Offences relating to marriage

offences relating to marriage

The bond of marriage is supposed to be a sacred one but in many cases, it turns out that someone gets hurt. In various instances, these offences end up in cases of assault or causing severe harm mentally or physically to a partner, thus Chapter XX in the Indian Penal Code deals with offences relating to marriage. These have broadly been classified into three.

  • Mock Marriage ( Section 493 & 496)
  • Bigamy (Section 494 & 496)
  • Criminal Elopement (Section 498)

Mock Marriage

Section 493 punishes the offence of deception in marriage. It states that when a man either married or unmarried, induces a women to become his wife on a false pretext and she is his concubine, such an offence is punishable by law. The main ingredients of this sections are that a man should deceitfully induce a women to have sexual intercourse with him and secondly, he causes her to believe that she is his lawful wife.

The form of marriage ceremony depends on the race or religion that they would belong to, India having a plethora of religions; it can be easily changed or dissembled. Suppose a person is half English and half Asiatic by blood, called himself a Mohammedan or Hindu and by his deception cause a Mohammedan or a Hindu woman to go through the ceremony of marriage in form which she deems valid and then cohabits with him, he has committed this offence.

It is important to note that section 496 deals with a marriage ceremony which is undergone fraudulently. Under this section, the accused must have gone through the ceremony of being married, which makes it a lawful marriage but the accused knows that the ceremony he is going through is not a lawful marriage. This section applies to mock marriages as well as committing the offence of bigamy.


Section 194 of the IPC has been modelled on the English law of bigamy contained under section 57 of the Offence Against the Persons Act, 1861. Bigamy is an offence when a person, while their husband or wife is still living marries another person. The scope of this section this wide, as it applies to both a husband and wife. Such a marriage is considered void in the eyes of law and it is punishable with imprisonment which may extend up to seven years and fine. The main ingredients of this sections are that the accused should have a living spouse already, and while the first marriage is going on, the spouse has contracted into another marriage and both the marriages have been valid at the same time.

The section makes bigamy an offence in case of all persons living in India irrespective of religion, sex, namely Hindu, Christian, Parsi except Muslim males. In the case of Muslims, personal laws permits polygamy for males, they are permitted to have up to four wives but it insists on monogamy for females. However, there is an exception is a Muslim man married under the Special Marriage Act, 1954 he would be guilty of bigamy under section 494.

Section 495 is an aggravated form of the offence of bigamy. This section comes alive when all the requirements mentioned in bigamy are present but in addition, one of the spouse has concealed from the person whom the accused is married regarding the facts of his or her first marriage. This offence is punishable with imprisonment up to 10 years and fine.

Criminal Elopement

Section 498 deals with the offence of criminal elopement. The provisions in section 498 are intended to protect the rights of the husband and not that of the wife. The main ingredients of this sections are what whoever takes or entices away or detains the wife of another man, from (a) that man (b) any person who takes care of her on behalf of that man, knowing that she is the wife of another man, such taking, concealing or detaining must be with the intent that she will have illicit intercourse with any person.

This section directly relates taking of another man’s wife, knowingly to have sexual intercourse with her without her consent. Section 366 of the IPC deals with cases where a woman is kidnapped or abducted, while this section takes into account deception done on the woman. This section is intended to protect the rights of the wife, and those of her husband.

It is very interesting to find that section 497 used to deal with Adultery. Adultery as defined in this section stated that adultery is an invasion on the right of the husband over his wife, it is an offence against the sanctity of marriage if someone sleeps with another man’s wife, punishing only the man. But in the latest case, the Supreme Court bench headed by Chief Justice DipakMisra called the adultery law “anti-women” while hearing a petition that challenged Section 497 for being anti-men and giving leverage to women. Post this case, adultery law was repealed and thus section 497 is not an offence under the Indian penal code, but can be used a ground for divorce.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the punishment for adultery in India?

Extramarital sex is not a criminal offence in India anymore. The country’s supreme court today (Sept. 27, 2018) struck down a colonial-era law that prescribed a maximum imprisonment of five years to men for adultery. However, the offence still remains a valid ground for divorce.

Can someone be married in two countries?

No, they cannot for example: U.S. embassy and consulate personnel cannot perform marriages in foreign countries. Depending on the law of the foreign country, local civil or religious officials generally perform marriages.

Where is polygamy most common?

Polygamy is very common in the animist and Muslim communities of West Africa. In Senegal, for example, nearly 47 per cent of marriages are said to feature multiple women. It is relatively high still in many Arab nations; among the Bedouin population of Israel, it stands at about 30 per cent.

What is the original meaning of the word elope?

Elope has historically meant “to run away secretly with the intention of getting married usually without parental consent.” But it has also meant—and still means—”to escape.”

“The views of the authors are personal


  • The Indian Penal Code, K.D. Gaur, fourth Edition, Universal Law Publishing Co. p,786-806Criminal Law, PSA Pillai, 11th Edition, Lexis NexisCecil Turner.J. (2013), Kenny’s Outlines of Criminal Law, Cambridge: Cambridge University PressTextbook of Criminal Law, Glanville Williams, fourth Edition, Sweet & Maxwell South Asian Edition
Srishti John
Srishti is a law student at CMR School of Legal Studies, Bangalore. In her time at law school, she has found herself lost in subjects like Jurisprudence and Criminology. She loves a good debate and people who challenge her to become better. She is a Political Science graduate from St. Xavier’s College, Mumbai. Her resolutions involve reading 30 books in 2020 and spreading a message of joy, kindness and love. She wants to pursue her LLM and aid the violated and vulnerable in their quest for equality & justice.