According to the amendment proposed by Maharashtra, the definition of the word 'wife' under Section 125 needs to be changed to include a woman who was living with a man like his wife for a reasonably long period. The officials said that this amendment would cover the interests of women involved in polygamous or live-in relationships. But the state has not specified the term 'reasonably long period' that a woman needs to stay with a man to be called his wife.
The state law and judiciary department has drawn heavily from the recommendations of the Justice (retd) S Mallimath committee formed by the Centre to suggest reforms in CrPC. In fact, state officials admit that the amendment proposed by them is an exact copy of what has been proposed by the Justice Mallimath committee. Ironically, the state has taken cognisance of the committee's suggestion even while the recommendations gather dust at Delhi.
Explaining the need for such an amendment, state law department officials said most bigamy cases lead to problems for the 'other woman' not recognised by law in presence of the official wife. “The other woman is on the streets in dire straits if the man decides to dump her for someone else. She is not entitled to any maintenance as her status is not that of a wife,'' said officials.
Against this backdrop, the state amendment proposes that any woman who has become the other woman in a man's life, knowingly or unknowingly, should be eligible for maintenance under CrPC, said officials. Officials said there are several cases where the other woman does not know of the existence of the official wife.
A section of lawyers opposing the move said that the proposed amendment may legalise or justify bigamy.