Uniform Civil Code: Triple Talaq debate, Polygamy issue, etc.

Is Polygamy more prevalent among Muslims?


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Laws allowing Polygamy in India

Mains level: Societal implications of Polygamy


Polygamy in India

  • In India, polygamy is allowed for Muslims under the Muslim Personal Law Application Act (Shariat) of 1937, as construed by the All India Muslim Personal Law Board.
  • Polygamy is recognized as a religious practice within the Muslim community, and Muslims have the legal right to enter into polygamous marriages.

Uttarakhand Law: Monogamy Extension to Muslim Community

  • Extension of Monogamy Rule: The UCC extends the rule of monogamy to the Muslim community.
  • Marriage Conditions: It mandates that neither party entering into marriage should have a living spouse at the time of marriage.
  • Alignment with Existing Laws: This aligns with the provisions of the Hindu Marriage Act of 1955, signifying a departure from previous allowances under Muslim personal law.


Limitations in Data Assessment

  • Reliance on Census and NFHS: Government data primarily relies on the decadal census and the National Family Health Survey (NFHS), each with its constraints.
  • Census Inference: Census data indirectly infer polygamy from the disparity between the number of married men and women. According to the 2011 census, there are 28.65 crore married men in India, compared to 29.3 crore married women, suggesting a potential prevalence of polygamy or migration.
  • NFHS Insights: NFHS directly addresses polygamy through its survey questions but represents less than 1% of the total households in India, limiting its scope. The NFHS-5 data revealed polygamy rates highest among:
  1. Christians (2.1%)
  2. Muslims (1.9%) and
  3. Hindus (1.3%)
  • IIPS Study: According to a June 2022 study by the International Institute of Population Sciences (IIPS), polygynous marriages decreased from 1.9% in 2005-06 to 1.4% in 2019-21 among the whole population. Buddhists, who reported a 3.8% incidence of polygyny in 2005-06, saw a sharp decline to 1.3% in 2019-21.

Insights from Census and NFHS Data

  • Census Inference: Census data indirectly infer polygamy from the disparity between the number of married men and women.
  • NFHS Insights: NFHS directly addresses polygamy through its survey questions but represents less than 1% of the total households in India, limiting its scope.

Laws in India banning Polygamy

  • Hindu Marriage Act, 1955: This act applies to Hindus, Buddhists, Jains, and Sikhs and declares polygamous marriages as void. Section 11 of the act specifically states that a marriage is void if either party has a living spouse at the time of the marriage.
  • Special Marriage Act, 1954: This act allows individuals from different religions or those who do not wish to follow their respective religious laws to marry. Like the Hindu Marriage Act, it also prohibits polygamy under Section 4(1)(i).
  • Indian Penal Code, 1860: Sections 494 and 495 of the IPC deal with the offence of bigamy. Section 494 states that marrying again during the lifetime of one’s spouse is illegal and punishable, while Section 495 prescribes punishment for concealing a former marriage.

Judicial Precedents against Polygamy

  • Parayankandiyal v. K. Devi & Others (1996): The Supreme Court concluded that monogamous relationships were the standard and ideology of Hindu society, which condemned polygamy. The court emphasized that polygamy was not allowed to become a part of Hindu culture due to the influence of religion.
  • State of Bombay v. Narasu Appa Mali (1951): The Bombay High Court ruled that the Bombay (Prevention of Hindu Bigamy Marriage) Act, 1946 was not discriminatory. The Supreme Court later affirmed this decision, asserting that state legislatures have the authority to enact measures for public welfare and reforms, even if they conflict with Hindu religious practices.
  • Javed & Others v. State of Haryana & Others (2003): The Supreme Court clarified that under Article 25 of the Indian Constitution, freedom of religion is subject to social harmony, dignity, and wellness. While Muslim law allows for polygamous marriages, it is not compulsory, and the court emphasized that religious practices must align with constitutional principles.

Why it should be banned?

  • Gender Inequality: It perpetuates unequal treatment of women, often treating them as property and denying them autonomy.
  • Exploitation: Polygamous marriages can involve coercion and exploitation, especially of vulnerable individuals.
  • Financial Burden: Supporting multiple spouses and children can lead to economic instability and poverty.
  • Emotional Impact: Polygamous relationships can cause jealousy, conflict, and emotional distress among spouses and children.
  • Social Cohesion: Polygamy can disrupt social harmony, fostering competition and resentment within communities.
  • Legal Challenges: Polygamous marriages pose legal complexities related to inheritance, custody, and other matters.
  • Health Risks: There are increased risks of domestic violence, sexually transmitted infections, and inadequate healthcare in polygamous households.


  • Progressive Legislative Move: Passage of the UCC Bill in Uttarakhand signifies a progressive move towards legal uniformity in personal laws.
  • Data Collection Challenges: Assessment of polygamy prevalence underscores the need for comprehensive and accurate data collection methodologies.
  • Policy Implications: Addressing these challenges will be pivotal in formulating effective policies and fostering social cohesion in civil law.

Try this PYQ from CSP 2019:

Which Article of the Constitution of India safeguards one’s right to marry the person of one’s choice?

(a) Article 19
(b) Article 21
(c) Article 25
(d) Article 29


Post your answers here.
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