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Indian Case Summary

Bhaurao Shankar Lokhande & Anr vs State Of Maharashtra & Anr on 1 February, 1965 – Case Summary

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In the case of Bhaurao Shankar Lokhande & Anr vs State Of Maharashtra & Anr on 1 February, 1965, the Supreme Court of India was presented with a complex issue related to the interpretation of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 (45 of 1860), s. 494, and the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, s. 17. The case revolved around the validity of a second marriage and the essential ceremonies required for a marriage to be considered ‘valid’ under the law.

Facts of the Case

Bhaurao Shankar Lokhande, the first appellant, was convicted of an offence under s. 494 I.P.C. for going through a marriage which was void due to its occurrence during the lifetime of a previous wife. The second appellant was convicted for abetting him. The appellants contended that the prosecution needed to establish that the alleged second marriage had been duly performed in accordance with the essential religious rites applicable to the form of marriage. The State, on the other hand, argued that for the commission of an offence under s. 494, it was not necessary that the second marriage should be a valid one and a person going through any form of marriage during the life-time of the first wife would commit the offence.

Issues Raised

The primary issues raised in this case were:

  1. Whether a second marriage needs to be ‘valid’ for an offence to be committed under s. 494 of the Indian Penal Code.
  2. Whether essential ceremonies must be performed for a marriage to be considered ‘valid’.
  3. The interpretation of the term ‘solemnised’ in the context of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, s. 17.
  4. The validity of a ‘Gandharva’ marriage under Hindu law and the necessity of usual essential ceremonies.
  5. The role of custom in modifying the essential ceremonies of a marriage.

Court’s Observations and Judgement

The court held that the expression ‘whoever-marries’ in s. 494 must mean ‘whoever-marries validly’ or ‘whoever-marries and whose marriage is a valid one’. If a marriage is not a valid one according to the law applicable to the parties, no question arises of its being void by reason of its taking place during the life of the husband or wife of the person marrying.

The court further observed that for a marriage between two Hindus to be void by virtue of s. 17 of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, two conditions are required to be satisfied: (a) the marriage is solemnised after the Act; and (b) at the date of such marriage, either party has a spouse living. Unless the marriage is celebrated or performed with proper ceremonies and due form, it cannot be said to be ‘solemnised’ within the meaning of s. 17.

The court also noted that the two ceremonies essential to the validity of a Hindu marriage, i.e., invocation before the sacred fire and sapatapadi, are also a requisite part of a ‘Gandharva’ marriage unless it is shown that some modification of these ceremonies has been introduced by custom in any particular community or caste.

In this case, these two ceremonies were not performed when the appellant No. 1 married a second time and the evidence on record did not establish that these essential ceremonies had been abrogated by custom. The prosecution had therefore failed to establish that the second marriage was performed in accordance with the customary rites applicable.

As a result, the court allowed the appeal, set aside the convictions, and acquitted the appellants. The court held that the second marriage of the first appellant did not come within the expression ‘solemnized marriage’ occurring in S

. 17 of the Act and consequently did not come within the mischief of S. 494 I.P.C. even though the first wife of appellant no.1 was living when he married Kamlabai in February 1962.

Implications and Conclusions

This case set a significant precedent in the interpretation of the Indian Penal Code and the Hindu Marriage Act. It clarified the meaning of ‘solemnised’ in the context of marriage and emphasized the importance of essential ceremonies in determining the validity of a marriage. It also highlighted the role of custom in modifying these ceremonies and the need for clear evidence to establish such custom.

The judgement underscored the principle that for a second marriage to be considered ‘valid’ and for an offence to be committed under s. 494 of the Indian Penal Code, the marriage must be performed in accordance with the essential religious rites applicable to the form of marriage. This interpretation has significant implications for cases involving second marriages and the application of s. 494 of the Indian Penal Code.

In conclusion, the case of Bhaurao Shankar Lokhande & Anr vs State Of Maharashtra & Anr serves as a crucial reference point in Indian legal history, particularly in matters related to marriage laws and the interpretation of the Indian Penal Code. It provides valuable insights into the complexities of marriage laws and the role of custom in determining the validity of a marriage.