Wife not chattel or bonded labourer to stay under conditions imposed by husband: Chhattisgarh High Court

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In a matrimonial house, a wife should not be treated as chattel or bonded labour and made to stay under conditions imposed by her husband, observed the Chhattisgarh High Court recently. [Kalyani Bai v Tejnath]
The Court made the observation while rejecting allegations of desertion and cruelty made by a husband against his wife.

Rather, Justices Goutam Bhaduri and Deepak Kumar Tiwari found that it was the husband who had been insisting that his wife should stay in the husband’s village while disregarding her genuine requests to stay together elsewhere.

“It is very natural and rightful demand of the wife from her husband to keep her along with him. The Respondent/husband herein, from the very beginning, not accepted such genuine request of the Appellant/wife and always used to treat her as a chattel and thought that she is bound to live in such a place where he wants to keep her … It is well settled that in the matrimonial house, the wife should not be treated as hired chattel or a bonded labour to stay under the conditions imposed by the husband,” the Court said.

It added that there should be mutual respect between the husband and wife in a marriage. The marriage would be disrupted if either side forces any condition on the other, the judges said.

“It is obvious that if the wife insists to stay with the husband and, without any extraneous reason or official cause, if husband refuses to keep her, it cannot be said to be a cruelty by the wife towards the husband for such insistence. During the matrimonial ties the reciprocal respect and regard to each other and the company is necessary. In absence thereof any forceful imposition of condition by either side may lead to a matrimonial disruption (sic),” the judgment stated.

The Court further took note of allegations that while the husband insisted on his wife returning to the matrimonial house, he also refused to stay with her there. From this viewpoint as well, the Court opined that there was no cruelty in the wife’s alleged conduct.

“If the husband expects the wife to stay at a place other than his company without any sufficient cause, it cannot be stated that because of resistance by the wife to stay apart it would be a cruelty by wife (sic),” the Court remarked.

By way of background, the couple got married in May 2008.

The husband said that he wished for his wife to live with him in Barduli, his village, but she declined. As a result, he sought divorce on the grounds of desertion and cruelty.

The family court granted the same and the wife challenged the divorce decree before the High Court.

Through her appeal, she told the High Court that she had consistently been willing to live with her husband. However, he never wanted her to stay with him and insisted she live separately in the village, the wife claimed.

After considering the rival arguments, the Court concluded that the trial court had not appreciated all the facts in a proper perspective. The High Court proceeded to allow the wife’s appeal and set aside the divorce decree.

Advocate Krishna Tandon represented the appellant-wife. Advocate CJK Rao represented the respondent-husband.

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