Skip to content


Mrs. A. Marthamma Vs. A. Munuswamy and ors. - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectCriminal
CourtChennai High Court
Decided On
Case NumberCri. Revn. Case No. 1084 of 1950 and Cri. Revn. Petn. No. 1017 of 1950
Judge
Reported inAIR1951Mad888; (1951)IMLJ694
ActsHindu Law; Indian Penal Code (IPC), 1860 - Sections 494
AppellantMrs. A. Marthamma
RespondentA. Munuswamy and ors.
Appellant AdvocateGopala Menon and ;C. Sriramulu, Advs.;State Prosecutor
Respondent AdvocateVenkataraman, Adv. for Row and Reddy
DispositionPetition dismissed
Cases ReferredEmperor v. Antony
Excerpt:
.....at the time of the first marriage as well as at the time of the second marriage. surely, the first accused, who was a hindu & had been converted to christianity on 9-4-1944 in the course of a few hours, could go back to hinduism in the course of a month !the disruption of joint status in a hindu joint family takes only a minute of unequivocal intention to separate expressed clearly. 1 for good & went back to his relatives, & he seems to have observed it, by the general evidence of p. indeed, even maintenance to a wife alone has been argued to be invalid under the constitution as discriminatory as a husband cannot get maintenance from a rich wife! it is obvious that, in the light of the facts stated above, the lower ct's order discharging the accused cannot be said to be incorrect or..........accused never observed any christian festival or ceremony. thirdly, theconversion of the first accused to christianity was not intimated to his parents either by the pastor & the deacon, who converted him, or by the first accused himself, or by p. w. 1, the petnr., or by anyothers, & all his relatives & castemen, including accused 2 & 3 & p. w. 11, never knew of his being converted to christianity & always knew him only as a hindu. fourthly, it is very doubtful whether the first accused really willingly embraced christianity. if he simply went through that ceremony of baptism with mental reservations & under moral compulsion, by stressing the fact of his having had sexual intercourse with p. w. 1 before marriage, it is obvious that he would have left that religion, as willingly as he.....
Judgment:
ORDER

Panchapakesa Ayyar, J.

1. This is a petn. for setting aside the discharge of the three accused in C. C. No. 3917 of 1949 on the file of the 5th Presidency Mag., Madras. They had all been complained against Under Sections 494, 495 & 496 read With Section 109, I. P. C. by the petnr. Mrs. Marthammal, & were discharged by the learned Presidency Mag. Under Section 253(1), Cr. P. C.

2. The facts were briefly these. The petnr. Mrs. Marthammal, was a Christian School mistress, aged 29, in September 1943, when she met the first accused, Munuswami, a Hindu student just past 18. She fell madly in love with him & began to have sexual intercourse with him. Her father & brother chided her for thus misconducting herself. Later on, she & her father & brother arranged with the first accused that he should become a Christian & marry the petnr. & thus regularise the illicit relationship between him & the petnr. On 9-4-1944, the first accused, Munuswami, was baptised & converted to Christianity by Rev. Moses, P. W. 4, in the Perambur Telugu Baptist Church. P. W. 3, the Deacon of the Church, was also present at the conversion. No intimation was sent to the boy's parents or relatives, who apparently did not know anything at all about his illicit intercourse with the petnr. or his intention to marry her after becoming a Christian, or even the fact of his knowing the petnr. On 17-4-1944, 8 days after the conversion, the first accused was marriedto the petnr. in the same church in the presence of P. Ws. 2, 3, 4 & 6, all Christians. Again, no information about the marriage was sent to the relatives of the first accused, & not one of them was present. The evidence showed that none of the relatives of the first accused ever knew that the first accused had become a Christian or had been baptised or had married the petnr. After living together for some time, the first accused & the petnr. got estranged, in 1946, & the first accused was living away from the petnr. for some time. The petnr. then wrote to him several pathetic letters telling him that she loved him & wanted him alone, & not his money or belongings, & that he was her life & joy & comfort, & that she would get her sister or any other girl married to him as second wife, in addition to herself, & that he might live happily, enjoying jollily with both his wives, & that she would give him whatever money he wanted taut that he should not marry a Hindu girl as he was intending to do. She wanted him to see the fair girl she was choosing for him as second wife & also to be with her for 24 hours in a hotel room. She added that she did not know before marrying him what love was, or what sin & the world were, & that she began realising them all only after marrying him. In spite of all these letters in 1946, & after a temporary reconciliation for some months, & getting a son by her on 27-7-1948, the first accused again went away from her in the latter half of 1948 & married P. W. 11, Sarojini, the daughter of A 3 & a Hindu, on 3-2-1949, according to Hindu rites. A 2, the father of A-1, was also present at that marriage. According to P. W. 11, & the other evidence in the case, A 2 & A 3 had never heard of the marriage of the first accused with the petnr. or of his having had sexual intercourse with the petnr., or even of his acquaintance with her, or of his having been baptised & converted to Christianity. The evidence of P. Ws. 1 & 2, to the contrary, was held, rightly, to be false by the lower Ct. The lower Ct. discharged A. 2 & A3 on the facts as it was satisfied that they knew nothing about his first marriage & had not been present at the second marriage of the first accused with knowledge of such first marriage & with intent to abet an offence of bigamy. Regarding the first accused, the lower Ct. held that he too should be discharged as the evidence of P. W. 11, the second wife of the first accused, showed that he, a native convert to Christianity, having married P. W. 1, the petnr., according to, Christian rites in a church, had relapsed to Hinduism & exercised his right as a Hindu to enter into another (polygamous) marriage with P. W. 11. P. W. 11 had sworn that the first accused was observing only Hindu festivals & Hindu customs, & was not observing any Christian festivals or customs, & that she had married the accused according to Hindu rites. She was a girl of 17, & was not shaken in cross-examination, & her evidence was rightly accepted by the lower Ct.

3. The learned counsel for the petnr., Mr. Gopala Menon, did not seriously contest before me the correctness of the discharge of accused 2 & 3 as they were not proved to have had any knowledge of the first marriage of the first accused with the petnr. & to have been present with such knowledge at the second marriage of the first accused with P. W. 11. So the petn. is dismissed against accused 2 & 3 (resps. 2 & 3 here).

4. Regarding the first accused, however, Mr. Gopala Menon urged that the order of discharge was wrong for three reasons. The first was that the lower Ct. had gone wrong in its statement of the law regarding the right of a native convert to Christianity to again relapse into Hinduism & marry a Hindu girl in spite of his marriage witha Christian girl when he was a Christian. He contended that the lower Ct. had misinterpreted the ruling in 'Emperor v. Antony', 33 Mad 371, & para. 5117 in Gour's 'Indian Penal Code', Vol. 2, at pp. 2258-59. I cannot agree. The lower Ct. has interpreted the ruling & the passage in Gour correctly. The statement of Gour that a conversion to Christianity of a native of India, & the member of a community where polygamy is the rule & monogamy an exception, does not necessarily imply any religious obligation to monogamy may be open to dispute, though this observation is supported by the weighty observation of Innes J. & the conduct of the petnr., offering girl after girl to the petnr. as second wife, & by the fact that Solomon the wise had seven hundred wives & three hundred concubines (see the Bible Kings) & yet this is not refd. to with disapproval even in the New Testament, where his wisdom is praised So the observation of Innes J. that a profession of Christianity does not 'ipso facto' impose any such obligation to monogamy cannot be said to be without basis; but, even granting, for the sake of argument, that the profession of Christianity does impose a religious obligation to monogamy, that obligation goes when that religion is abandoned for a religion recognising polygamy. It does not follow that once a man becomes a Christian he has no right to relapse into Islam or Hinduism or any other of the alternative religions available in this world for his purpose, holy or unholy, & get the rights of the new religion he embraces, subject, of course, to any laws taking away such rights. I cannot see why a man like the first accused who became a Christian to marry the petnr., a woman 11 years older than himself, should not be allowed to revert to Hinduism to marry P. W. 11, another wife, 7 years younger than himself. Of course, the 'religious motive' did not operate either for the conversion or for the reconversion, & only the 'woman motive' operated. It is admitted by Mr. Gopala Menon that at the time the first accused married P. W. 11, the Madras Hindu Bigamy & Divorce Act had not come into operation making bigamy by a Madras Hindu a crime. That Act came into operation only in March 1949, a month after the second marriage of the first accused with P. W. 11. The Indian Union is now a secular State, & every man is given a right to follow any religion he likes, or to follow no religion at all. So, the conversion of a man to any religion will only enure so long as the person converted to it adheres to that religion & does not leave it for any other religion. There are well-known cases in this State of Hindus, even Brahmins, who were Christians for years & then relapsed to Hinduism & were accepted back by the caste & then followed the rights of the caste & even married their children into the caste. So it is not as if there is only a theoretical possibility of reconversion to Hinduism of a man converted to Christianity or any other religion. The famous 'Devalasmrithi', of the 8th century A. D., provided for Hindu converts to Islam to be taken back to Hinduism after 'Suddhi' (purification). The great Sivaji reconverted his general Nethaji Palkar, who had been forcibly converted to Islam by Aurangazeb & married to a Muslim lady, from Islam to Hinduism after administering 'Prayaschittam' (Suddhi) to him. He also reconverted Bajaji Nimbalkar, another famous Maharatta Chieftain, from Islam to Hinduism, & gave his own daughter in marriage to him. During the Moplah revolt in Malabar in 1921, & the Bengal & Punjab troubles in 1948, many Hindus converted by force to Islam were reconverted to, Hinduism. So, reconversion to Hinduism has existed for centuries past. It is the law that a manon reconversion acquires the right of the religion which he re-enters, 'as correctly stated by the lower Ct.', subject to any law taking away particular rights. No such law exists here.

5. The second contention of Mr. Gopala Menon was that even if such a right to a polygamous marriage occurs on reconversion, there is nothing to show that the first accused was actually reconverted to Hinduism & abandoned Christianity, & that the first accused's case was that he 'never became a Christian', & this was found to be false. The lower Ct. was of opinion that the accused 1 was really baptised in the church & that he did become a Christian, though it was of opinion that the accused 1, having committed the youthful indiscretion of premarital sexual intercourse with P. W. 1, & having been under the sway & influence of P. W. 1 & her brothers, should have been pressed to legalise his relationship with P. W. 1 by her people & he should have therefore consented to embrace Christianity for the purpose of marrying P. W. 1, & that his conversion was certainly not one which was of his own free choosing & that there should have been an element of 'coercion' on the part of P. W. 1 & her relations on this boy who had just attained the age of majority, by taking advantage of his sin, in having had intercourse with P. W. 1 before marriage, as a lover to make him embrace Christianity & marry P. W. 1. But the lower Ct. was satisfied, from the evidence of P. W. 11, that the first accused had relapsed to Hinduism & had given up Christianity at least a month before he married P. W. 11. Mr. Gopala Menon urged that merely following Hindu customs & Hindu festivals, as P. W. 11 spoke to, would not be sufficient to show that the first accused had left Christianity & embraced Hinduism. But, there are five other additional facts. The first accused was never given a Christian name, & kept his Hindu name, Munuswami, throughout his career, at the time of the first marriage as well as at the time of the second marriage. Secondly, P. W. 11 swore that the first accused never observed any Christian festival or ceremony. Thirdly, theconversion of the first accused to Christianity was not intimated to his parents either by the Pastor & the Deacon, who converted him, or by the first accused himself, or by P. W. 1, the petnr., or by anyothers, & all his relatives & castemen, including accused 2 & 3 & P. W. 11, never knew of his being converted to Christianity & always knew him only as a Hindu. Fourthly, it is very doubtful whether the first accused really willingly embraced Christianity. If he simply went through that ceremony of baptism with mental reservations & under moral compulsion, by stressing the fact of his having had sexual intercourse with P. W. 1 before marriage, it is obvious that he would have left that religion, as willingly as he had entered it unwillingly, as soon as he went back to his people. Lastly, I cannot agree with Mr. Gopala Menon that a month's time would not be enough for reconversion. Even a few hours will be enough if the 'intention' to leave one religion & embrace another can be inferred beyond all reasonable doubt. Surely, the first accused, who was a Hindu & had been converted to Christianity on 9-4-1944 in the course of a few hours, could go back to Hinduism in the course of a month ! The disruption of joint status in a Hindu joint family takes only a minute of unequivocal intention to separate expressed clearly. The festival of 'Pongal' fell during the period after the first accused left P. W. 1 for good & went back to his relatives, & he seems to have observed it, by the general evidence of P. W. 11. After all, the religious persuasion of a man now-a-days depends on his 'subjective preference' for any religion, &we; must take it that the first accused, who as-serted that he was a Hindu when he married P. W. 11 & that he married her as a Hindu, was a Hindu at that time, even though his denial that he became a Christian some time earlier was disbelieved by the Ct. below on the evidence of the Pastor & the Deacon regarding his Baptism. It is rather unfortunate that there is not one & the same law of bigamy for all the citizens of the Indian Union, & that while a Christian bigamist has been liable to punishment ever since the Penal Code was enacted, some Hindu bigamists have become liable to punishment ever since March 1949, when the Madras Hindu Bigamy & Divorce Act was enacted, several Hindu, Buddhist & Jain Bigamists (including Maharajas & millionaires) remain untouched, & Muslim bigamists can marry four wives at a time without running the risk of any prosecution or punishment. In fact, this discrimination between the various communities living in the Indian Union regarding this crime has been made recently the peg for arguments, by some Hindu bigamists convicted in this State, that the Madras Hindu Bigamy Act is illegal as it is discriminatory & therefore void under the Constitution of India. Similar arguments have been adduced against even Section 494, I. P. C. itself, & against Section 497, I. P. C., as only 'the adulterous man' is punished & not the 'adulterous woman' without whose co-operation he could never have committed the offence. Indeed, even maintenance to a wife alone has been argued to be invalid under the Constitution as discriminatory as a husband cannot get maintenance from a rich wife! We need not go into the realm of all this argument & speculation in this case where the question has not been raised seriously. It is obvious that, in the light of the facts stated above, the lower Ct's order discharging the accused cannot be said to be incorrect or illegal or irregular or improper or to have occasioned a failure of justice.

6. No doubt, as Mr. Gopala Menon urged as his third contention, the petnr., Mrs. Marthammal, has been left in a miserable predicament by the act of the first accused in deserting her & her son & marrying P. W. 11. But this hardship has existed in all polygamous marriages by lusty fellows preferring younger woman, & is nothing to go by in criminal cases; & equal hardship will be caused to P. W. 11, the second wife of the first accused, if the marriage with her is declared illegal. Anyway, sending the first accused to jail in this bigamy case cannot be of much relief to the petnr. in her hardship or difficult situation.

7. In the end, therefore, the petn. is dismissedregarding A1 also.


Save Judgments// Add Notes // Store Search Result sets // Organizer Client Files //