Sarla Mudgal & Ors. v. Union of India

COURTSupreme Court of India
JUDGES/CORAMJustice Kuldip Singh and Justice R.M. Sahai


Uniform Civil Code is a burning topic in India. The concept means that there should be one law for all the citizens of India thereby replacing the personal laws in India. This will help in creating unity in the country. But in a secular country like India, this is controversial issue as Article 25 of the Indian Constitution states that every person should have freedom of conscience and free profession, practice and propagate any religion subject to public order, morality and health and to the other provisions of this Part, all persons are equally entitled to freedom of conscience and the right freely to profess, practice and propagate religion. It also states that nothing in this article shall affect the operation of any existing law or prevent the State from making any law. One of its exceptions is regulating or restricting any economic, financial, political or other secular activity which may be associated with religious practice. In this case the practice of changing religion for the purpose of marrying another person without getting divorce from first wife was held to be an offence under Section 494 of Indian Penal Code (IPC).


The facts of the case are as follows: In this case there were four petitioners including Sarla Mudgal, Meena Mathur and other petitioner named as Geeta Rani of Writ Petition 424 of 1992 and Sushmita Ghosh of Civil Writ Petition 509 of 1992. Sarla Mudgal ran an NGO named Kalyani. Similarly Meena Mathur, who had three children with her husband Jitender Mathur, who was later found to be the husband of Sunita Narula aka Fatima as his second wife after the converting into Islam. When Jitender was asked the reason for conversion he told that for the sake of marrying Sunita he did so. Soon they were blessed with a child. The second wife claims that on April 28, 1988 under the influence of his first wife he converted its religion to Hindu and agreed to maintain his first wife only and his child from her due to which she is in trouble as she of not able to take compensation from his husband.

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Geeta Rani, who was married to Pradeep Kumar on November 3,1988 was being harassed by her husband says that her husband has married another girl by converting his religion to Islam and another petition named as Sushmita Ghosh also has the same allegation on his husband and she wants stop her husband to marry Vinita Gupta.


The main issues in the case were:

  1. Whether or not there should be a Uniform Civil Code.
  2. Whether or not a Hindu husband can have a second wife by just changing his religion into Islam
  3. Whether or not such marriage is treated as a valid one when first is alive
  4. Whether or not the husband would guilty of the Section 494 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).

Summary of court decision and judgment

The Apex Court held that the husband is guilty of the offence of Section 494 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC). The second marriage is held void because a person cannot get married to another person without giving divorce to his spouse. The court has not given any direction regarding the Uniform Civil Code but has told government to review Article 44 of the Constitution which states that the State shall endeavour to secure for the citizens a uniform civil code throughout the territory of India[1]


After analyzing this case it was found that judges have so beautifully dealt with all the respective matters after considering all the facts and gave their judgement that has helped the Court in securing the rights of the women who faces many problem due to the fact that their husbands in order avoid the martial life and responsibility towards his wife changes their religion from Hindu to Muslim just to marry another Muslim girl. This case has supported the landmark judgments like Shah Bano case[2] which related to the maintenance to Muslim women after divorce and Jordan Diengdeh case[3] which is related to women seeking divorce due to husband’s impotency.

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Marriage is the essence of the well-cultivated society and in the Hindus a relation ones made is forever and so, in Hindus monogamy is only allowed and if someone do bigamy he/she is penalized under the Section 494 of the Indian Penal Code but some people to escape from this offence convert their religion to marry another person so, this case is a precedent in this regard until an Uniform Civil Code is enforced in India.

[1] Article 5, Constitution of India.

[2]1985 SCR (3) 844

[3]1985 AIR 935, 1985 SCR Supl. (1) 704

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