In India, the general law is that a wife cannot remarry without getting a divorce from her first husband. However, the personal laws of various religious communities take different stands on this issue.
Hindu Law does not permit wife’s remarriage without divorce
As per the Hindu Marriage Act, it is illegal for a Hindu wife to remarry when her first husband is still alive. Any such marriage would be considered void under Section 11. This essentially means a Hindu wife cannot remarry without first getting a divorce.
For example, if a Hindu woman marries another man while her first husband is alive and they have not divorced, her second marriage would have no legal validity. She could be prosecuted for bigamy under Section 494 of the Indian Penal Code.
No legal rights for second Hindu wife
A Hindu wife who remarries without divorce from her previous husband would be committing bigamy. So her second marriage would confer no legal rights on her second husband.
For instance, if a married Hindu woman marries another Hindu man without divorcing her first husband, the second husband cannot claim any legal rights like maintenance or property inheritance that a lawful husband is entitled to.
Muslim wives cannot remarry either without divorce
While Muslim men are allowed to have up to 4 wives at once, a Muslim wife cannot remarry without divorcing her existing husband. If she marries again during subsistence of her first marriage, her second marriage would be considered illegal.
So a Muslim wife also cannot remarry unless she obtains divorce from her previous husband. For example, if a married Muslim woman weds another man without divorce from first husband, her second marriage would be void under Muslim Law.
Second Christian wife has no rights
Though Christianity does not explicitly prohibit remarriage without divorce, it is punishable under the Indian Penal Code. A Christian wife’s second marriage during the lifetime of her first husband would be invalid.
For instance, if a married Christian woman marries another man without divorcing her first husband, the second husband cannot claim rights like maintenance, property, custody etc. that are available to a legally wedded spouse.
Exceptions under personal laws
Thus, remarriage without divorce is prohibited for wives under all major religions in India. The only exception is Muslim men who can take multiple wives at once provided certain conditions are fulfilled.
Otherwise, a wife cannot remarry unless she obtains a divorce decree from her previous marriage. Any subsequent marriage would be considered void, with no legal rights available to the second husband.
In conclusion, the general law in India is that a wife cannot remarry without first getting divorced from her existing husband, irrespective of religion. The only exception to this rule is granted to Muslim men under personal laws. Remarriage without divorce confers no legal rights to the second husband.