Monday, May 6, 2013

CA lost his membership for having two wives; ‘Bigamy’ comes within the meaning of moral turpitude

Moral turpitude means anything contrary to honesty, modesty or good morals. It means vileness and depravity. As the appellant married another woman, while the first marriage was subsisting, and acted contrary to the law and against expectation of his "estranged wife", the offence of bigamy had been committed within the meaning of "moral turpitude"
In the instant case, matrimonial dispute arose between the appellant, a qualified Chartered Accountant, and his wife, which had resulted in granting of divorce decree by the first Additional Family Court, Chennai. The said divorce decree was confirmed by Madras High Court. On a complaint by his estranged wife, under Section 21 of the Chartered Accountants Act, 1949, appellant's name was removed from the Register by the ICAI on the grounds of bigamy charges.   The appellant contended that the allegation of bigamous marriage would not come within the meaning of moral turpitude. Therefore, the disqualification attached to Section 8 of the Act would have no application to the facts of his case. Thus, appellant filed the instant writ to quash the order passed by the ICAI.
The HC dismissed appellant’s writ with following observations:
  1. The appellant and his estranged wife were Hindus, governed under the provisions of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955. Section 17 of the Act states that marriage between two Hindus is void if two conditions are satisfied, viz., (a) the marriage is solemnized after the commencement of the said Act, and (b) at the date of such marriage, either party has a husband or wife living and the provisions of Sections 494 and 495 shall apply accordingly. Thus, it is evident that if a Hindu marries with a person having a spouse living or he or she has a spouse alive and, marries any person, he would be liable for bigamy charges.
  2. The expression "moral turpitude" isn’t defined anywhere. But it means anything done contrary to justice, honesty, modesty or good morals. It implies depravity and wickedness of character or disposition of the person charged with the particular conduct. If the individual charged with a certain conduct he owes a duty, either to another individual or to the society in general, to act in a specific manner. If he acts contrary to it and does so knowingly, his conduct might be held to be due to vileness and depravity.
  3. In fact, the conviction of a person in a crime involving moral turpitude and impeaches upon his credibility as he would be deemed to have indulged in shameful, wicked and base activities. The offence of bigamy comes within the meaning of "moral turpitude". The appellant had married another woman, while the first wife was alive, he had acted contrary to the law and to expectation of his "estranged wife";
  4. The appellant had attracted disqualification by operation of law, viz., Section 8 of the Chartered Accountants Act, 1949, due to his committing an offence involving moral turpitude. For the foregoing reasons, the writ appeal was dismissed - P. Mohanasundaram v. President, ICAI [2013] 33 80 (Madras)

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