Does A Second Wife Has Right Of Maintenance In India?

According to the marriage laws in India, a person cannot remarry while the first marriage is in subsistence[1]. In such cases, the second marriage contracted by a person is not legal and does not hold any validity in law.[2] But, even though the laws in India do not provide so, the practice of second marriage is very common in India however in such cases second wives do not have much rights in law.

The Hindu Marriage Act provides that a person can remarry only when neither of them has a spouse living at the time of their marriage.

Problem of a second wife

In this entire stigma of the second marriage, the person who suffers the most is – the second wife. Legally invalid marriage coupled with the tag of a “cheater” by the society is very stressful for women

Laws relating to bigamy

Criminal Law

Under Section 494 of the IPC a person who has a spouse living at the time of his second marriage is liable to be punished and that his marriage is void. However, in the case when the first marriage of the person was declared void, the person cannot be held liable under this section.

However, in case, the person have conceded the fact that he is married, in such a case that person can be held liable for cheating. Banshidhar v Chhabi Chatterjee[3]

“Woman to be legally married to petitioner – maintainability of claim under sec 488 – if petitioner on the date of marriage with the claimant woman had already a legally wedded wife, his marriage with the claimant – woman will be void under sec 11 of the HMA.

Evidence Act

The Indian Evidence Act provides that in the presence of any probable facts, the person’s conduct and the happening of an event, such are used as the evidence to prove the existence of marriage.

Proof of Second Marriage

In order to prove the second marriage, it is very important that the second marriage was done by all the rituals that are essential according to their customs and practices. Merely a confession that the person has married the second time is not enough. According to the Hindu customs, the performance of Saptapadi and homa are

essential to perform in order to get married. A second marriage can be made void under S. 494 only when it has been solemnized with all the rituals and ceremonies.

Maintainence of the second wife

Maintenance under Section 125 CrPC

A wife has the right to ask for the maintenance from her husband in the case of divorce under Section 125 of CrPC. If a person has treated that particular person as his wife, then that can be treated as a proof of their marriage.


A second wife has to suffer a lot due to the social stigma that is attached to the second marriage. The absence of legal recognition of her marriage is a lot of pain. Even though due to the judicial precedent that is available for the maintenance of the second

wife, but the absence of the clear provision regarding the maintenance her claim for maintenance depends on the discretion of the judges. The absence of such laws provides loophole in the Indian Law. These are easily exploited by the husbands to defend themselves. Therefore, there is a dire need to make strict and clear laws for second wives, so as to bring them some respite

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