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Void Marriages Under Hindu Law

The term void means null and which ceases to be enforceable by law and the term marriage is considered one of the most important institutions of Hindus and in their social life it is occupying important place.

Hindu marriage’s context is religious and is considered as a part of the life of the soul. For a valid Hindu marriage certain essential conditions prescribed under Section 5 of Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 has to be fulfilled by the parties otherwise the contravention of the conditions can lead to void or voidable marriages.

Section 11 of Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 is dealing with the void marriages this Section says, any marriage solemnised after the commencement of this Act shall be null and void and may, on a petition presented by either party thereto [against the other party], be so declared by a decree of nullity if it contravenes any one of the conditions specified in clauses (i), (iv) and (v) of Section 5.[1]

A Hindu marriage will be considered as void ab initio i.e., void from the very beginning on the three grounds as laid down under Section 11 of Hindu Marriage Act, 1955:
  1. Bigamy:

    The term bigamy means the act of entering into a marriage with one person while still legally married to another [2]. When the condition of valid Hindu marriage as per Section 5(i) of Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 says that at the time of the marriage parties to the marriage should not have a spouse living. If this condition is violated then it will attract the Section 11 and Section 17 of Hindu Marriage Act, 1955.

    Section 11 of the Act would make the marriage void while the Section 17 of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 would make the marriage void and further make the offending party under Section 494 and under Section 495 of Indian Penal Code, 1860 liable for prosecution.

    Case:
    Smt. Yamunabai v. Anant Rao [3] in this particular case the Supreme Court observed that second wife is not a wife because second marriage is void-ab-initio and in void marriage wife cannot claim maintenance which is provided under Section 125 of CrPC (Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973).

    Case:
    Bhogadi Kannababu and Others v. Vaggina Pydamma [4] and others in this case the Court held that second marriage is void ab initio and the property cannot be inherited by the wife of second marriage and this ruling was also followed in the case of Swaminathan v Palaniammal & Others.[5]
  2. Degrees of Prohibited Relationship:

    The term degrees of prohibited relationship is defined under Section 3(g) of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 and for a valid Hindu marriage Section 5(iv) is prohibiting marriage between persons who are within the degrees of prohibited relationship with each other and violation of this condition will attract Section 11 and Section 18(b) of Hindu Marriage Act, 1955.

    Section 11 of Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 makes the marriage void within the degree of prohibited relationship and the contravention of Section 5(iv) of the Act makes it punishable under Section 18(b) of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 with simple imprisonment which may extent to one month or with fine which may extend to 1000 rupees or both.

    But Section 5(iv) of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 also says that if the custom or usage governing each of the parties to the marriage is allowing the marriage within the degrees of prohibited relationship then marriage will be considered as valid marriage.

    Case: Smt. Sakuntala Devi v. Amar Nath [6] in this case it was observed by the Court that if there is custom existing which is allowing marriage between the parties within the degree of prohibited relationship then the custom must fulfill the requirements of a valid custom and the existing custom must be reasonable it should not be against the public policy.
  3. Sapinda relationship:

    Section 5(v) of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 lays down essential condition that for a valid Hindu Marriage the parties are not sapindas of each other if the parties are sapindas of each other then it will attract Section 11 of Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 which makes the marriage void and the contravention of condition laid down under Section 5(v) will attract Section 18(b) of Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 which makes the parties punishable with simple imprisonment which may extent to one month or with fine which may extend to 1000 rupees or both.

But Section 5(v) of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 also says that if the custom or usage governing each of the parties to the marriage is allowing the marriage between the sapinda relationship then that marriage will be valid and binding.

Conclusion:
Void marriage is void since its inception and when the marriage is regarded as void it is considered that it has never having taken place and if the conditions specified in clauses (i), (iv) and (v) of Section 5 of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 is contravened then it attracts Section 11 of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 which makes the marriage void from its inception and the rights and obligations which arise from lawful marriage such no rights and obligation is created in void marriages.

End-Notes:
  1. The Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 (25 of 1955, Universal Bare Act with Short Notes 2020)
  2. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/bigamy
  3. AIR 1988 SC 644.
  4. AIR 2006 SC 2403.
  5. AIR 2009 NOC 221 Mad.
  6. AIR 1982 P & H 22.

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