Maintenance to second wife if man lied about first wedding: SC

Marrying second time by hiding existence of first wedlock is illegal but the second wife is to be treated as the “legally wedded wife” for the purpose of getting maintenance from her husband under Hindu Marriage Act, the apex court has ruled.

A bench of Justices Ranjana Prakash Desai and A K Sikri said the apex court’s earlier judgement denying maintenance to the second wife would not apply to those cases where a man marriages the second time by keeping the woman in the dark about the first surviving marriage.

“If this interpretation is not accepted, it would amount to giving a premium to the husband for defrauding the wife. Therefore, at least for the purpose of claiming maintenance under Section 125 of CrPC (maintenance), such a woman is to be treated as the legally wedded wife,” the bench said.

The apex court said if the law is not interpreted in this way, then it would amount to “giving a premium to the husband for defrauding the wife”.

“We are of the opinion that the judgements of this court in Adhav and Savitaben cases would apply only in those circumstances where a woman married a man with full knowledge of the first subsisting marriage,” the bench said.

“In such cases, she should know that second marriage with such a person is impermissible and there is an embargo under the Hindu Marriage Act,” the bench added.

“The judgement won’t apply to cases where a man marries the second time by keeping that woman in the dark about the first surviving marriage. That is the only way two sets of judgements can be reconciled and harmonised,” it said.

The court passed the order while dismissing an appeal filed by a man challenging a Bombay High Court verdict directing him to pay maintenance to his second wife whom he married by suppressing existence of his first marriage.

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