The Gauhati High Court has granted divorce to a man during a matrimonial appeal hearing, on the grounds that his wife refusing to wear sindoor and sakha bangles amounts to her refusal to accept the marriage.
Ek Chutki Sindoor Ki Keemat
The bench, consisting of Chief Justice Ajai Lamba and Justice Soumitra Saikia, observed that the woman had written in her statement, “I am not wearing/putting sindoor right now because I do not consider him my husband.”
The bench responded to this saying, “A woman who has entered into marriage according to the Hindu rituals and customs, her refusal to wear ‘Sakha and sindoor’ will project her to be unmarried and/or signify her refusal to accept the marriage.”
“Such categorical stand of the respondent (wife) points to the clear intention of the respondent that she is unwilling to continue her conjugal life with the appellant,” read the high court’s judgement.
Court Says That Wife Asking To Live Separately Is An Act Of Cruelty
The husband’s appeal for a divorce case was dismissed in 2018 by the family court, on the grounds that no cruelty was found on his wife’s part against him. Post this, he went on to appeal in the high court against the family court’s order.
The man and the woman in question were married in 2012, but started having disagreements when the woman asked that they live separately, and not with the man’s family. In 2013, she went back to her parental home, and has been living there since.
She lodged a police complaint against her in-laws, citing that she was not given any food or medical treatment when needed. She said that she had no income, and was forced to rely on her brother, who took care of her bare necessities.
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“Such acts of lodging criminal cases on unsubstantiated allegations against the husband and/or the husband’s family members amounts to cruelty as held by the Supreme Court,” the judges said.
The family court completely ignored the fact that the woman compelled and prevented her husband from performing his statutory duties towards his aged mother under the provisions of the Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act, 2007,” the high court ruled.
“Such evidence is sufficient to be construed as an act of cruelty,” the ruling added.
The bench decided that the couple’s marriage cannot continue in these circumstances and passed a decree of divorce. They added that compelling the man to stay married to a woman in a situation like this “may be construed to be harassment inflicted upon him and his family.”
India’s Institutions Need To Get With The Times
Indian women continue to be subjected to regressive values and morals, and held up to a sexist, patriarchal, and orthodox standard of acceptable behaviour, both by society and its institutions. The onus of a good marriage isn’t just on the woman, her ability to get along with her in-laws, or her compliance to traditional customs. These cannot be legal evidence of acts of cruelty or harassment.
Social change towards women’s equality and empowerment can only truly happen – and stick – when there’s systematic and institutional support for the change. Indian institutions need to become aware of regressive attitudes that are harmful to its women, and do away with them. Only then can we expect fairness and equality to become normalised and sustainable.
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