Laws on bigamy in India

Laws on bigamy in India

Laws on bigamy in India

Section 494, Penal Code, 1860

The offence of bigamy or marrying twice during lifetime of husband or wife is punishable under Section 494 of the Indian Penal Code 1860 and under Section 17 of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955.

Section 494 Indian Penal Code 1860 contains the Marrying again during lifetime of husband or wife. It held that whoever, has a husband or wife living, get married in any case in which such wedding is void by means of reason of its taking place during the life of such husband or wife, would to liable to be punished with imprisonment of either for a term which might extend to 7 years, and may also be liable to fine.

The above-mentioned section also states that the Section is not applicable where:

1.    any individual whose marriage with such husband or wife has been declared void by a Court of competent jurisdiction

2.    where the spouse was continually absent for a period of 7 years and not heard being alive within such period.

Hindu Marriage Act, 1955

As per Section 17 of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, it states the punishment of bigamy - “Any marriage amid two Hindus (which includes Buddhist, Jaina or Sikh) solemnized after the beginning of this Act is void if at the date of such wedding either party had a husband or wife living; as well as the clauses of Sections 494 and 495 of the Indian Penal Code (45 of 1860) would be applicable accordingly.

Bigamy is an offence

Section 5 of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, evidently states that a marriage can be valid only if neither of the individual has a living spouse at the time of marriage. Section 11 of the Act states a second marriage to be null and void. 

Bigamy is not applicable if:

•    the first married husband or wife is dead, or

•    the first marriage has been declared void through the Court of competent jurisdiction, or

•    the first marriage has been dissolved by means of divorce, or

•    the first spouse was absent or not heard of continually for 7 years. 

Filing complaint under Bigamy law-section 494

The aggrieved person ( which is the Legally Wed person – the first “husband” or “wife” ) could file a case of bigamy either in court or at the police station. The father of an aggrieved wife could also make a complaint under section 494/495 of the Indian Penal Code.

A petition for declaring the second marriage as void could be filed by the parties of second marriage and not the first spouse.

The Punishment under the Act

Bigamy is a bailable, Non-cognizable and compoundable offence with the permission of the court if the offence is committed under section 494 of the IPC. Punishment that will be given is the imprisonment, which might extend till 7 years or fine or both.

 In case the person charged of bigamy has already performed the second marriage by hiding the fact of first marriage, then he would be punished with imprisonment of up to 10 years or fine or both. Such an offense under section 495 is not compoundable.


1. What is Bigamy?

A person commits bigamy when he/she:

When husband or wife living, get married again, but such marriage is void, by means of reason of its taking place in the course of the life of husband or wife.

2. Religious Conversion for contacting second is also bigamy?

In Sarla Mudgal v. Union of India (1995 AIR 1531 SC), the Supreme Court had stated that a man who has embraced Islam and surrendered Hindu religion, get married again without taking the divorce from the first wife, in that case then such wedding is not lawful. The person would be punished for committing bigamy under section 494 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).

3. If a person hides first marriage and contacts second marriage ?

Complaint for cheating could be filed under section 415 of IPC in case the person hides the fact of first marriage.

4. Whether section 498A of IPC 1860 shall be applicable to the second wife?

As per section 498A of Indian Penal Code, it states that this section shall not be applied towards the next wife since the second Wife is not really a wife in the eyes of Law.

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eStartIndia Team

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