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A bigamist’s petition to escape punishment fails: Bombay High Court

The Bombay High court, on Tuesday, the 26th of July, in the year 2022, provided no form of grace to a man who was being persecuted on the charges for raping a Marathi actor on the grounds that he induced and convinced her to marry him by misrepresenting the fact that he was a bachelor. This was discussed in the case of Siddharth Narendra Banthia vs. The State of Maharashtra & Anr. (Writ Petition No.3527 Of 2021) and this judgement was pronounced by The Honourable Mr. Justice N. J. Jamadar. 

FACTS OF THE CASE:

In this petition, the legality, propriety, and correctness of an order passed by the learned Additional Sessions Judge, Pune on 3rd September 2021 in which the request of the petitioner to discharge him from the prosecution came to be rejected,  is under question through the power of Article 227 of the Constitution of India,.

Ms. S who will be referred to as the “prosecutrix” who an actress by profession had her first marriage solemnized on 21st November 2002 and later in the in year 2004, the said marriage was dissolved by mutual consent. A friend of the prosecutrix introduced the petitioner to her and in the year 2008, the petitioner decided to assist her in procuring a flat at Mumbai under Government’s 10% discretionary quota. During this back and forth of communication, the petitioner developed intimacy with the prosecutrix. In June of 2010 the petitioner proposed to the prosecutrix and represented himself as a bachelor. The prosecutrix and her family members agreed to the said proposal, and the marriage of the prosecutrix was solemnized with the petitioner on 23rd July in 2010. None of the family members from the petitioner side attended the said marriage. The petitioner claimed that since the marriage was an inter caste one, his family members would not attend the same.

In September of 2010 a lady “M” called the prosecutrix and informed her that she was the wife of the petitioner. When confronted with this, the petitioner stated that the previous marriage was dissolved, and the petitioner assured to show the divorce papers and also get the certificate of marriage with prosecutrix. During this time, the petitioner made the prosecutrix open a joint account in multiple banks and he withdrew huge amounts of money from the said accounts behind the back of the prosecutrix.

After celebrating their first marriage anniversary, “M” came to the house of the prosecutrix. In her presence, the petitioner conceded that the documents evidencing the alleged divorce between him and “M”, which he had shown to the prosecutrix, were false. The petitioner claimed that he would ensure that separate provision was made for her first wife and children.

The Prosecutrix and her mother then met the parents of the petitioner, and they find out that the petitioner had deceived them by representing that he was a bachelor and, later claiming that his first marriage was dissolved. The prosecutrix thus instituted a petition for annulment of marriage in the Family Court of Pune.

The prosecutrix also lodged a report at the police station leading to registration for the offences punishable under sections 420, 406, 467, 471, 474, 376, 323, 504, 506(i) and 494 of Indian Penal Code. Post completion of investigation, charge-sheet came to be lodged against the petitioner.

The petitioner said that the prosecutrix had made false and baseless allegations against the petitioner, and the allegations were vague as there was no specific date, time and place mentioned with regard to any of the events which allegedly transpired. There was an inordinate delay of more than three years in lodging the first information report. Thus, the charge against the petitioner was groundless. Therefore, the petitioner deserved to be discharged.

The learned Additional Sessions Judge, after going through the filed application was persuaded to reject the application and was of the view that there were sufficient grounds to proceed against the petitioner. Being aggrieved with this the petitioner invoked the writ jurisdiction of this Court.

JUDGEMENT:

The court said there is material on record to show that the petitioner and the prosecutrix went through the ceremony of marriage and there is adequate material to demonstrate that the petitioner and prosecutrix cohabited as husband and wife. The petitioner’s claim that the ceremonies were mere props is false.

The court also said the assertion of the prosecutrix that she gave consent for the physical relations as she was made to believe that she is the wife of the petitioner is also prima facie borne out by the material on record. The upshot of the aforesaid consideration is that there are sufficient grounds to proceed against the petitioner, even for the offence punishable under section 376 of the Penal Code and thus the trial must proceed to its logical conclusion. Therefore, the petition deserves to be dismissed.

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 JUDGEMENT REVIEWED BY TANAV ZACHARIAH.

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