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KEY TAKEWAYS 

  • The judicial court of India has now broaden the definition and scope of the word “wife”,
  • If the claimant can demonstrate that she and the respondent once shared a home as husband and wife, they will be assumed to be legally married. 
  • Several Indian states have now implemented certain legislation to prevent bigamous marriages and promote the idea of monogamy among Hindus.
  • Section 11 of Hindu Marriage Act, declare second marriages as null and void ab initio.
  • Indian courts are kind enough to rule in favour of women who have been misled into second marriages. 
  • Legislators should adopt clear rules to protect the rights of women who have been tricked into "second marriages"

It was once mentioned that we humans as a specie were designed for monogamy to maintain peace and civilisation in the society, therefore even todaysecond marriagesare looked down upon. However, we’ve to acknowledge the fact that it still happens till today, mostly when women are duped into it. The government of India hasn’t specifically made laws for the protection of the second wife, ,but there are some judicial precedent to refer to. In this article we will discuss the definition, validation and maintenance  in respect to second marriage whilereferencing to different case laws. 

DEFINATION OF WIFE

The judicial court of India has now broaden the definition and scope of “wife”, which was earlier someone who was legally married by rites and rituals or court. 

Chanmuniya v. Virendra Kumar Singh Kushwaha and Anr

The court defined "wife" and declared that the term should be given a broad and expansive application, which would also cover circumstances where a man and a woman have been living together as husband and wife for a significant amount of time.

The second judgement that provides more validity to it is 

Dwarika Prasad Satpathy v. Bidyut Prava Dixit and Anr[1999 (7) SCC 675]

It was held that if the claimant can demonstrate that she and the respondent once shared a home as husband and wife, the court said. The court can assume that they are legally married to one another in that situation.

THE LIGITIMATACY OF SECOND MARRIAGE UNDER HINDU LAWS 

According to the Hindu Marriage Act of 1955 (HMA), one of the requirements for a marriage's validity was that neither party should have a spouse who was still alive at the time of the union. 

There used to be a restriction on women getting remarried while their first husband is still alive unless custom permitted it, but there was no such restriction on men. However, several Indian states have now implemented certain legislation to prevent bigamous marriages and promote the idea of monogamy among Hindus.

After 1955, with the help of the aforementioned provision and Section 11, Hindu Marriage Act, second marriages came be declared null and void ab initio.

Rameshchandra Daga v. Rameshwari Daga [(2001) DMC 230]

According to the Hindu Marriage Act of 1955, a second marriage is null and unlawful, and such marriages are prohibited by the Act's provisions. However, such marriages are not deemed "immoral" by the court, and a woman who depends on another person for support cannot be denied maintenance on this basis.

MAINTAINANCE OF SECOND WIFE 

The section 18 of the Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act of 1956 states that a Hindu wife shall be entitled to be maintained by her husband during her life time. The subsection (2) (d) of the section 18 states that a Hindu wife is entitled to live separately from her husband without forfeiting her claim to maintenance if he has any other wife living.

Here the term any other wife living states that the act is not only considering the first wife but also the rights of the second wife can be protected.

It is acknowledged that bigamy or polygamy is considered invalid in Hindu personal law. However, second marriages are quite popular in our nation. Additionally, the legislation does not adequately protect the second wife's rights. The primary query that arises as a result is whether the second wife is qualified to make a maintenance claim under the 1956 Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act.

To refer to a more practical example for our solution, we can consider these case laws 

Narinder Pal Kaur Chawla v. Manjeet Singh Chawla

The husband wedded the petitioner using the rituals prescribed by the Hindu Marriage Act of 1955, but he failed to reveal that he was already married. In this case, the Delhi High Court ruled that the second wife, whose marriage was declared null and void, has a right to maintenance under section 18 of the Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act of 1956 because she was unaware that the defendant was already married and because failure to pay maintenance would encourage the defendant to defraud the second wife. 

Badshah v. Urmila Badshah Godse [ (2014) 1 SCC 188]

The second wife is to be recognised as a legally wedded wife and the husband is required to support her, according to the court, because both of them were residing as husband and wife and the husband was the one who failed to reveal that he was already married.

These case laws serve as precedent, demonstrating that even though second marriages are frowned upon, Indian courts are kind enough to rule in favour of women who have been misled into them and to make allowances for them.

CONCLUSION 

For a woman, the social humiliation of becoming a second wife, the lack of a legal status for the union, and the excruciating pain of being duped into marriage are definitely quite distressing. Even though a second wife is not acknowledged, she may still be eligible for support due to the judicial interpretation of the legislation that was mentioned above. Her possibilities of asserting her rights are primarily dependent on the judges' judgement since there are no explicit legal provisions.

Legislators should adopt clear rules to protect the rights of women who have been tricked into "second marriages" in light of the background of divergent judicial decisions in order to provide them with some relief.


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