1. This is an appeal filed by the original complainant, the first wife, challenging the order of acquittal dated May 28, 1979 passed by the learned Judicial Magistrate, First Class, Baramati, acquitting both the respondents for having committed offences punishable under Section 494 read with Section 109 of the Indian Penal Code in Criminal Case No. 834 of 1976.
2. The appeal raises a question of considerable importance affecting a large section of the Indian Society, that is, members of the Scheduled Castes who have chosen to convert themselves into the Buddhist faith. It involves a question of recognition in law of the customary form of marriage different from the form of marriage generally recognised under the Hindu Law.
2-A. Since this appeal involves recognition of a different form of marriage widely followed and recognised amongst the members of the Buddhist community (converted from Scheduled Castes), it is necessary to refer to the averments in the complaint of the complainant as to what form of marriage is followed in their community to which parties admittedly belong to. The complainant in her complaint, Exh. 1, filed in the court of the learned Judicial Magistrate, First Class, Baramati, on July 22, 1976, states as follows :--
'The complainant and the accused belong to Buddhist religion. Amongst their community belonging to Buddhist religion, the form of marriage is as follows :--
The bride and the bridegroom after taking their bath and after wearing new clothes are brought to the marriage hall. In the marriage hall the photographs of Lord Buddha and Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar are placed on a chair and those photographs are worshipped and garlanded by them. Thereafter, both the bride and bridegroom stand with folded hands before these two photographs and after respectfully bowing to these photographs recite the following:--
^^cqe 'kj.ke xPNkfe
/kEee 'kja.kea xPNkfe] la/ke 'kj.ke xPNkfe-**
Thereafter, sacred ceremonial mantras, i.e.
are recited. The brideand bridegroom garland each other and take oath to the effect that as wife and husband they will henceforth conduct towards each other happily; that they shall conduct their family relations with happiness. After this oath is taken, the people who are present in the marriage hall shower flowers on the bride and bridegroom and thereafter the betel leaves and betel nuts are distributed amongst the guests and the band is played.'
3. In para 2 of the complaint, complainant has stated that, according to this custom and rites of their caste and religion, she was married with accused No. 1 at Baramati on August 18, 1971, All the rites and ceremonies were performed at the time of her marriage with accused No. 1 and thereafter the complainant went to the residence of her husband at Kambleshwar and continued to stay there as his legally wedded wife. Accused No. 1 treated the complainant in a normal way for a few months. However, after 3 or 4 months accused No. 1 started harassing, torturing and beating the complainant. He used to leave the complainant at her parent's house for no reason and even began to suspect her fidelity. Accused No. 1 gave notice dated June 14, 1973 through one advocate Shri R.K. Patil. This notice was false and mischievous inasmuch as it was stated in the notice that as per custom a divorce had taken place between the complainant and accused No. 1. In fact, there was no such customary divorce recognised in the community nor has such a divorce taken place between the complainant and accused No. 1. By reply dated 20, 1973 (sic) through her Advocate Shri A.R. Pise, the complainant refuted the allegations in the notice under reply. As a result of this notice, accused No. 1 managed to persuade the complainant and again took her to his house. However, after a couple of months accused No. 1 sent the complainant to her parents' house again and gave a public notice through his advocate Shri A.S. Lalgunkar in the Marathi daily known as 'Vishal Sahyadri' on March 18, 1976 stating therein that accused No. 1 had given a customary divorce to the complainant. The complainant further averred in her complaint that marital relationship as husband and wife between accused No. 1 and herself at no point of time was terminated in this manner by such a public notice, As there was no divorce between the complainant and accused No. 1, the relationship between them as husband and wife continued. The complainant thereafter through her advocate Shri G. T, Godbole issued a notice dated January 20, 1976 to accused No. 1 demanding maintenance as he neglected and refused to maintain her.
4. The complainant further stated in the said complaint that while her marriage with accused No. 1 was subsisting, he again married with accused No. 2. Accused No. 2 was related to accused No. 1 and she knew that the marriage with accused No. 1 and the complainant was subsisting on the date of the second marriage. However, both these accused Nos. 1 and 2 in spite of the subsisting marriage between the complainant and accused No. 1, got married on July 30, 1976 at Kambleshwar. The complainant has further stated in her complaint that she had heard that accused No. 1 was going to marry accused No. 2 and, therefore she had issued a notice dated July 10, 1976 to accused No. 1 asking him not to marry with accused No. 2. However, that notice was returned as 'refused' and is part of the record in this case.
5. At the end of the complaint, the complainant has cited a number of witnesses including three advocates and three other witnesses i.e. her father P.W. 2 Anandrao Raghunath Sonawane, P.W. 3 Mohan Shankar Ahiwale and P.W. 4 Tukaram Dashrath Jagtap. In the complaint, the complainant therefore prayed that accused Nos. 1 and 2 having committed offences punishable under Section 434 read with Section 109 of the Indian Penal Code be dealt with according to law.
6. The learned trial Magistrate framed charges against both the accused on February 7, 1979 for having committed offences punishable under Section 484 read with Section 109 of the Indian Penal Code. To these charges both the accused pleaded not guilty and from the examination under Section 313 of the Code Of Criminal Procedure, 1973 it would appear that they abjured their guilt altogether and their defence is one of total denial.
7. In the trial Court the complainant examined herself in support of the complaint. Apart from producing two documents, i.e. the wedding invitation card and the marriage extract from the Gram Panchayat. Kambleshwar, Taluka Baramati. District Pune regarding the marriage of accused No. 1 with accused No. 2, she also examined her father, P.W. 2 Anandrao Raghunath Sonawane, P, W. 3 Mohan Shankar Ahiwale, and P.W. 4 Tukaram Dashrath Jagtap. The certificate issued by the Sarpanch of the Gram Panchayat at Kambleshwar. Taluka Baramati, District Pune is 'to the effect that,
'Shri Jayant Mahadeo Jagtap, resident of Kambleshwar, has married one Hemlata daughter of Jayant Sitaram Thorat, One Manik Bhiva Kumbhar has given this information.'
8. The testimony of the complainantBaby is in terms of her complaint filedby her in the trial Court, According toher evidence, she had married accusedNo. 1 according to Buddhist customaryform of marriage as well as accordingto Buddhist rites and religion, Sinceboth she and accused No. 1 belongedto the Buddhist caste and religion inher deposition she stated the customaryform of marriage amongst the Buddhistcommunity and she further stated thata pandal (wedding hall) is erected andphotographs of Lord Buddha and Dr.Babasaheb Ambedkar were placed on achair. These photographs are worshiped and thereafter oath is taken by thebridal couple by reciting,
^^cqe 'kj.ke xPNkfe
/kEee 'kja.kea xPNkfe] la/ke 'kj.ke xPNkfe-**
Tkkcns.kkj iksVxh nsr ukgh ok eyk ukanor ukgh Eg.kwu eh gh [kksVh dsl dsyh vkgs] gsEg.k.ks [k+js ukgh
In other words, the suggestion is that a false case was filed against accused No. 1 by the first wife as accused No. 1 was not giving any maintenance to the complainant nor taking her to the matrimonial home of her husband. At this stage, it may be pertinent to remember that, this suggestion is of considerable importance inasmuch as implicit in the suggestion is the admission of accused No. 1 that even on the date of cross-examination, the first marriage with the complainant was subsisting and therefore his entire case that he had given a customary divorce to the complainant is devoid of any merit or substance whatsoever. This evidence was sufficient for the learned trial Magistrate to come to the conclusion that the marriage between the complainant and accused No. 1 was subsisting on the date of the second marriage.
9. Petitioner complainant has also examined her father, P.W. No. 1 Anandrao Raghunath Sonawane, who has given evidence regarding the nature and the form and ceremonies of a Buddhist marriage when accused No. 1 got married to his daughter, the complainant. He has also stated that about seven years prior to giving of evidence, the marriage between his daughter, the complainant, and accused No. 1 was solemnized at Baramati as per Buddhist rites and religion. He has described the ceremonies by saving that, 'We put the photographs of Lord Buddha and Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar on a chair and we garland the photographs and then utter the words,
^^cqe 'kj.ke xPNkfe
/kEee 'kja.kea xPNkfe] la/ke 'kj.ke xPNkfe-**
After describing briefly this form of marriage, he narrates the history of his daughter having gone to the matrimonial home of her husband accused No. 1 and as to how she was tortured and harassed by him. He also speaks of exchange of notices between accused No. 1 and his daughter regarding the so-called alleged customary divorce given by accused No. 1. He also speaks of printing of wedding cards of the marriage of his daughter with accused No. 1. He says that he was the one who had gone to Kambleshwar and had brought the extract of the legislation of the marriage of accused No. 1 with accused No, 2 from the Gram Panchavat at Kambleshwar referred to above.
10. It is true that this witness, the father of the complainant, was not present at the time of the second marriage of accused No. 1 with accused No. 2 and his evidence would be of no assistance to prove that in fact the second marriage had taken place. His evidence is however important to a certain extent as he speaks of the customary form of marriage and ceremonies which are normally performed by persons converted to the Buddhist faith and, as referred to above, he has testified regarding the torture, harassment and beating of his daughter, accused No. 1 sending her back to his home and his having applied for and produced the extract of the second marriage from the Gram Panchayat Office at Kambleshwar regarding the marriage of accused No. 1 with accused No. 2. In the cross-examination of this witness it was suggested that the relations between accused No. 1 and himself were strained. He denied the suggestion that the invitation card of the second marriage was printed by him. It is also suggested that the witnesses who have deposed against accused Nos. 1 and 2 were related to him. The last suggestion was that he had filed this false complaint against accused No. 1 and accused No. 2 as accused No. 1 has not provided maintenance to his daughter. This suggestion is of course denied by the father but, as stated above, implicit in this suggestion is the fact that the marriage between accused No. I and the complainant was still subsisting even on the date of the cross-examination, i.e. much after the second marriage had taken place.
11. The appellant complainant has also examined P.W. 3 Mohan Shankar Ahiwale. This witness has deposed that he knew both the complainant and accused No. 1, that their marriage was performed 7 or 8 years ago and they were all Buddhists. He also speaks of the form of Buddhist marriages and repeats what was stated by the complainant and her father that the photographs of Lord Buddha and late Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar are kept on a chair, they garland them and then worship them. The three sentences referred to above are recited. The bridal couple garland each other and then take oath as per the Buddhist rites and ceremonies. He has stated further in his evidence that a pandal (wedding hall) was erected before the house of accused No. 1. People were gathered for witnessing the marriage. It was performed in his presence. He further stated that the second marriage was also performed according to Buddhist form of marriages. Accused No. 2 was also known to him and many people known to him were present at the time of the second marriage. Then, on the next day he informed the father of the complainant about the factum of the second marriage of accused No. 1 with accused No. 2. The last sentence in examination-in-chief of this witness is of immense importance in this case and it will be adverted to when we examine the finding of the trial Magistrate and in the original Marathi version it is to this effect:--
'The people of both sides are related to me.'
In other words, what he conveys is that both the complainant and the bridegroom were, related to him. In the cross-examination it is brought out that he had no invitation to attend this marriage. He was not able to say as to wherefrom the Buddhist priest and the band were brought. He also states that he has a house and agricultural land at Somantha and he had gone as a guest to Kambleshwar as he has relations there. He denied the suggestion that he has given false evidence at the instance of the father of the complainant. He also stated that even after the second marriage between accused Nos. 1 and 2, he continued his visits to Kambleshwar.
12. The appellant complainant also examined P.W. 4 Thukaram Dashrath Jagtap. He also stated that complainant and accused No. 1 were known to him and belonged to Buddhist caste. Accused No. 1 and complainant were married according to the Buddhist form of marriage, about 7/8 years ago. On the day of the second marriage, that is, on July 30, 1976 he had gone to Kambleshwar and he saw the wedding between accused Nos. 1 and 2 being performed according to Buddhist customary rites and ceremonies. He informed the father of the complainant on the next day about the second marriage of accused No. 1 with accused No. 2. Even after the second marriage of accused Nos. 1 and 2, he always used to go to Kambleshwar since his uncle lives there and he used to see that accused Nos. 1 and 2 were residing together as husband and wife at Kambleshwar. In the cross-examination he has stated that he was not advising people from the villages about court work. He admitted that complainant and her father Anandrao were related to him. Complainant's father was a cousin brother to him. He had seen the wedding between accused No. 1 and accused No. 2 being performed at Kambleshwar but he did not inquire as to from which place the band which played was brought over there. There were a number of people who were known to him present at the wedding. According to him, the Buddhist priest was from Pune. He gave a further admission that he had no summons from the Court to remain present in the Court to give evidence but he was asked by the father of the complainant to give evidence. He denied the suggestion that no marriage was performed between accused Nos. 1 and 2 and that he is giving false evidence at the instance of the father of the complainant.
13. All this evidence was scrutinised by the trial Magistrate. He did not accept the documentary evidence, that is the extract from the Register of Marriages from the Gram Panchayat at Kambleshwar and, in my opinion, rightly so since neither the informant Manik Bhiwa Kumbhar who gave the information was examined in the trial Court nor was the Sarpanch of the Gram Panchayat at Kambleshwar examined to explain on what basis he made an entry of the second marriage in the Register of Marriages of the Gram Panchayat at Kambleshwar. The learned trial Magistrate was also right in not relying upon the marriage invitation card produced by the father of the complainant. It is alleged that the said invitation card was printed in Phaltan in Shivashakti Press, which is only 14 miles away from Baramati and if that were so, it is not understood why the complainant could not examine the printer or owner of the Press. It was not difficult for the complainant to have the summons issued to the owner or the printer of the Shivashakti Press. Both the documents were not relied upon since they were not proved. As to whether they have any further relevance for deciding this appeal will be adverted to later on. The learned trial Magistrate further examined the oral evidence and came to the conclusion that these two witnesses P. W. 3 Mohan Shankar Ahiwale and P. W. 4 Tukaram Dashrath Jagtap were related to the complainant and that they were not invited for the marriage ceremony and as such they were got-up witnesses and. therefore their evidence could not be believed. He referred to certain authorities cited by the learned advocate for the accused, one of which is Gopal Lal v. State of Rajasthan reported in : 1979CriLJ652 and ultimately gave his finding. The finding is as follows:--
'But in the present case the parties are Buddhists and their marriages are performed according to their custom and since the ceremonies of marriage according to their custom are not proved the marriage cannot be said to be solemnized and in that case Section 494 of I. F. C. will not be attracted,'
Again, after relying upon certain observations in Kanwal Ram v. Himachal Pradesh Administration reported in : 1966CriLJ472 he further observed:
'Their Lordships held the same point of performing of ceremonies according to law and custom of the parties and there will be no effect even though on admission of the accused that he has married secondly unless and until ceremonies which are performed at the time of the second marriage are fully proved.' .
14. The learned trial Magistrate in effect held that parties were Buddhists and marriages are performed according to their customs and since the ceremonies of marriage according to their customs are not proved, the marriage cannot be said to be solemnized and in that case, Section 494 of the Indian Penal Code will not be attracted. The substratum of the judgment of the trial Magistrate is that because he did not accept the evidence adduced by the complainant, he could not hold that the marriage was performed according to the customary rites and ceremonies of marriage prevalent according to Buddhist caste and religion. The conclusion to which he reached therefore was that though he accepted that it was established by the prosecution that marriages are performed according to customary ceremonies among Buddhists, however, since the ceremonies of marriage according to their custom were not proved, it could not be said that the marriage between accused No. 1 and accused No. 2 was solemnized according to their custom.
15. It is those findings and conclusions which are assailed by the complainant's learned counsel Mrs. Aggarwal. Both Mrs. Aggarwal and Shri Kerkar, learned counsel appearing for accused No. 1, husband have taken me through the entire evidence on the record. The original Marathi depositions were also read minutely because the English rendering of this deposition does not reflect the Marathi depositions correctly and in many places, sentences are missing, for example, in the evidence of P.W. 3 Mohan Shankar Ahiwale, the last sentence in Marathi reads like this:
'That people on both sides (meaning thereby from, side of the complainant as well as accused) are related to me.'
That sentence is missing in the English rendering of the evidence of P.W. 3.
16. Mrs. Aggarwal has further submitted that if the depositions of all the lour witnesses together with the averments in the complaint are read very carefully, one thing which emerges and which is unchallenged by the defence is that the customary form of marriage which has been pleaded by the complainant in her complaint has been consistently followed in the community to which parties belong. The complainant and her father have deposed to such customary form of marriage in details. Even accused has not denied that he as well as the complainant and accused No. 2 belonged to Buddhist community or caste and religion (as they have chosen to describe themselves). It is also not in dispute that complainant, accused No. 1 and accused No. 2 had already converted themselves into Buddhist faith much prior to their marriages both in the year 1971 and in the year 1976 when the second marriage is allened to have taken place. The witnesses also deposed that they belonged to Buddhist community or caste and religion and all of them agree on one point, as contended by the learned counsel on both the sides, that they have been performing Buddhist ceremonies of marriages as distinct from Hindu marriages for past number of years. The learned counsel next contended that if the evidence of all these four witnesses is read together, it cannot be said that P.W. 3 Mohan Shankar Ahiwale and P.W. 4 Tukaram Dashrath Jagtan are in any sense partisan witnesses. The learned trial Magistrate has described them as got-up witnesses for wholly unjustifiable reasons. It is true that the learned trial Magistrate has misread the evidence of P.W. 3 Mohan Shankar Ahiwale. The last sentence in his examination-in-chief is of considerable importance inasmuch as he contends that he was related to both the sides and there is no cross-examination on this point. There was therefore, no reason why he should have deposed against the accused persons if both the parties were related to him. Nothing is brought out in the cross-examination as to why he should depose in such a manner against accused No. 1. He has denied the suggestion that he was giving false evidence at the instance of the father of the complainant but it is not suggested to him in the cross-examination as to why he was prompted to give false evidence against accused No. I. It may be observed that his place of residence where he owns a house and land is only a mile away from the place of marriage. He also gives reasons why he happened to be in that village on that day. He says that because he had relatives in the village, he had gone there and he has continued to visit that place even after the marriage. It is inexplicable as to why this witness cannot be said to be a credible and truthful witness. Whether he was invited for the wedding or not is of no consequence at all. A wedding in a village is not such a formal affair as a city wedding. It is also well known that in second marriages, no invitations are issued. If the witness visits a place of his relations which is only one mile away and comes to know that a wedding was being performed in the house of accused No. 1 who was related to him, there is nothing surprising in his waiting for a while and watching the marriage ceremony. But the fact that he is related to both sides, as stated above, is of some importance and I am unable to persuade myself to hold that this witness is a got-up witness. To call a witness who is related to both sides as a got-up witness is not only to misread the evidence, but in my opinion, to read into evidence something which is not there. The appreciation of evidence by the Magistrate is faulty and reflects complete non-application of mind.
17. An impression is created by the trial Magistrate that somehow he wanted to disbelieve this witness. This infirmity and non-application of mind in the appreciation of the evidence is equally applicable to his appreciation of the evidence of P.W. 4, Tukaram Dashrath Jagtap. This witness has also stated that both the accused are known to him, that they belong to Buddhist caste and religion, that earlier marriage between accused No. 1 and the complainant was performed according to Buddhist ceremonies though he admits in cross-examination that he is related as a cousin brother to complainant's father Anandrao. He also stated that he had known both the parties. If the evidence of this witness is also read very carefully, it only means that this witness also hails from the same village and had known both parties. He also deposed about the earlier marriage between accused No. 1 and complainant which was performed according to Buddhist rites and religion. He has further stated that even after the date of second marriage, he has visited Kambleshwar and he has been seeing accused No. 1 and accused No. 2 who were staying together after the marriage as husband and wife. Though he was subjected to cross-examination, in my opinion, he has given very natural evidence and has not tried to exaggerate things. He admitted that he did not know wherefrom the band and the Buddhist priest were brought for the purpose of the marriage ceremony. But he is asked certain questions in the cross-examination which go to establish that such a marriage ceremony had taken place. For example, he was asked in cross-examination the place where the marriage took place and he answered in cross-examination, 'Accused No. 1 got married to accused No. 2 in front of the house of accused No. 1.' He also gives the names of the people who had met him at the marriage ceremony. He also states that one Govindrao Thombare from Kambleshwar is his uncle and there is only a river flowing between the house of his uncle and of accused No. 1. On reading his evidence closely and examining it, it is still difficult to find how this evidence can be tainted as evidence of a got-up witness. Both the witnesses have not, as stated above, tried to exaggerate things at all. In fact, if we read the contents of the complaint very closely, it was possible for the complainant and these two witnesses to exaggerate the evidence or at least to bring the deposition in line with the contents of the complaint. For example, complainant has stated in the complaint that she knew that accused No. 1 was going to marry accused No. 2 and four days prior to the marriage she had sent a registered notice to accused No. 1 which was returned as 'refused'. This notice which is refused is part of the record. If the complainant wanted to exaggerate the evidence, she could have easily stated that because she knew that the marriage was going to take place, she had sent these witnesses to find out whether the marriage was performed or not.
18. However, having stated so in the complaint, neither the complainant nor her two witnesses deposed to this fact and therefore, I have no hesitation in accepting the evidence of the complainant and these two witnesses regarding the factum of the celebration of the marriage between accused Nos. 1 and 2 according to Buddhist customary form and caste or religion having taken place on July 30, 1976 while the first marriage between accused No. 1 and the complainant was still subsisting in the eye of law. As stated above, this was implicit in the suggestions put by the accused to complainant and her father that because accused No. 1 was not providing maintenance to the complainant, they had filed this false complaint against accused No. 1. The evidence of four witnesses is sufficient to sustain a finding regarding the factum of the second marriage having taken place on the date alleged by the complainant. However, since the prosecution has chosen to bring the documentary evidence on the record, the nature of that evidence must be examined. The learned trial Magistrate, as observed earlier, has not believed the two documents; one is the wedding invitation card of the wedding: between accused No. 1 and accused No. 2 which is alleged to have been printed at Shivashakti Press at Phaltan, which is 6 miles away from the place of marriage. The learned trial Magistrate was right in holding that the contents of this document were not proved by examining the owner of the Shivashakti Press or its printer. This evidence, by itself, would not advance the case of the complainant and I must make it clear that I am not taking into consideration either this document, the wedding invitation card, Exh. 12 or the other document which is the extract of the Register of Marriages from Gram Panchayat at Kambleshwar, Exh. 49. One Manik Bhiwa Kumbhar is alleged to have given the information of the second marriage to the Sarpanch of the Gram Panchayat at Kambleshwar and the extract was issued by the Gram Sevak. Though it is a public document and it can be proved by secondary evidence, the learned trial Magistrate attached no weight to that document and rightly so, in, my opinion, since the prosecution had not chosen to make it clear as to who this person was and what interest he had in giving this information to the Sarpanch of the Gram Panchayat at Kambleshwar. In any case, the prosecution has not given any evidence as to why neither of these witnesses were examined. I am therefore, not taking into consideration these two documents.
19. The question that falls for consideration is as to whether even without taking into consideration these two documents, the oral testimony is or is not sufficient to prove the actual ceremonies which were performed according to Buddhist customary form of marriages. As stated above in the complaint, the complainant has elaborately stated what these customary ceremonies of Buddhist marriages are. The father of the complainant Anandrao has also corroborated his daughter by stating what these customary ceremonies are. The other two witnesses have also deposed to the same ceremonies and it is also not disputed before me by accused that these are not the ceremonies of marriage which are performed amongst the Buddhist community. The learned trial Magistrate has referred to some of the decisions of the Supreme Court and the most important, in my opinion, which has some bearing on the facts of this case is Gopal Lal v. State of Raiasthan reported in : 1979CriLJ652 . After referring to the case of Bhaurao v. State of Maharashtra reported in : 1965CriLJ544 , Fazal Ali, J. who spoke for the Court, observed as follows (at p. 1565):--
'Section 17 provides that any marriage between two Hindus solemnized after the commencement of the Act is void if at the date of such marriage either party had a husband or wife living and that the provisions of Sections 494 and 495 I.P.C. shall apply accordingly. The marriage between two Hindus is void in view of Section 17 if two conditions are satisfied: (i) the marriage is solemnized after the commencement of the Act; (ii) at the date of such marriage, either party had a spouse living. If the marriage which took place between the appellant and Kamlabai in February 1962 cannot be said to be 'solemnized', that marriage will not be void by virtue of Section 17 of the Act and Section 494, I.P.C. will not apply to such parties to the marriage as had a spouse living.'
The word 'solemnize' means in connection with a marriage, 'to celebrate the marriage with proper ceremonies and in due form', according to the Shorter Oxford Dictionary. It follows, therefore, that unless the marriage is 'celebrated or performed with proper ceremonies and in due form' it cannot be said to be 'solemnized'. It is therefore essential, for the purpose of Section 17 of the Act that the marriage to which Section 494 I.P.C. applies should have been celebrated with proper ceremonies and in due form'.
19A. Before we proceed further, it is important to remember that both the parties belonged to Buddhist community and are covered under Section 2 of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955. Section 2 of the said Act in terms states that 'the Act is made applicable to any person who are Hindus. Buddhists. Jains or Sikhs by religion.' It applies not only to Hindus but also to persons who profess Jain, Sikh or Buddhist religion. The persons who profess any of these religions are governed by the wide provisions of Section 2 of this Act. As stated above, it cannot be doubted in the facts and circumstances of this case that complainant and accused Nos. 1 and 2 have been Buddhists even prior to the date of the marriage. It is nobody's case that they have converted themselves to Buddhism after their marriage. In fact no arguments have been advanced in the lower court as well as in this court that the marriage in question was not performed according to the provisions of Section 7(2) of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955. Section 7 of the Hindu Marriage Act lays down as follows :--
'Section 7(1) A Hindu marriage may be solemnized in accordance with the customary rites and ceremonies of either party thereto.
(2) Where such rites and ceremonies include the 'Saptapadi' (that is, the taking of seven steps by the bridegroom and the bride jointly before the sacred fire), the marriage becomes complete and binding when the seventh step is taken.'
According to the provisions of Sub-section (1) of Section 7 of the Act, any marriage, and a Hindu marriage will also include a Buddhist marriage, which may be celebrated according to customary rites and ceremonies. If these rites, custom and ceremonies include performance of 'Saptapadi' or 'Laja Homa', then the provisions of Sub-section (2) of Section 7 of the Act would be attracted. The learned counsel for the accused has not argued and could not argue that ceremonies of marriage according to Buddhist community, caste and religion included performance of 'Saptapadi' and 'Laja Homa, and therefore, in absence of performance of these ceremonies, the marriage cannot be said to have been properly solemnized. That has not been the case either in the trial court or in this court.
20. The only question therefore that has to be considered is whether the necessary customary ceremonies were performed which were required to be performed by people belonging to Buddhist religion. At this stage, it may be necessary to refer to the observations of His Lordship Fazal Ali, J. in the case of Gopal Lal v. State of Raiasthan reported in : 1979CriLJ652 (supra), where the facts were similar to the facts of the present case, inasmuch as the parties belonged to Teli community and were governed by custom and the essential ceremonies of the marriage were according to custom (1) that the husband should take a pitcher full of water from the head of the prospective wife; (2) that the wife should wear chura by the husband. It was not argued in that case that customary rites and ceremonies included 'Saptapadi' and 'Lajja Homa.' In the facts of that case it was held that the second marriage between accused Gopal Lal and his second wife Kamlabai was a valid marriage according to the custom prevalent in the Teli community and that this being so, the validity of the first marriage not being disputed. Section 494 I.P.C. applied and the appellant in that case was held to have committed bigamy as contemplated under Section 494 I.P.C. In this case also it is not disputed that the parties belong to Buddhist community or caste or religion. According to the evidence on record all the witnesses have deposed and the complainant had pleaded in her complaint and has also elaborately deposed as to what are the ceremonies of marriage which are to be performed by the people belonging to Buddhist community or caste or religion. I have already stated that I cannot persuade myself to accept the reasons given by the learned trial Magistrate for discarding the evidence of the two witnesses, P.W. 3 Mohan Shankar and P.W. 4 Tukaram Dashrath Jagtap. I have also observed earlier that this is a case not only of misreading the evidence but also one reflecting non-application of mind by the learned trial Magistrate. If all the evidence on the record excluding two documents is accepted, then the test applied by Fazal Ali, J. in another case, that is, in Lingari Obulamma v. Venkata Reddy reported in : 1979CriLJ849 could be applied to this case. Further, for proving an offence punishable under Section 494 of the Indian Penal Code, the learned Judge laid down that the following ingredients must be proved:-
(i) that the complainant had been married to the accused;
(ii) that the accused contracted a second marriage while the first marriage was still subsisting:
(iii) that both the marriages were valid and strictly according to law governing the parties.
21. There can be no doubt that in the facts of this case, as observed earlier, the first marriage of the complainant with accused No. 1 was performed according to customary ceremonies prevailing in their community, that the marriage was subsisting on the date of the second marriage and the second marriage was also valid and strictly according to the customary ceremonies of marriage recognized amongst this community.
22. The next question which arises for consideration is whether these customary ceremonies and rites referred to by the parties can be said to have the force of law. If it is established that there is a different custom which admits any different form of marriage, then such different rites and ceremonies will have to be established by the complainant before she can claim that her spouse is guilty of the offence under Section 494 of the Indian Penal Code. As I have observed earlier, the complainant and her witnesses have established beyond doubt that this form of ceremonies of marriage is different and is recognized by custom in this particular community to which she belongs. 'Custom' has been denned in Section 3(a) of the Hindu Marriage Act which is as follows:--
'The expressions 'custom' and 'usage' signify any rule which, having been continuously and uniformly observed for a lone time, has obtained the force of law among Hindus in any local area, tribe, community, group or family:
Provided that the rule is certain and not unreasonable or opposed to public policy: and
Provided further that in the case of a rule applicable only to a family a has not been discontinued by the family.'
In other words, in order that the rites and ceremonies of marriage could be regarded as customary, they must stand the test of time and force of law without discontinuance at any want of time. It is also observed in Hindu Law by Mulla in Section 437 as follows:--
'If the community to which the parties belong has modified by long established usage the ceremonies prescribed by the Shastras and has adopted new forms and new conventions, they must be recognised by the courts. But the essential requisite for recognition of such a custom is that it must be sufficiently ancient and definite, and the members of the caste or sub-caste or family must recognise it as obligatory. It should not be left to the will of the caste or sub-caste to alter it at their will and pleasure, for the essence of custom or usage is that it is an ancient one recognised and adopted by the caste and has certainty about it. The validity of a marriage has to be tested and determined in accordance with the provisions of the law governing the parties and not in accordance with the rules laid down by any association or a society. If the caste has been able to establish its usage regulating the form and the requisites of a valid marriage, such a usage being transcendant law is obligatory and it is binding not only upon the parties but also on the Courts who are bound to recognise and give effect to the usage.'
23. In this case, as has been observed in the earlier part of the judgment, that the complainant and her witnesses have clearly established the custom and ceremonies of a marriage adopted in the community to which the parties belong. The learned counsel appearing for accused No. 1, Shri Kerkar, has contended that the rites and ceremonies adopted by this community cannot be described to be ancient and therefore, customary. It is true that persons belonging to Buddhist community were converted to the Buddhist faith from the Scheduled Caste community (that is, from Mahar community in this case) sometime in the year 1956, but this court can take a judicial notice that during the last 25 years a different form of marriage has been devised and adopted by these Buddhists or those who were converted from the scheduled caste to Buddhist faith at least in this part of the country. This different form of marriage is not only adopted but has been recognised as of a valid marriage amongst these people Thousands of marriages are solemnizec in this new form and according to these customary rites and ceremonies of marriage. It is not the case of either of the parties that any other rites or ceremonies of marriage are performed amongst people belonging to this community. No argument is advanced before this court that 'Saptapadi' and 'Lajja Homa' were ever part of their marriage rites and ceremonies in the community, to which the parties belong. As 'Saptapadi' and 'Laja Homa' were not parts of the rites and ceremonies of the marriage, the only question is whether the ceremonies which have been proved by evidence on record in this case are the rites and ceremonies according to custom of either or both the parties. As observed earlier, there is no dispute that these rites and ceremonies are the only ones adopted and followed uniformly amongst the members of this community for more than last 25 years. The refusal to recognise the solemnization of such ceremonies of marriage as a valid and legal marriage will visit these people with untold miseries of grave social consequences. It is true as observed by Mulla in section 437 in his book on Hindu Law that, 'in order that the rites and ceremonies of marriage could be regarded as customary, they must stand the test of time and force of law without discontinuance at any point of time.' These tests have been established by cogent evidence in this case. However, over the last 25 years several forms of marriages aimed at simplicity and economy have been adopted by different sects of Hindus. As indicated above, according to Section 2 of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, 'Hindu' includes persons converted to Buddhism and since the customary rites and ceremonies amongst this community have been what the witnesses have described them to be, it is not possible for this court to put the validity of these forms of marriages in the strait-jacket either of 'Saptapadi' and 'Lajja Homa' or of this custom not being ancient within the meaning of Section 7(2) read with Section 3(a) of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955.
24. The Supreme Court in several cases, that is, Bhaurao Lokhande v. State of Maharashtra, : 1965CriLJ544 ; Kanwal Ram v. Himachal Pradesh Administration, : 1966CriLJ472 and Priya Bala Ghosh v. S.C. Ghosh, AIR 1971 SC 1153, emphasized the need of strict proof that the marriage has been solemnized in accordance with the customary rites and ceremonies of the parties in order to constitute a valid legal marriage. It was also held that these marriages were not valid according to the law applicable to the parties. All these decisions emphasized the principle that in a prosecution for bigamy, the second marriage has to be proved as a fact and it must also be proved that the necessary ceremonies and rites had been performed. In a bigamy case, second marriage as a fact, that is to say, the rites and ceremonies constituting it must be proved. As stated earlier, it has not been argued by the counsel for the accused that 'Saptaoadi' and 'Lajja Homa' are the essential rites for a marriage according to law governing the parties and, therefore, the fact that these two essential ceremonies are not performed is not relevant at all. As observed earlier, the complainant's case has been that the second as well as the first marriage has been solemnized in accordance with the customary rites and ceremonies of the parties, that is, of Buddhist community.
25. The question that has to be answered in this case is whether these rites and ceremonies which have been consistently followed for more than 25 years amongst this community and have been uniformly observed and have not suffered any discontinuance at any point of time can be said to be the customary rites and ceremonies for solemnization of a valid legal marriage amongst the members of the Buddhistcommunity.
26. It is not possible for this Court to hold that, in spite of consistent and uniform observance of ceremonies of marriage as deposed to by the witnesses in this case and such rites and ceremonies not having suffered any discontinuance at any point of time are not entitled to be recognised as customary rites and ceremonies recognized amongst this community. It is also not possible to hold that the marriage in question though solemnized with the intention of entering into a solemn matrimony is likely to suffer from severe consequences affecting the marital status of the couple as welt as the legitimacy and the course of succession of their children because there was no invocation before fire or 'Saptapaadi' was not performed. If a different and new form or variation in the ceremonies and rites of marriage are adopted by a particular community, the law has to take cognizance of the same at some point of time and accord them recognition in the eye of law. If the courts refuse to recognise such forms of marriages it will bring, as staled earlier, untold miseries' to the members of this community.
27. At this stage, it will be of some interest to make reference to the recommendations of the Maharashtra State Law Commission's Ninth Report on 'Some aspects of the Hindu Marriage Act. 1955'. The Commission had recorded the views of scholars and persons all over the State familiar with these problems. One spokesman of the Buddhist community who deposed Deface the Commission was Shri R. S. Gavai, Chairman of the Maharashtra State Legislative Council. The Commission had made special efforts to find out the rites and ceremonies prevailing among the Buddhist community constituting a valid marriage. At the request of the Commission, Shri R.S. Gavai, Chairman of the Maharashtra State Legislative Council had submitted a note which is annexed as Annexuxe 'D' to the said report regarding the form of marriage followed from the year 1956 i.e. from the date of conversion to Bhuddhism. According to him, this form which has been normally followed by the neo-Buddhists represented a simple and solemn ceremony of marriage adopted by the neo-Buddhists from the year 1956. According to this Annexure 'D' the said customary form of valid marriage and recognised amongst neo-Buddhists has been described as follows:--
An extract from the note submitted by Shri R. S. Gavai, Chairman of the Maharashtra Legislative Council, Bombay. '........According to custom of neo-Buddists, the bride and bridegroom, by folded hands in front of the photos of Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar and the Lord Buddha in the presence of all assembled guests, pray 'Trisaran', 'Panchashila'. At the end of the panchasheela the word Sadhu'. 'Sadhu' 'Sadhu' is thricely uttered. After this, the bride and bridegroom offer garlands to each other and the persons who witness the marriage ceremony shower flowers on them. Later on, the bridegroom and bride take the oath in the presence of the assembled guests. The words uttered by them are as under :--
Duties of the bridegroom
1 lUekUuk;I will honour mywife.2 vuoekuuka;I will notdisrespect my wife.3 vfufopjh;keI will not do abad thing and will reframing from doing the same.4 bLlfp;oksLlesuI will keep mywife happy by giving the necessary things of life. 5 vyadklkuqiknnkus;I will treat mywife as equal in days of happiness and prosperity.Duties of the Brids
1 lqlhokgjkdL;Urk; gkrhI will take careof my family members.2 la/kfgrifjtuk;I will show courtesyto may family members.3vfufrpkfjuks;oI will not do abad thing and I will refrain from doing the same.4 lC;arvuqjojokrI will protect myhouse by all means.5 njokp gksfrvuylk lgok fdPNslqI will do myhousehold works with due are and curiosity. This is the simple procedure adopted by the Buddhists in Maharashtra. This other aspect of the simplicity of the form of marriage in neo-Buddhist community can be viewed as under:--
(1) The marriage ceremony is performed even by the Upasaka, who is a common man devoted to the duties of Upasaka. There is no such condition that the marriage should be performed by the Bhikku or Monk only.
(2) At the time of marriage ceremony the bride and bridegroom should wear a simple white dress. No special garments or ornaments are necessary.
(3) The marriage is treated as completed after the oath taking.'
28. The refusal to recognize such form of marriage which is, in this case, fully proved in accordance with these rites and ceremonies would cause great hardships to the members of this community. In spite of the decision of this Court in Shakuntala v. Nilkanth reported in 1973 Mah LJ 310, I am inclined to hold that as far as this case is concerned, the complainant and her witnesses have established satisfactorily the different customary ceremonies prevalent amongst this community and which are also recognized by the entire community as constituting solemnization of a valid marriage. The decision in Shakuntala's case (supra) by this Court (Coram: Masodkar, J.) need not detain us for the simple reason that it is well established that a decision of the Court is only an authority to what it actually decides and it must be read in the context of the facts of that case. The Supreme Court in State of Orissa v. Sudhansu Sekhar Misra : (1970)ILLJ662SC referred with approval to the well-known passage of Earl of Halsbury in Quinn v. Leathern, 1901 AC 495, which is to the following effect:--
'.......that every judgment must be read as applicable to the particular facts proved, or assumed to be proved, since the generality of the expressions which may be found there are not intended to be expositions of the whole law, but governed and qualified by the particular facts of the case in which such expressions are to be found. The other is that a case is only an authority for what it actually decides.'
In Shakuntala's case, admittedly accused No. 1 in spite of the subsistence of the first marriage on the date of the second marriage had again married according to Buddhist customary form of marriage. The most important distinguishing feature between the facts of that case and the facts in the present case was that admittedly both Neelkanth and Shakuntala were not Buddhists on the date of the second marriage and they were converted to Buddhist faith after the marriage in question had taken place. Till their so-called marriage, they had belonged to the Scheduled caste. In the context of those facts, the learned Judge held that 'marriage among Hindus was still a 'sanskar' and 'sacrament' and the spiritual union of two souls' and because neither of them, Neelkanth or Shakuntala, were Buddhists at the time of the second marriage, the holy invocation before the fire and Saptapadhi are the minimum requisites for the solemnisation of the Hindu marriage.' However, what was observed by Masodkar, J. thereafter is of some importance in this case. The learned Judge goes on to say that unless there is a different custom which admits of any different form of marriage under the Hindu Law, the rites and ceremonies will have to be established by the complainant before any claim is made that the spouse is guilty of an offence punishable under Section 494 of the Indian Penal Code. The learned Judge further observed that, 'To be a custom within the meaning of the Act, the rule must have hardened into law by continuous and uniform observation for a long time. It must be certain, reasonable and in keeping with public policy. Only because such marriages i.e. according to Buddhist rites are taking place in the wake of social and religious convulsions, the Courts cannot be asked to hold that that should be treated as a rule having the force of custom or usage contemplated by the Hindu Marriage Act. The provisions of Section 2. Hindu Marriage Act themselves show that Buddhists are treated as a class different from Hindus and therefore, if the parties had not converted themselves into Buddhism at the time of marriage and there is no proof that the Buddhist form of marriage was recognised as a custom in the particular caste to which the parties belong their marriage according to Buddhist rites cannot be treated as a valid marriage on the ground that the term 'Hindu' in the Hindu Marriage Act includes Buddhist and therefore for the purposes of the Act even a Buddhist form of marriage should be treated as a valid one. The fact that such marriages are taking place for the last 10 to 15 years is not enough. Nor can it be contended that the exodus from Hindu into Buddhist religion should be taken note of and therefore it should be held that Buddhist rites were looked upon as part of Hindu rites and that does achieve a status of custom or usage for purposes of marriage.'
29. As I have observed earlier, in that case the parties were still Hindus and had not converted themselves into Buddhism at the date of the second marriage. Now 25 years have passed since the members of the Buddhist community have been consistently following the ceremonies of marriage referred to above.
30. The accused has gone to the trial on the basis that this customary form of marriage is recognised in the community to which he and complainant and accused No. 2 belong and the only question was whether the complainant has successfully proved the solemnization of the marriage according to this customary form of marriage. As I have come to the conclusion that the complainant has successfully proved this customary form of marriage; this appeal will have to be allowed and accused will have to be convicted and sentenced for having committed offences punishable under Section 494 read with Section 109 of the Indian Penal Code.
31. Before I come to the question of sentence, at this stage, I may refer to certain recommendations made by the Maharashtra State Law Commission in its Ninth Report on 'Some aspects of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955'. One such aspect relates to the amendment of Section 7 of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955. Section 7 of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 is already quoted above and with reference to that section, the Commission had recommended certain simplification of ceremonies of marriage amongst the Hindus as well as Buddhist community. As several ceremonial forms are adopted by different sections of the Hindu community in this State, it was specifically pointed out that some of the marriages solemnized in such forms were not recognised by the courts as valid marriages in the absence of performance of essential ceremonies of 'Saptapadi' and 'Lajja Homa.' In consequence such marriages have been held void and the husbands escape punishment for the offence of bigamy under Section 494 of the Indian Penal Code. In view of the unusual importance of the question and its ramifications on the allied social institutions, the Commission felt it proper to examine the two questions posed in the suggestions, namely, whether forms and ceremonies of a valid Hindu marriage could be simplified and whether the offence of bigamy under Section 494 of the Indian Penal Code could be made cognizable offence so that assistance of the official investigating machinery would be easily available to bring the offender to book. One of the suggestions made in the report of the Law Commission was with regard to the amendments to be made in the Hindu Marriage Act. The amendment was suggested in the following sections :--
'Section 7(1). A Notwithstanding anything contained in Section 7, a Hindu marriage may also be solemnized in the presence of relatives, friends or other persons in any one of the following manners:--
(a) Each party to the marriage making a solemn declaration in the language understood by the parties that each takes the other to be his wife or, as the case may be, her husband, and each party to the marriage garlanding the other.
(b) By performance of any appropriate ceremony prevalent in the community to which either party to the marriage belongs.
(2) Notwithstanding anything contained in Section 7, but subject to the other provisions of the Act, any marriage solemnized in the manner provided in Sub-section (1) at any time before the commencement of the Hindu Marriage (Maharashtra Amendment) Act ......... shall be deemed to have been, with effect on and from the date of the solemnization of such marriage, good and valid in law.'
Recommendations were made that the solemnization of marriages in the form mentioned in Clause (a) or in accordance with the ceremonies prevalent in the community as mentioned in Clause (b) of Sub-section (1) of the proposed Section does not lay any emphasis on 'custom' and emphasis which is so inherent in Section 7 of the Act. The emphasis in the proposed new section is on intention to enter into matrimony, that is, on substance, and not so much on form. The Commission further stated in its report that those who wish to follow the customary rites and ceremonies for solemnization of marriages can certainly do so as Section 7 of the Act which lays down such rites and ceremonies very necessary for solemnization of marriages, is not intended to be touched. But those who desire to solemnize marriages in simpler and prevalent forms not necessarily founded on custom, will now be able to do so. The marriage so solemnized would be comparatively much easy to prove in a court of law as the custom which often poses a serious problem for proof would not come in the way of such marriages. The Commission stated that the proposed new Section 7. would be a step in the right direction to legalise the simpler and economic forms of marriages prevalent in different sections coming under the Hindu fold.
32. It is to be hoped that the Government of Maharashtra will give anxious consideration to the report for amendment of Section 7 of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 and take up the issue with the Government of India. It is needless to state that at present in the rural areas, when husband marries second time, the first wife is never present and it is always difficult for her to prove the second marriage and her life becomes miserable as a result of the second marriage of her husband. The husband can escape liability because there is no evidence of 'Saptapadi' and 'Lajja Homa' being performed. Again if these ceremonies are dispensed with in a particular community according to custom prevalent, the proof of custom becomes difficult to such wife who is already put in unfortunate circumstances because of the second marriage of her husband. The first wife is visited by untold miseries. It is to be hoped that the Government of Maharashtra will give its anxious consideration to the report and to the proposed amendments in Section 7 of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, and take necessary steps in this direction.
33. As far as the question of sentence is concerned, I have heard both, the learned Counsel on both the sides as well as the learned public prosecutor Shri Deshmukh. Once the offence of bigamy is proved, the court cannot take a lenient view regarding the sentence. In this country specially in this part of the country, it is not infrequent that the husband marries second time and leaves the first wife to her fate to lead a life of untold miseries for the rest of her life. No sympathy can be shown to such persons and therefore, in this case looking to the circumstances that with full knowledge on the part of accused No. 1 that his first marriage was subsisting, he issued notice and public notice through newspapers that a customary divorce had been given. However, during the trial in the suggestions put to the first wife and her father, as indicated above, it was implicit that the first marriage of accused No. 1 was subsisting. The attitude of such persons who marry the second time is not only a cavalier one but a wanton one. Such types of persons allow themselves to be under the impression that the long arm of the law cannot touch them inasmuch as there can be no proof of the solemnization of the second marriage. As has been held in this case, the complainant has successfully proved the solemnization of the second marriage between accused No. 1 and accused No. 2, hence this court cannot take a lenient view on the question of sentence. This luxury of marrying a second wife at the cost of the first wife must be dealt with sternly.
34. I, therefore, allow the appeal of the complainant and sentence accused No. 1 to suffer rigorous imprisonment for two years and to pay fine of Rs. 1,000/- in default to suffer rigorous imprisonment for six months. So far as accused No. 2 is concerned, she had known at the time that the marriage of accused No. 1 with complainant was subsisting. I, therefore, convict accused No. 2 for having abetted accused No. 1 in committing the offence punishable under Section 494 read with Section 109 of the Indian Penal Code and sentence her to simple imprisonment for day and to pay a fine of Rs. 1,000/- in default to suffer further rigorous imprisonment for three months. Accused No. 1 to surrender to his bail bond within a period of one week. If the amount of fine is paid by accused No. 1 and accused No. 2, an amount of Rupees 1,500/- should be paid to the first wife, that is the appellant/complainant in this case.
35. A copy of this judgment is directed to be forwarded to the Government of Maharashtra, Law and Judiciary Department, for consideration. The Government of Maharashtra should persuade the Government of India to introduce necessary amendments to the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 as suggested by the Maharashtra State Law Commission in its Ninth Report on 'Some aspects of the Hindu Marriage Act. 1955' since the issues affecting millions of people involving their family, social life and legitimacy of their children are involved.
36. Appeal allowed.