The Kerala High Court has made certain observations last week while accepting a man’s plea to dissolve his marriage on the ground that his wife forced him to stay away from his mother, causing him mental agony and subjecting him to mental cruelty. However, almost every mainstream media has focused only on one aspect of the order where the court pointed out how ‘expecting a daughter-in-law to do household chores is not unusual’.
Couple got married in 2003 and have a girl child. The husband alleged that the wife had found pleasure in quarrelling with him and his mother. It was also submitted that she threatened to commit suicide after creating cogent materials to trap the husband and his mother.
The woman moved out of the house in February 2011 and has never returned since past nine years. However, she opposed the plea for divorce, raising counter allegations of cruelty at the hands of her mother-in-law. It was alleged that on the advice of the mother-in-law, the husband started ill treating her.
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The plea for divorce was set up by the husband in the family court in 2011 on the grounds of cruelty. The family court ruled in favour of the woman in January 2014 and denied the husband’s petition for divorce which led to the appeal in the high court.
Kerala High Court Observations
The woman had refused to live with the man citing ill-treatment by the mother-in-law and exhorted him to move out with her, which the man presented in court as “cruelty”.
The judgment authored by Justice Mary Joseph noted,
We do not find any other justifiable reason for her to get the petitioner’s mother excluded from the family or to be desirous of having a separate residence to the exclusion of her. The persistence of the respondent (wife) was unbearable for the petitioner.
The woman, in turn, had submitted that her mother-in-law used to ill treat her physically and mentally to the extent that she made her do all domestic work even during the convalescent period after a surgical operation.
The bench, which also comprised Justice AM Shaffique, noted in response to the wife’s argument,
No family is totally devoid of clashes among members constituting it. It is common for elders to scold and sometimes abuse youngsters. Making a daughter-in-law do the household/domestic work is also not something unusual.
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The high court took serious note of the submissions made by the husband wherein he alleged,
She used to call the petitioner ‘dog’ and ‘shameless creature. She used to undermine this person stating that he is not a fit person to be her husband and insult him by beating him in front of his relatives. She also denied the petitioner sex.
The court said,
The respondent was very particular to have a more comfortable and happy life to the exclusion of the petitioner’s mother, who according to her was the root cause for problems to originate in her matrimonial life. The wife expressed willingness to live with the husband only if her mother-in-law does not live in the same house.
The court also noted that the husband was not a drunkard during the initial days of marriage, but he turned to alcohol after the relationship with the wife hit the rough patch. The bench stated,
In the case on hand the petitioner’s turning to be a drunkard can only be taken as the natural outcome of the pressure exerted on him by the respondent to have a separate residence to the exclusion of the petitioner’s mother.
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The court, therefore, allowed the husband’s plea and set aside the judgment of family court. The court said,
Evidence indicates that the respondent and the petitioner’s mother were not cordial and clashes were frequent. Therefore, it is natural for the petitioner to be a scapegoat of the indifferences. The torture suffered by him amidst the respondent and his mother was of much gravity and something unbearable for him.
Irretrievable Breakdown Of Marriage
The wife who left her matrimonial home in 2011 never made a single attempt to return for past nine years. The court observed,
From the above conduct of the petitioner (husband) admitted by the respondent (wife), it is evidenced that the torture suffered by him amidst the respondent and his mother was of much gravity and something unbearable for him.
The court noted how not even a single attempt was made from the side of the respondent wife to join the petitioner to continue the marital life. After noticing the conduct of both parties the court concluded it was difficult for the two to resume the matrimonial relationship. The bench held
The case on hand is also one, wherein the marital relationship among the parties have become irretrievably broken.
- The crux of the order here was how the woman had left her matrimonial home and there was absolutely no relationship or hope of reviving the same in the past decade
- However, mainstream media, especial Shekhar Gupta from The Print posted the same report, highlighting only one aspect of the order which spoke about ‘household chores’.
तलाक़ के मामले में केरल हाईकोर्ट की टिप्पणी, बहू से घर का काम कराना कोई असामान्य बात नहीं#ThePrintLaw
— Shekhar Gupta (@ShekharGupta) May 30, 2020
- Perhaps, if a reader is made to read just this headline, it will surely make the Kerala High Court sound regressive
- Nonetheless, even if the order stated that a wife/daughter-in-law must contribute to household chores, why must the same be criticised?
- On one side, mainstream media never questions why only the husband is ‘expected to pay up’ in case of a divorce; but when it comes to making the woman accountable in her role as a wife, we want to mock the order as conservative
- A marriage is an equal partnership between husband and wife and both partners are expected to contribute evenly in their own ways
- Unfortunately, rights for wives have become one way privileges and even a basic chore like cooking often becomes a pointer in a domestic violence petition for many
- Its high time equality champions set the record straight – if you demand equal rights for a woman, stop the practice of expecting only the men to pay alimony
- Instead all women rights activists must focus on empowering every single wife in a way, that she will never be dependent on her husband’s money post divorce
- Lastly, our gender biased laws make it extremely difficult for any man to secure divorce in a time bound manner
- By no stretch of imagination a decade long contested divorce can be justified, as the same is merely an ego battle of the spouse who is indefinitely contesting the same
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