Lily Thomas v. UOI [AIR 2000 SC 1650]

The court held that conversion to another religion merely for the purpose of Bigamy is illegal and the second marriage will be considered as void.

Bench – Saiyed Saghir Ahmad and R.P. Sethi

Facts – Sushmita Ghosh, the wife of G.C. Ghosh brought proceedings under the writ petition in the Court by claiming that she was married to G.C. Ghosh in full compliance with Hindu ceremonies on May 10, 1984 and that they had been living peacefully in Delhi ever since. Around the 1st of April, 1992, G.C. Ghosh told the petitioner that she must consent to her divorce by mutual consent because he had converted to Islam in order to remarry, and he had already intended to marry one Miss Vanita Gupta of D-152 Preet Vihar, Delhi, a divorcee with two children, in the second week of July 1992. G.C. Ghosh displayed a registration certificate by the office of Maulana Qari Idris, Shahi Qazi, dated 17th June, 1992, validating that he had adopted Islam. The petitioner consulted her father and aunt and informed them of her husband’s conversion and desire to remarry. They attempted to persuade G.C. Ghosh and talk him out of marriage, but it was futile, and he kept insisting that Sushmita consent to her divorce or else she would have to put up with a second wife. According to the petition, G. C. Ghosh embraced islam specifically for the purpose of re-marrying and has no real faith in Islam. He does not observe Muslim ceremonies as recommended, nor has he changed his name, religion, or official documents.

Issues – 

  • Whether Uniform Civil Code for all Indian citizens is a necessity or not?
  • Whether it is possible for a Hindu husband to marry again after converting to Islam or not?
  • Whether the husband will be considered liable for bigamy under Section 494 of the IPC?

Judgment – According to Justice S. Sagir Ahmad, if a party has a living spouse and contracts or attempts to enter into a contract of a second marriage, such marriage is null and void under Section 11 of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1959. The Hon’ble Court also declared that a second marriage solemnised by a Hindu during the sustenance of the first marriage is null and void. As per the Constitution, every individual has the Fundamental Right not only to satisfy the religious practices of his or her selection, but also to express his or her beliefs and opinions in a way that does not intrude on the religious rights or individual liberty of others. The word Islamic implies “devotion to God,” not “wedding.” Second marriage is allowed under Muslim law in India, but only if you can redress to your co-wives; the holiness and pureness of marriage always take precedence. You cannot solemnise a second marriage solely by converting religion. If a Hindu wife presses charges against her husband for having a second marriage after converting to some other religion while the first marriage is still in effect, the offence of Bigamy will be prosecuted under the Hindu Marriage Act, 1959.

Regarding the constitutional provisions, it was held by the court that Article 25 of the Indian Constitution guarantees freedom that does not infringe on the freedom of another individual. However, Supreme Court has ruled that there exists no breach of the provisions of Article 21 in this case. Article 21 of the Constitution admits that “no individual shall be stripped of his right and personal liberty unless as provided by law,” and such marriage with the first marriage in continuation is enshrined in IPC Section 494, therefore is no violation of provisions of Article 21.

As per R.P.Sethi Ji, if a Hindu husband enters into a contract of a second marriage after turning to Islam without disintegrating the first marriage, the second marriage is null and void under Sections 494 & 495 of the IPC, and the husband will be penalised accordingly.

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