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In P. Satyanarayana and another  v. P. Mallaiah 1996 AIR SCW 4000 : (1996) 6 SCC 122 the wife-respondent filed a written complaint before the police under Section 494 of the Indian Penal Code which after investigation was put in Court for trial of the appellant as well as his alleged second wife, the second appellant. Charge was laid against him. In entering upon plea against the charge, the husband-appellant stated:

“True. I have not committed any crime. I have married after ten years of my wife deserted and went away.”

His plea was sought to be read as if he had admitted having married a second time. The learned Trial Magistrate recorded the prosecution evidence and came to the conclusion that there was no legal evidence to prove the factum of marriage on the basis of the tests laid down by this Court in Bhaurao Shankar Lokhande v. State of Maharashtra, (1965)2 SCR 837: (AIR 1965 SC 1564); Kanwal Ram v. Himachal Pradesh Administration, (1966) 1 SCR 539 : (AIR 1966 SC 614) and Priya Bala Ghosh v. Suresh Chandra Ghosh, (1971) 1 SCC 864. He thus acquitted the appellant.

 The High Court on a private revision by the wife-respondent, upset the order of acquittal mainly on the ground that there was an admission of the first appellant in response to the charge laid against him. The High Court, therefore, ordered a re-trial.

In SLP the Supreme Court held that the High Court was in error in upsetting the well-considered order of the Trial Magistrate requiring due ceremonies of the alleged second marriage being proved so as to satisfy the tests laid down by this Court in the afore-referred cases. The plea of guilt afore-referred to could at best be understood to mean that the first appellant had taken a wife, but that admission did not necessarily mean that he had taken the second wife after solemnizing a Hindu marriage with her after performing due ceremonies for marriage. Such plea, which he need not have even entered upon, and which was ignorable by the Court, did not absolve the prosecution to otherwise prove its case, that the marriage in question was performed in a regular way so as to visit him with penal consequences. The Supreme Court said  that a futile exercise has been enjoined upon the Magistrate by the High Court in ordering a retrial when the evidence, as it was, had been discussed and rejected threadbare.

Interestingly, the Supreme Court recorded the statement of learned counsel for the first appellant to the effect that the said appellant is a class- IV employee working in the State Board of Revenue, fetching about Rs. 1600/- per mensem as salary out of which, under Court orders he pays, in an interim way, Rs. 400/- per mensem as maintenance to the respondent-wife and his grown-up child. A genuine offer was made by learned counsel to increase the said allowance, should the respondent-wife not persist in her claim in branding the first appellant as a bigamist; for if he were to get convicted and imprisoned, she would lose the maintenance altogether. The Supreme Court accepted the argument and said that the complainant cannot afford to kill the goose which lays the golden egg. It was held that hard realities of the situation require that the first appellant is not deprived of his job so that he keeps providing the necessary wherewithal to the respondent-wife and his child, besides maintaining himself. The Supreme Court directed the appellant to pay to the respondent and his child a sum of Rs. 800/- per mensem as offered on these considerations as maintenance allowance.


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Category Family Law, Other Articles by - Swami Sadashiva Brahmendra Sar