What is the Effect of Force or Fraud upon the Validity of Marriage under Hindu Law?

Under the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, when the consent is obtained by force or fraud, the marriage becomes voidable. It can be set aside provided:

(1) The relief is sought within one year when the force ceased to operate or when the fraud was discovered; and

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(2) The petitioner whose consent, or whose guardian’s consent, was obtained by force or fraud, has not with her (or his) full consent lived as wife (or husband) after the force ceased or the fraud was discovered.

In Madhusudan v. Chandrika, AIR 1975 MP 1974, it was held that the “fraud” is used in s. 12 in a technical sense. In that case the bride was suffering from syphilis prior to the marriage. This was not disclosed to the bridegroom. Still it was held that the marriage could not be nullified on the ground of fraud. This decision is not good law after the 1976 amendment.

Where a marriage is brought about by ‘fraud’ it is liable to be annuled. ‘Fraud’ in s. 12 cl. (2) has the same meaning as under the Contract Act. The pre-marital status of the parties is a material fact. So if the husband does not disclose the fact that he was already married, it is fraudulent and the marriage thus brought about is liable to be annuled. Rajinder Singh v. Smt. Pomilla, AIR 1987 Del. 285. Concealment of age (that bride is 7 years older than the bridegroom) by falsely presenting that the bride is younger than the husband is fraud.

Som Dutt v. Raj Kumar, AIR 1986 P&H 191. The petition for annulment of marriage on the ground of fraud cannot be presented beyond one year after the fraud was discovered. Rabindra Prasad v, Sita Devi, AIR 1986 Pat.128 (this limit cannot be relaxed).