Report No. 227
Social & Judicial Trends
Bigamy has been fully abolished or severely controlled by law in most Muslim countries of the world. Turkey and Tunisia have completely outlawed it while in Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Iraq, Yemen, Morocco, Pakistan and Bangladesh, it has been subjected to administrative or judicial control. (Details of these reforms can be seen in Tahir Mahmood's book Statutes of Personal Law in Islamic Countries, 2nd edition, 1995).
In India bigamy is not very common among the Muslims and cases of men having more than one wife at a time are few and far between. The Muslim society of India in general in fact looks at polygamy with great disfavour and a bigamist is generally looked down upon in and outside his family. Despite this, unfortunately, the religious leaders are not prepared for any legislative reform in this respect and the religious sensitivities have never allowed the State to introduce any reform in this regard.
The courts in India also greatly look down upon bigamy and provide all sorts of relief to the first wives of bigamist husbands. Several High Courts have held that bigamy amounts to cruelty which can be pleaded as an answer to the man's suit for restitution of conjugal rights against the first wife - see Itwari v Asghari AIR 1960 All 684, Raz Mohammad v Saeeda Amina Begum AIR 1976 Kant 200, Shahina parveen v Mohd Shakeel AIR 1987 Del 210
The Supreme Court of India has held that the provision of Section 125 of the Code of Criminal Procedure 1973 allowing separate maintenance to a wife on the ground of her husband's cruelty applies to Muslim women whose husbands contract a second bigamous marriage. See Khatoon v Yaamin AIR 1982 SC 853
In another case the Supreme Court has severely criticized the practice of bigamy and observed that there is no difference between a second wife and a concubine. See Begum Subhanu v Abdul Ghafoor AIR 1987 SC 1103