Ahmedabad: Does the Indian Penal Code (IPC) hold precedence over Muslim personal laws? Are Muslim men allowed to remarry without obtaining the consent of their first wife? Will this amount to bigamy under the IPC?
These questions came up for discussion at the Gujarat High Court when a petition to quash a complaint of bigamy against a man from Chhattisgarh was being heard, The Times of India reported.
The case went like this: Zafar Abbas Merchant from Chhattisgarh's capital Raipur had filed a plea to quash the bigamy case registered against him by his first wife. In 2001, Merchant's wife Sajedabanu had gone back to her parental home in Bhavnagar following marital discord.
Two years later, when Sajedabanu did not return, Merchant remarried without obtaining her consent.
Sajedabanu, in 2004, then lodged a complaint with police and accused Merchant of bigamy. The police filed charges of bigamy (under Section 494 of IPC), cruelty, wife-beating, and also under dowry prohibition laws against Merchant.
In 2010, Merchant knocked at the doors of the High Court seeking to get the case against him quashed.
He claimed in the court that he cannot be accused of bigamy as Muslim personal laws allow a man to marry four times.
However, Sajedabanu's lawyer argued that Merchant violated the personal law provision of giving equal justice to all wives, by failing to obtain his first wife's consent.
The HC later appointed an amicus curiae, who justified more marriages and stated that a man was not required to compulsorily get consent from the first wife for remarrying.