Sarla Mudgal V. Union of India (AIR 1995 SS 1531): Bigamy and Conversion under Islam in India

  • Jagruthi Rao
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  • Jagruthi Rao

    Student at School of law, Christ (Deemed to be University), Bangalore, India

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Bigamy as defined in the Webster’s dictionary is a practice through which one person enters into a marriage while still being legally married to another person. This practice had been followed for several years in different religions. It existed from the time when kings used to marry in order to spread their rule throughout the country. India has been very diverse in terms of culture and tradition, also has borne the impact of several kinds of reigns by different rulers. This paper stresses upon the historical influence of bigamy on India and how the times were different pre-independence. A country like India, which is home to different caste, religion, culture and traditions of people found the need to regulate such practices. Personal Laws administer people from different religions. Islam advocates for polygamy and a man under Islam is allowed to have four wives. The primary law for bigamy is provided under Section 494 of the Indian Penal Code,1860 that makes bigamy a criminal offence. The main aim of this research is to study the case of Sarla Mudgal v. Union of India in the light of Article 15,16 and 20 of the Indian Constitution. In this case, the court addressed the conflict between personal laws and freedom of religion. This was a writ petition that was filed by four petitioners namely Sarla Mudgal, Meena Mathur, Sunita Narula and Geeta Rani. The petitioners contended that the respondents, in order escape the action under section 494 in the IPC converted themselves to Islam so that such punishments do not apply to them. The judgement was given by the division bench of the Supreme Court that made conversion for this purpose invalid and the second marriage would be a violation of the Hindu Marriage Act,1955 and this marriage would void according to section 494 of IPC. This judgment also laid emphasis on the need to have a Uniform Civil Code in such matters to prevent arbitrariness in the society. The court also gave direction to the government to enforce Article 44 under the Directive Principles of State Policy to highlight the essence of the Supreme Court as the guardian of the constitution.


Research Paper


International Journal of Law Management and Humanities, Volume 4, Issue 6, Page 756 - 763


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