Wife can’t be forced to cohabit, even by court’

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If a woman refuses to cohabit and “establish conjugal rights” with her estranged husband, he cannot force her nor can a court decree, the Gujarat high court said in a recent judgment while deciding a case of a minority community couple from Banaskantha district living separately for four years.

They got married in 2019 and had a son in 2015. The woman, who’s a government nurse, left her matrimonial home with her minor son in 2017 and went to live with her parents. She alleged that the husband and in-laws had harassed her to migrate to Australia and then call her husband there. That’s because her siblings have settled in Australia.

The husband filed a suit in afamily court for restitution of conjugal rights, and the court ordered the wife to live with him. The woman challenged the order in the high court. The bench of Justice JB Pardiwala and Niral Mehta quashed the family court’s order.

The HC cited Order XXI Rule 32(1) of the Civil Procedure Code and said the object behind the provision of law is that “no person can force a female or his wife to cohabit and establish conjugal rights. If the wife refuses to cohabit, in such a case, she cannot be forced by a decree in a suit to establish conjugal rights”.

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