The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Lost wife returns, new wife loses out

Calcutta, April 1: Life has taken curious turns for Antim Kumar Mandal, a headmaster in a Nadia school, and the two women he married.

His first wife disappeared from the hospital soon after giving birth to a girl. He waited for over a decade before marrying another woman, Latika.

Just after that marriage, his first wife returned with a 10-year-old girl and was promptly taken back. And his second wife promptly went to Calcutta High Court, pleading that it punish “her husband” for not disclosing an earlier marriage and then leaving her without notice.

The division bench granted anticipatory bail to Antim, ruling that the second wife did not have any legal status whatsoever. “The law does not recognise the second wife and only the first wife can lodge a complaint against a man if she wants to,” the bench observed.

Antim breathed a sigh of relief and Latika sighed. But things may change yet again if a strong legal opinion — in favour of the second wife — takes the course back to court. This argument suggests that Latika did not know she was marrying a man with an earlier marriage not annulled and could not be penalised for a fault that was not hers.

Twelve years ago and two years after marriage, Antim had lost his first wife when she disappeared with the new-born. In 2001, he married Latika but soon after, the first wife made as dramatic a comeback with their daughter as her disappearance. She was accepted back in the household.

Latika left for her parents’ place (in Shyampukur in north Calcutta) and filed an FIR.

On Tuesday, the government’s pleader moved court against Antim’s application for anticipatory bail. But public prosecutor Kazi Shafiullah intervened.

He told the division bench that the law did not recognise a “second wife”. “For the law, she may not exist at all,” he said.

The judges agreed, allowing Antim bail and ruling that Latika was not his lawful wife at all.

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