Mumbai: In a significant ruling, the Bombay High Court recently said a marriage certificate is not to enough to prove a marriage between two parties. The HC further said even a second wife can file a complaint against the husband under section 494, which penalises second marriage during the lifetime of the first spouse.
A bench of Justice Kalapathi Shriram accordingly acquitted a man booked in 1995 for performing second marriage despite having a legally wedded wife and two children.
According to the prosecution case, soon after the second day of the accused man's marriage, a woman barged into their house and claimed to be the first and legally wedded wife of the man. She also claimed that she has two children from the accused.
Subsequently, the second wife had filed a complaint against the accused man under sections 494 (Marrying again during lifetime of husband or wife), 495 (Same offence with concealment of former marriage from person with whom subsequent marriage is contracted) and 496 (Marriage ceremony fraudulently gone through without lawful marriage).
The trial court after going through the evidence, accquitted the man from all the charges. The trial court held that the second wife wasn't entitled to lodge a complaint in such cases since only the first wife is the "aggrieved person" in such cases.
The trial court's order was challenged before a sessions court which held the accused guilty on all the three counts.
The sessions court further held that the second wife was entitled to lodge a complaint against the husband.
Justice Shriram agreed with the sessions court on this count saying that since the second wife is usually the one who is cheated since the first marriage is concealed from her and thus the second wife is entitled to lodge a complaint against the husband.
The sessions court relied upon the marriage certificate produced by the first wife to convict the man.
The conviction was then challenged before Justice Shriram, who upheld the trial court's order acquitting the man.
"Just because the first wife went to the house of accused and stated she was his first legally wedded wife and has two children and later files affidavit before the Trial court that she was his wife, goes to the root of the matter. Simply producing marriage certificate would not itself be enough to prove that there is a marriage between the parties," Justice Shriram held.
To support his ruling, Justice Shriram referred to the statements of the sub-registrar of the Pune family court, who clearly stated that "the bride and groom do not attend their office at the time of registration of marriage."
"Therefore, even I am satisfied that the prosecution has failed to prove that accused was already married when he married complainant (second wife) and consequently prosecution proving concealment of his first marriage complainant, does not arise," Justice Shriram held.