Second marriage during the subsistence of the first marriage is illegal in India and the relationship arising from the same does not have any validity. One of the conditions for a valid marriage under Section 5 of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 is that neither of the party should have a spouse living at the time of the marriage. Under Section 11 of the Act, Second marriages can be declared null and void.
Bigamy becomes an offence only if the husband or wife is alive. It is an offence even if it is performed with the consent of the first wife.
Section 494 of the Indian Penal Code exempts from punishment a second marriage contracted seven years after the absence of the spouse.
In Sarla Mudgal v. Union of India (1995 air 1531 SC), the Supreme Court held that,
• If a man after renouncing Hindu religion has adopted Muslim religion and he without taking divorce from his wife has married again, then this marriage is not legal.
• He will be punished for committing bigamy under section 494 IPC.
Bigamy is a non-cognizable offence, bailable and compoundable with the permission of the court. It is punishable with imprisonment up to 7 years or fine or both. For the offence of committing bigamy by concealing the fact of the first marriage is punishable with 10 years imprisonment or fine or both. However, this offence committed under section 495 is not compoundable.
The children from the second wife are entitled to share in their father’s self –acquired property.