Wife cannot be treated as a bonded labourer or forced to live with in-laws if threatened: Chhattisgarh High Court

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The Chhattisgarh High Court recently observed that a wife cannot be treated as a hired chattel or a “bonded labour” by her husband [Priya Sharma v. Sanjit Sharma].

The Court also opined that a woman cannot be forcibly made to stay with her in-laws when she has received threats to her life.

A Bench of Justices Goutam Bhaduri and Sanjay Kumar Jaiswal made the observation while allowing a wife’s plea challenging a 2018 divorce order passed by a family court.

“…it is not expected that the wife should be treated as a hired chattel or a bonded labour to stay under the conditions imposed by the husband … If the wife apprehends with such a life threat and if she does not want to stay under such threat or conditions which are not normal, then in such a case it is not expected that forcibly she would be made to stay at her in-laws’ place and thereafter wait for damage to be done, then to cure the same,” the order stated.

The couple got married on June 5, 2015. However, they parted ways on May 27, 2016, owing to personal differences.

The husband alleged that the wife insisted that she does not want to stay with his parents and that she objected to his parents visiting the couple’s house in Raipur. She would say that their house is not a ‘Dharmashala’, the court was told.

On the other hand, the wife claimed that she was subjected to ill-treatment and torture and that her in-laws demanded dowry from her.

She further submitted that her husband had threatened her of dire consequences. Therefore, she did not desire to live with him under the same roof.

The husband thus petitioned a family court seeking divorce on grounds of cruelty, alleging that the wife always picked up fights with him over trivial issues.

The family court had granted a decree of divorce to the husband on the ground of cruelty after noting that during counselling sessions, the couple had failed to reconcile their discord.

However, the High Court found that the wife appeared to have been threatened by her husband and in-laws, due to which she was compelled to leave the matrimonial house. It noted that the husband had failed to produce any material to show that his wife did not respect his parents or that she insisted that he should leave his parents.

“It cannot be presumed by mere bald statement of husband that his parents were subjected to torture by the wife,” the bench opined.

The Court proceeded to find that the husband’s conduct indicated that he had misbehaved with his wife.

“The husband cannot be allowed to take advantage of his own deeds and looking to the nature of allegations which have been stated by him except the trivial facts, it appears that no severe allegations have been made against the wife,” the Court said.

The Court proceeded to quash the divorce decree awarded by the family court, after noting that the husband’s claim that he had been deserted by the wife was not sufficiently proved.

Senior Advocate Fouzia Mirza along with Advocate Navin Shukla appeared for the wife.

Advocates Shashank Thakur and Priyanka Rai Mishra represented the husband.

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