Sarla Mudgal vs Union of India

Published On: 11th November, 2023

Authored By: Satya Sruthi Pakalapati
Rajiv Gandhi Institute of Law

Sarla Mudgal vs Union of India


Sarla Mudgal vs. Union of India is a landmark case in India that deals with the issue of bigamy and the intersection of personal laws and religious conversions.

The Parties involved in the case are

  • Sarla Mudgal – Key Petitioner
  • Union Of India – Respondent

Bench involved in the judgment

  •  SAHAI, R.M. (J)

The key issues involved in this case are

  1. Whether a Hindu man who had converted to Islam could marry a second time without legally divorcing his first wife?
  2. Whether this was considered an act of bigamy?
  3. Whether Article 44 of the Constitution of India, can be enforced by the Supreme Court.
  4. Is the husband liable under Section 494 of the Indian Penal Code for bigamy?

The court, in the judgment given on 10th May 1995, held that the husband’s second marriage was bigamous and void, and discussed the enforceability of Article 44 in this context.


  • Four Petitions were filed under Article 32 of the Constitution of India.
  • The first petition filed in 1989 involved two petitioners; Sarla Mudgal, President of “KALYANI” a registered society working for the welfare of needy families and women in distress, and Meena Mathur who was married to Jitender Mathur on February 27, 1978.
  • In 1988, the petitioner’s husband married Sunita Narula @ Fathima. The marriage was solemnized after they converted themselves to Islam and adopted the Muslim religion
  • The second petition was filed by Sunita alias Fathima in the year 1990 by contending that Jitender Mathur under the influence of her first Hindu-wife reverted back to Hinduism and had agreed to maintain his first wife and three children.
  • The third petition was filed by Geeta Rani in 1992 who was married to Pradeep Kumar. The petition claims that her spouse mistreated her in the past. In December 1991, Pradeep Kumar ran away with Deepa and after conversion to Islam married her.
  • Sushmita Ghosh filed a fourth petition in 1992. That year her husband told her that he no longer wanted to live with her and as such she should agree to divorce by mutual consent. He had obtained a certificate dated June 17, 1992, from the Qazi indicating that he had embraced Islam.


  • Petitioners – All 4 petitioners contended that the respondents(their husbands) converted themselves to Islam to enter into a second marriage and to overcome the provisions of bigamy provided in Section 494 IPC.
  • Respondents – The respondents contended that once they converted to Islam they can have up to 4 wives and their second marriage is valid.


Article 44 of the Constitution Of India – Part IV, Article 44 of the Constitution states that “The State shall endeavor to secure the citizen a Uniform Civil Code throughout the territory of India”. However, Article 37 of the Constitution itself makes it clear the DPSP “shall not be enforceable by any court”.

Section 494 of IPC – Section 494 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) states that marrying for a second time while the first spouse is still alive is a punishable offense. The marriage is considered void.


  • Marriage is the very foundation of the civilized society. Once a relationship is established, the law intervenes and binds the parties to a number of duties and liabilities.
  • The doctrine of the indissolubility of marriage, under the traditional Hindu law, did not recognize that conversion would have the effect of dissolving a Hindu marriage.

Related cases discussed

         Re Ram Kumari 1891 Calcutta 246 – The Ram Kumari case of 1891 in Calcutta involved a widow’s right to inherit property. The court upheld the Hindu widow’s right to inherit her husband’s property, emphasizing that her remarriage did not extinguish her right to inheritance.

       Nandi @ Zainab vs. The Crown (ILR 1920) Nandi, the wife of the complainant, changed her religion and became a Mussalman and thereafter married a Mussalman named Rukan Din. According to Section 494 of the Indian Penal Code, she was accused of a crime.


  1. Highlighted the need for legal reforms by the Government.
  2. Need for a Uniform Code to provide a common set of laws for all citizens, regardless of their religion, in matters related to marriage, divorce, and inheritance.
  3. The court held that the second marriage of a Hindu husband after conversion to Islam, without having his first marriage dissolved under law, would be invalid.
  4. The second marriage would be void in terms of the provisions of Section 494 IPC and the husband would be guilty of the offence under Section 494 IPC.


The judgment is considered a significant step in upholding the rights of women and preventing the misuse of personal laws. The SC affirmed that a Hindu man who converts to Islam cannot marry another woman without legally divorcing his first wife, as it would be considered bigamy.


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