Section 493 IPC not attracted if ex-parte decree of divorce is set aside by a subsequent order

Supreme Court: In an interesting case that came before the Court where the respondent, after receiving an ex-parte decree of divorce, had continued to live with the appellant and then consequently marrying another woman, the bench of JS Khehar and SA Bobde, JJ was confronted with the question that whether the husband had committed offence under Sections 493 and 494 of the IPC.

Considering the fact that the ex-parte decree of divorce was set aside by a subsequent order, the Court held that the matrimonial tie between the appellant and the respondent, will be deemed to have subsisted during the entire period under reference (08.01.1994 to 23.06. 1994 i.e. the date of order granting ex-parte decree of divorce to date of second marriage of the husband). Hence, it was held that the charge against the respondent is not made out, under Section 493 IPC, because the respondent could not have deceived the appellant of the existence of a “lawful marriage”, when a lawful marriage indeed existed between the parties, during the period under reference.

Regarding the compoundable offence under Section 494 IPC, the Court took notice of the fact that not only the respondent had entered into a second marriage and had fathered 2 children but also the appellant had begotten a son from her second marriage. Acting upon the request made the appellant to compound the offence but on awarding a reasonable cost to her, the Court held that the best course for the parties is to settle their dispute amicably and hence, directed the respondent to pay a sum of Rs. 5,00,000 to the appellant, thereby, compounding the offence under Section 494 IPC.

[Ravinder Kaur v. Anil Kumar, 2015 SCC OnLine SC 359, decided on 09.04.2015]

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