S Nagalingam vs Sivagami

Facts of S Nagalingam vs Sivagami

This appeal is directed against the judgment of the learned Single Judge of the High Court of Madras in Criminal Appeal No. 486 of 1999 reversing the order of acquittal passed by the Metropolitan Magistrate, Madras. The learned Single Judge found the appellant guilty of the offence under Section 494 1PC.

The appellant, S. Nagalingam married respondent-complainant Sivagami on 6.9.1970. Three children were born from that wedlock. The respondent alleged that the appellant started ill-treating her and on many occasions she was physically tortured. As a result of ill-treatment and severe torture inflicted by the appellant as well as his mother, she left her marital home and started staying with her parents. While so, the respondent came to know that the appellant had entered into a marriage with another woman on 18.6.1984, by name Kasturi.

The Metropolitan Magistrate held that an important ceremony, namely, “Saptapadi” had not been performed and therefore, the second marriage was not a valid marriage and no offence was committed by the appellant. The learned Single Judge reversing this decision in appeal held that the parties are governed by Section 7-A of the Hindu Marriage Act as the parties are Hindus residing within the State of Tamil Nadu. It was held that there was a valid second marriage and the appellant was guilty of the offence of bigamy.

Issue of S Nagalingam vs Sivagami

Whether the second marriage entered into by appellant with the second accused. Kasturi, on 18.6.1984 was a valid marriage under Hindu Law so as to constitute an offence under Section 494 IPC.

Observations of S Nagalingam vs Sivagami

The essential ingredients of the offence under Section 494 IPC are (I) the accused must have contracted the first marriage; (ii) whilst the first marriage was subsisting, the accused must have contracted a second marriage; and (iii) both the marriages must be valid in the sense that necessary ceremonies governing the parties must have been performed.

In the instant case, the parties to the second marriage, namely the appellant. Nagalingam, and his alleged second wife, Kasturi, are residents of the State of Tamil Nadu and their marriage was performed at Thiruthani Temple within the State of Tamil Nadu. In the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, there is a State Amendment by the State of Tamil Nadu, which has been inserted as Section 7-A.

Section 7-A applies to any marriage between two Hindus solemnized in the presence of relatives, friends or other persons. The main thrust of this provision is that the presence of a priest is not necessary for the performance of a valid marriage. Parties can enter into a marriage in the presence of relatives or friends or other persons and each party to the marriage should declare in the language understood by the parties that each takes other to be his wife or, as the case may be, her husband, and the marriage would be completed by a simple ceremony requiring the parties to the marriage to garland each other or put a ring upon any finger of the other or tie a thali. Any of these ceremonies, namely garlanding each other or putting a ring upon any finger of the other or tying a thali would be sufficient to complete a valid marriage. Sub-section 2(a) of Section 7-A specifically says that notwithstanding anything contained in Section 7, all marriages to which this provision applies and solemnized after the commencement of the Hindu Marriage (Madras Amendment) Act, 1987 shall be good and valid in law.

Decision of S Nagalingam vs Sivagami

The evidence in this case clearly shows that there was a valid marriage in accordance with the provisions of Section 7-A of the Hindu Marriage Act. It has been deposed by the witness that the bridegroom brought the “Thirumangalam” and tied it around the neck of the bride and thereafter the bride and the bridegroom exchanged garlands three times and the father of the bride stated that he was giving his daughter to “Kanniyathan” on behalf of and in the witness of “Agnidevi” and the father of the bridegroom received and accepted the “Kanniyathan”. It has also been deposed that he performed the marriage in accordance with the customs applicable to the parties.

Section 7 of the Hindu Marriage Act says that a Hindu marriage may be solemnized in accordance with the customary rites and ceremonies of either party thereto.

“Saptapadi” was held to be an essential ceremony for a valid marriage only in cases it was admitted by the parties that as per the form of marriage applicable to them that was an essential ceremony. The appellant in the instant case, however, had no such case that “Saptapadi” was an essential ceremony for a valid marriage as per the personal law applicable whereas the provisions contained in Section 7-A are applicable to the parties. In any view of the matter, there was a valid marriage on 18.6.1984 between the appellant and the second accused, Kasturi. Therefore, it was proved that the appellant had committed the offence of bigamy as it was done during the subsistence of his earlier marriage held on 6.9.1970.

The learned Single Judge was right in holding that the appellant committed the offence of bigamy and the matter was correctly remanded to the trial court for awarding appropriate sentence.

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