemnized so that the same becomes a valid marriage. If the marriage is not performed for it to be a valid marriage, then such marriage is no marriage at all and hence it can’t be a void marriage.

The Court further said that as per Section 17 of the Hindu Marriage Act, once the two conditions namely; “solemnization of marriage” after commencement of the Act and that the party had a living spouse during the marriage, are satisfied then such marriage shall be invalid that is void

The Court opined that if the marriage between appellant no.1 and Kamlabai was not proved to be solemnized according to the requirements of a marriage then the person shall not be liable under Section 494 Indian Penal Code.

No evidence was presented to suggest that the appellants’ custom does not require the essential elements outlined above for a Gandharva marriage. Therefore, these elements are necessary for the marriage

The marriage between Appellant No.1 and Kamlabai to attract Section 494 of the Indian Penal Code and be void, must come within the purview of Section 17 of the Hindu Marriage Act.

The marriage between Appellant No. 1 and Kamlabai was not solemnized or performed according to the requirements of a valid Hindu Marriage.

The Supreme Court held that as the marriage in question was not a solemnized marriage hence the same cannot be used to make the appellant liable under section 494 of the Indian Penal Code 1860. Therefore, the conviction of both the appellants has been set aside and they were acquitted.

Conclusion

The Supreme Court, in this case, emphasized the importance of a marriage being valid to attract the provisions for bigamy. Further, it also dealt with the Gandharva form of marriage, which is an unconventional but valid form of Hindu marriage. However, even such marriages require certain rituals and ceremonies as an essential part of the marriage, until and unless there are other customs. The case of Bhaurao Shankar Lokhande v. State of Maharashtra remains an important case relating to the ceremonies and rituals which hold immense power to validate a marriage, and how the absence of the same can invalidate the marriage.

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