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Report No. 227

Effect of Change of Religion

Post-marriage change of religion by either party is under the Hindu Marriage Act a ground for divorce in the hands of the other non-converting spouse [Section 13 (1) (ii)]. Without obtaining this relief the non-converting spouse cannot marry again.

As regards the converting spouse, the Act says nothing as to weather its anti-bigamy provision, or any other provision for that matter, would cease to apply to him or her. In the absence of a clear statutory provision on this point, it has always been a contentious issue if a married man governed by this Act can upon his conversion to Islam contract a second bigamous marriage which, it is generally believed, is permissible under Muslim law.

Unexceptional abolition of bigamy for the Hindus, Buddhists, Jains and Sikhs has created a serious problem for those married men among these communities who for some reason or the other, justifiable or unjustified, want to marry again. The new law wants them to first have the existing marriage legally dissolved. This is not easy. The Hindu Marriage Act makes room for dissolution of marriages, but the cumbersome judicial process in the ordinary civil courts given the jurisdiction under the Act has turned divorce-proceedings into vexatious and long-drawn out struggles.

There are 26genuine cases of broken marriages, as also those in which people dishonestly want to kick out their first wives and take new partners - the former cases, of course, outnumber the latter. Those married men who want to marry again have no religious inhibition, since they believe that their religion allows them to have their wish; and they do not mind violating the newly imposed legal ban on bigamy without any religious sanction for it.

To avoid the penalties threatened by the new law to be inflicted on bigamists they, however, need a 'device'. And, different 'devices' are suggested by those who are always ready to help lawbreakers - a fake conversion to Islam being foremost among these devices. The law of monogamy under the Hindu Marriage Act is, indeed, full of serious shortcomings and loopholes. Combined with the Act's provisions relating to marriage-rites, it provides in-built devices for an easy avoidance of all the consequences of its violation.

Preventing Bigamy via Conversion to Islam - A Proposal for giving statutory effect to Supreme Court Rulings Back

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