News Details

Muslim can not keep two wives while in service


                        IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA
                        CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION
                        CIVIL APPEAL NO.1662  OF 2015
                  (ARISING OUT OF SLP (C) NO.5097 OF 2012)
                               J U D G M E N T
1.    Leave granted.
2.    This appeal has been preferred against final judgment and order  dated 1st March, 2011 of the  High  Court  of  Judicature  at  Allahabad  in  W.A. No.36738 of 2008.
3.       The question raised for consideration relates to validity of  order dated 17th June,  2008  removing  the  appellant  from  service  for  proved misconduct of contracting another marriage during  existence  of  the  first marriage without permission of the Government in violation of Rule 29(1)  of the U.P. Government Servant Conduct Rules,  1956  (for  short  "the  Conduct Rules") .
4.     The  appellant  was  employed  as  Irrigation  Supervisor,   Tubewell Division, Irrigation Department, Government of Uttar Pradesh and  posted  at IVth Sub Division, Hasanpur.  He was served with  a  charge  sheet  alleging that during existence of first marriage with Sabina Begum, he married  Anjum Begum and thereby  violated  Rule  29  of  the  Conduct  Rules  and  further alleging that he had given misleading information to  the  authorities  that he had given divorce to Sabina Begum. The appellant  denied  the  charge  by stating that the complaint made by Shagufta Parveen,  sister  of  his  first wife was due to her personal enmity.  He had duly divorced his  first  wife, before performing the second marriage.  However, he had made a statement  to
the contrary in enquiry proceedings initiated by the National  Human  Rights Commission due to fear of the police.  It was only a mistake that  he  could
not get the name of his first wife corrected in the service  book.    It  is on record that before the charge sheet, on a complaint by the sister of  the first wife of the  appellant,  the  National  Human  Rights  Commission  had issued notice to the appellant dated 27th October,  2006  and  conducted  an inquiry  through  the  Superintendent  of  Police,  District  Moradabad  who submitted a report to the effect that the appellant had in fact performed  a second marriage without the  first  marriage  having  been  dissolved.   The S.S.P., Moradabad also wrote to the department  for  taking  action  as  per rules.  It is on that basis that the department appears  to  have  initiated action.  In disciplinary proceedings, an inquiry officer was  appointed  who gave a  report  that  the  charge  was  fully  proved.   The  appellant  was furnished a copy of inquiry report and given an opportunity  to  respond  to the same vide  letter  dated  21st  January,  2008.   His  reply  being  not satisfactory, the disciplinary authority imposed the punishment of removal on 17th June, 2008.
5.    Aggrieved by the order of removal from service,  the  appellant  filed the W.A. No.36738 of 2008.  He impleaded his first wife as  respondent  No.5 and her sister as respondent No.4 to the writ petition.  He  also  filed  an affidavit of his first wife that the divorce had in fact  been  taken  place in the year 1999 before his second marriage in the year 2005.  However,  the first wife-respondent No.5 filed a counter affidavit denying that  a  divorce  had taken place as claimed by the appellant.  She relied upon the  statement  of the appellant  on  3rd  December,  2006  before  the  S.S.P.,  Moradabad  in pursuance of order of the National Human Rights  Commission  to  the  effect that both the wives were living with him comfortably.   She  further  stated
that on legal advice, the appellant took her signatures on blank papers  and manipulated the affidavit which was relied  upon  in  support  of  the  writ petition.
6.    The High Court after considering the submissions, dismissed  the  writ petition.  It was held :
"In view of above, this Court has  no  reason  to  believe  the  defence  of
petitioner  which  has  already  been  disbelieved   by   the   departmental
authorities and they have found petitioner  guilty.   It  is  admitted  that
petitioner never informed the department about divorce  of  the  first  wife
she was nominated and also did not inform anything  about  second  marriage.
The petitioner, in my view, has rightly been held guilty of  charge  leveled
against him.  Finding of bigamy recorded by authorities concerned are  based
on petitioner's own admission and explanation  and  having  not  been  shown
perverse or contrary to record, I find no  reason  to  interfere  with  such
finding of fact."
7.    In this appeal, apart from challenging the finding  of  fact  recorded by the disciplinary authority and upheld by the High  Court,  the  appellant has raised the question of validity of the impugned Conduct Rules  as  being violative of Article 25 of the Constitution.
8.    We have heard learned counsel for the parties.
9.    As regard the charge of misconduct in  question,  it  is  patent  that there is no material on record to  show  that  the  appellant  divorced  his first wife before the second marriage or he informed  the  Government  about contracting the second marriage.  In absence thereof the second marriage  is a misconduct under the Conduct Rules.  The defence  of  the  appellant  that his first  marriage  had  come  to  an  end  has  been  disbelieved  by  the disciplinary authority and the High Court.   Learned counsel for  the  State has pointed out  that  not  only  the  appellant  admitted  that  his  first marriage was continuing when he performed second  marriage,  first  wife  of
the appellant herself appeared as a witness during the  inquiry  proceedings and stated that the first marriage was never dissolved.  On that basis,  the High Court was justified in holding that the finding  of  proved  misconduct did not call for any interference.   Learned  counsel  for  the  State  also submits that the validity of the  impugned  Conduct  Rule  is  not  open  to question on the ground that it violated Article 25 of  the  Constitution  in view of the law laid down by  this  court  in  Sarla  Mudgal  vs.  Union  of India[1].  He further  submitted  that  the  High  Court  was  justified  in
holding that the punishment of removal could not be held  to  be shockingly disproportionate to the charge and did not call for any interference.
10.   We have given due consideration to the rival submissions.  We  are  of the view that no interference is called for by this Court in the matter.
11.   As already mentioned above, there is adequate material  on  record  in support of the  charge  against  the  appellant  that  he  performed  second marriage during the currency of the first marriage.   Admittedly,  there  is no intimation in any form on record that  the  appellant  had  divorced  his first wife.  In service record she continued to be mentioned as the wife  of the appellant.  Moreover, she has given a statement in  inquiry  proceedings that she continued  to  be  wife  of  the  appellant.   The  appellant  also admitted in inquiry conducted on directions of the Human  Rights  Commission
that his first marriage had continued.  In these circumstances, the  finding of violation of Conduct Rules cannot be held to be perverse or  unreasonable so as to call for interference by this Court. In  these  circumstances,  the High Court was justified in holding that the penalty of  removal  cannot  be held  to  be  shockingly disproportionate  to  the  charge  on  established judicial parameters.
12.   Only question which remains to be considered is whether  the  impugned Conduct Rule could be held to be violative of Article 25 of the Constitution.
13.   The matter is no longer res integra.
14.   In Javed vs. State of Haryana[2], this Court dealt with the  issue  in question and  held  that  what  was  protected  under  Article  25  was  the religious faith and not a practice which may run counter  to  public  order, health or  morality.   Polygamy  was  not  integral  part  of  religion  and monogamy was a reform within the power of the State under Article 25.   This Court upheld the views of the Bombay, Gujarat and Allahabad High  Courts  to this effect.  This Court also upheld the view of the  Allahabad  High  Court upholding such a conduct rule.  It was observed  that  a  practice  did  not acquire sanction of religion  simply  because  it  was  permitted.   Such  a practice could be regulated by law without violating     Article  25.   This
Court observed :
"49. In State of Bombay  v.  Narasu  Appa  Mali  [AIR  (1952)  Bom  84]  the
constitutional  validity  of  the  Bombay  Prevention  of   Hindu   Bigamous
Marriages Act (25 of 1946) was challenged on  the  ground  of  violation  of
Articles 14, 15 and 25 of the Constitution. A Division Bench, consisting  of
Chief Justice Chagla and Justice Gajendragadkar (as His Lordship then  was),
held: (AIR p. 86, para 5)
"[A] sharp distinction must be drawn between religious faith and belief  and
religious practices. What the State protects is religious faith and  belief.
If religious practices run counter to public order, morality or health or  a
policy of social welfare  upon  which  the  State  has  embarked,  then  the
religious practices must give way before the  good  of  the  people  of  the
State as a whole."
50. Their Lordships quoted from American decisions that the  laws  are  made for the governance of actions, and while they  cannot  interfere  with  mere religious beliefs and opinions, they may  with  practices.  Their  Lordships found it difficult to accept the proposition that polygamy  is  an  integral part of Hindu religion though Hindu religion recognizes the necessity  of  a son for religious efficacy and spiritual salvation. However,  proceeding  on an assumption that polygamy is a recognized institution according  to  Hindu religious practice, Their Lordships stated in no uncertain  terms:  (AIR  p.
86, para 7)
"[The right of the State to legislate  on  questions  relating  to  marriage
cannot  be  disputed.  Marriage  is  undoubtedly  a  social  institution  an
institution in which the State is vitally  interested.  Although  there  may
not be universal recognition of the fact,  still  a  very  large  volume  of
opinion in the world today admits that monogamy  is  a  very  desirable  and
praiseworthy institution. If, therefore, the State of Bombay compels  Hindus
to become monogamists, it is a measure of social reform,  and  if  it  is  a
measure of social reform then the  State  is  empowered  to  legislate  with
regard to social reform under  Article  25(2)(b)  notwithstanding  the  fact
that it may interfere with  the  right  of  a  citizen  freely  to  profess,
practise and propagate religion."
51. What constitutes social reform? Is it for the legislature to decide  the same? Their  Lordships  held  in  Narasu  Appa  Mali  case   that  the  will expression by the legislature, constituted by the chosen  representatives  of the people in a democracy, who  are  supposed  to  be  responsible  for  the welfare of the State, is the will of the people and if  they  lay  down  the policy which a State should pursue such  as  when  the  legislature  in  its wisdom has come to [pic]the conclusion that monogamy tends  to  the  welfare of the State, then it is not for the courts of law to sit in  judgment  upon
that decision. Such legislation does not contravene  Article  25(1)  of  the Constitution.
52. We find ourselves in entire agreement with the  view  so  taken  by  the learned Judges whose eminence as jurists concerned with social  welfare  and social justice is recognized without any demur. Divorce, unknown to  ancient Hindu law, rather considered abominable to Hindu religious belief, has  been statutorily provided for Hindus and the Hindu marriage which was  considered indissoluble is now capable of being dissolved or annulled by  a  decree  of divorce or annulment. The reasoning adopted by the High Court of Bombay,  in our opinion, applies fully to repel the contention of the  petitioners  even when we are examining the case from the point of  view  of  Muslim  personal law.
53. The Division Bench of the Bombay High Court in Narasu  Appa  Mali   also had an occasion to examine the validity  of  the  legislation  when  it  was sought to be implemented not in  one  go,  but  gradually.  Their  Lordships held: (AIR p. 87, para 10)
"... Article 14 does not lay down that any legislation that  the  State  may
embark upon must necessarily be of an  all-embracing  character.  The  State
may rightly decide to bring about social reform by  stages  and  the  stages
may be territorial or they may be communitywise."
54. Rule 21 of the Central Civil Services (Conduct)  Rules,  1964  restrains any government  servant  having  a  living  spouse  from  entering  into  or contracting a marriage with any person. A similar provision is to  be  found in several service rules framed by  the  States  governing  the  conduct  of their civil servants. No decided case of this Court has been brought to  our notice wherein the constitutional validity of such provisions may have  been put in issue on the ground  of  violating  the  freedom  of  religion  under Article 25 or the freedom of personal life and  liberty  under  Article  21. Such a challenge was never laid before this Court apparently because of  its
futility. However, a few decisions by the High Courts may be noticed.
55. In Badruddin v. Aisha Begum [(1957)  All  LJ  300]  the  Allahabad  High Court ruled that though the personal law  of  Muslims  permitted  having  as many as four wives but it could not be said that having more than  one  wife is a part of religion. Neither is it made obligatory by religion nor  is  it a matter of freedom of conscience. Any law in favour of  monogamy  does  not interfere with the right to profess, practise  and  propagate  religion  and does not involve any violation of Article 25 of the Constitution.
56. In R.A. Pathan v. Director of Technical  Education  [(1981)  22  Guj  LR 289] having analysed in depth the tenets of Muslim personal  law  and  their base in religion, a Division Bench of the Gujarat High  Court  held  that  a religious practice ordinarily connotes  a  mandate  which  a  faithful  must carry out. What is permissive under the scripture cannot be equated  with  a mandate which may [pic]amount to a religious practice. Therefore,  there  is nothing in the extract of the Quaranic text (cited before  the  Court)  that contracting plural marriages is  a  matter  of  religious  practice  amongst Muslims.  A  bigamous  marriage  amongst  Muslims  is  neither  a  religious
practice nor a religious belief and certainly not a religious injunction  or mandate. The question of  attracting  Articles  15(1),  25(1)  or  26(b)  to protect a bigamous marriage and in the name of religion does not arise.
57. In Ram Prasad Seth v. State of U.P. [AIR  (1957)  All  411]   a  learned Single Judge held that the act of performing a second  marriage  during  the lifetime of one's wife cannot be regarded  as  an  integral  part  of  Hindu religion  nor  could  it  be  regarded  as  practising  or   professing   or propagating Hindu religion. Even if bigamy be regarded as an  integral  part of Hindu religion, Rule 27 of the U.P. Government  Servants'  Conduct  Rules requiring permission of the  Government  before  contracting  such  marriage must be held to come  under  the  protection  of  Article  25(2)(b)  of  the Constitution.
58. The law has been correctly stated  by  the  High  Courts  of  Allahabad,
Bombay and Gujarat, in  the  cases  cited  hereinabove  and  we  record  our
respectful approval thereof. The principles stated  therein  are  applicable
to all religions practised  by  whichever  religious  groups  and  sects  in
59.  In  our  view,  a  statutory  provision  casting  disqualification   on
contesting for, or holding, an elective office is not violative  of  Article
25 of the Constitution.
60.. ..........It  may  be  permissible  for  Muslims  to  enter  into  four
marriages with four women and for anyone whether a Muslim  or  belonging  to
any other community or religion to procreate as many children  as  he  likes
but no religion in India dictates or mandates  as  an  obligation  to  enter
into bigamy or  polygamy  or  to  have  children  more  than  one.  What  is
permitted or not prohibited by  a  religion  does  not  become  a  religious
practice or a positive tenet of a religion. A practice does not acquire  the
sanction of religion simply because it is permitted. Assuming  the  practice
of having more wives than one or procreating more children  than  one  is  a
practice followed by any community or group  of  people,  the  same  can  be
regulated or prohibited by legislation in  the  interest  of  public  order,
morality and health or by any law providing for social  welfare  and  reform
which the impugned legislation clearly does."
15.   In view of the above, we are unable to hold that the Conduct  Rule  in
any manner violates Article 25 of the Constitution.
16.   As a result of the above, we do not find  any  merit  in  this  appeal
which is dismissed.  No costs.
                                                      (T.S. THAKUR)
                                                     (ADARSH KUMAR GOEL)
FEBRUARY 9, 2015
[1]    (1995) 3 SCC 635
[2]    (2003) 8 SCC 369