Weird laws? Dumping the second wife!
Marriage is seen as a sacred union of two people in all religions, it is seen as promise to withstand all the atrocities of life, together as is said “for better or for worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health” but this sacrament of marriage is at times twisted in many ways and forms.
Bigamy refers to the practice of marrying another person while already being married to someone, which in India is deemed as illegal in accordance to most of the religions except Islam. According to the Indian Penal Code, under Section 495 it is recognized as a punishable offence but here is the catch, it though punishable, it is seen as a non-cognizable and bailable crime.
On, 24th August, 2019, the Bombay High Court witnessed such a case which involved the death of a man due to Covid. This man, Suresh Hatankar, an assistant sub inspector in the Maharashtra Railway Police was involved in bigamy. After his death both of his wives wanted to lay claim on the compensation money as a means of support since he had children from both the marriages.
The final verdict of the court was something which felt a little uneasy in my bones. The court stated that only the first wife will get money/property but the children from both the marriages will also have a right in that claim. This verdict, in my view felt discriminatory towards the second wife. After researching further about the bigamy laws in India, this verdict was not something which the Bombay High Court made up on their own but it was in strict adherence with the existing laws.
These laws gave a vague reason as to why it was favoured towards the first wife saying that due to the second marriage, it must have been more strenuous for the first wife. It might also be the case that the husband may have tried to conceal his second marriage from his first wife therefore committing fraud. In a typical Indian society, the second wife will never be seen at par with the first one but we also have to consider that even she is a human, even she may have felt betrayed by her husband and in the case of Hatankar, she also must be mourning the loss of her loved one as is the first wife. I am, not in any way either nullifying or validating the existence of a polygamous relationship but only pointing out orthodoxy in the age old laws wherein help can only be provided to one by overlooking the other.