Polygamy in India

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Polygamy is illegal in India uniformly for all of its citizens except Muslims under the terms of The Muslim Personal Law (Shariat) Application Act of 1937, as interpreted by the All India Muslim Personal Law Board. However, in a judgment in February 2015, the Supreme court of India stated that "Polygamy was not an integral or fundamental part of the Muslim religion and monogamy was a reform within the power of the State under Article 25" [1] According to the 1961 census (the last census to record such data), polygamy was actually less prevalent among Indian Muslims (5.78%) than among several other religious groups.[2] Incidence was highest among Adivasis (15.25%) and Buddhists (7.9%); Hindus (5.8%), by comparison, had an incidence 0.5% higher than Muslims in 1960; though it has declined much more faster among Hindus in the last five decades with its criminalisation[3][4] Although there are movements to end polygamy,[5] some orthodox members of the Muslim community seek to preserve the practice.[6]

In the past, there have been many incidents of non-Muslim men converting to Islam solely with the purpose of practising polygamy legally.[7] In December 2008, a controversy arose when the then Deputy Chief Minister of Haryana, Chander Mohan, and Anuradha Bali, the former Assistant Advocate General of Haryana, converted to Islam adopting the names Chand Mohammad and Fiza, so that Mohan could marry Bali as his second wife. However he converted back to Hinduism after a while. Such incidents raised concerns over the use of Islam for polygamy.[8]

On February 10, 2015, the Indian Supreme Court ruled that polygamy was not an integral part of Islam and justified the firing of a Uttar Pradesh government employee for violating UP Government Servant Rules following his marriage to a second woman. Justices TK Thakur and AK Goel stated, "What was protected under Article 25 (right to practice and propagate any religion) was the religious faith and not a practice which may run counter to public order, health or morality. Polygamy was not integral part of religion and monogamy was a reform within the power of the State under Article 25."[9] In October 2015, the court stated that it was considering banning polygamy.[10]

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