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Thursday, April 22, 2021

Wife not chattel or object, medieval notion of her being property of husband still persists: Bombay HC

Court rejects appeal by Pandharpur man convicted for hitting wife with hammer, leading to her death.

Written by Omkar Gokhale | Mumbai |
Updated: February 24, 2021 8:37:07 pm
Bombay High Court newsThe Bombay High Court rejected the appeal filed by a woman against her September 2014 conviction and sentence of rigorous life imprisonment (Express Photo/File)

Rejecting an appeal by a man from Pandharpur, who was convicted for hitting his wife with a hammer, which led to her death, the Bombay High Court recently observed that “wife is not a chattel and such cases reflect the imbalance of gender, skewed patriarchy one has grown up with, which often seeps into marital relationship” and “show medieval notion of wife being property of husband to do as he wishes”.

A single-judge bench of Justice Revati Mohite-Dere, earlier this month, passed a ruling on an appeal filed by 35-year-old man from Pandharpur, who was convicted by a Sessions Court on July 1, 2016, under sections 304 (10-year rigorous imprisonment for culpable homicide not amounting to murder) and 201 (2-year rigorous imprisonment for causing disappearance of evidence) of the Indian Penal Code.

According to police, the man had suspicions about his wife’s character, which would lead to frequent quarrels between the couple. On the morning of December 19, 2013, there was an exchange of words between the couple on this issue, and also because she refused to prepare tea for him. While the wife was leaving the house, the man allegedly hit her on the head from behind with a hammer. The incident was witnessed by their six-year-old daughter.

The man then allegedly gave her a bath, wiped the blood stains from the spot and took her to Vitthal Hospital, where she was asked to be shifted to the Civil Hospital in Solapur due to her critical condition. She was unable to speak throughout this ordeal and on December 25, 2013, she succumbed to her injury.

Appearing for the convict, advocate Sarang Aradhye submitted that the police’s case was based on a weak piece of evidence and the daughter’s witness was discarded by the trial court. Therefore, he said, the appellant’s sentence should be reduced to the imprisonment already suffered by him.

After perusing submissions and material on record, the court observed that the minor daughter’s evidence “inspires confidence and cannot be disbelieved.”

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The High Court said that the appellant not only assaulted his wife, but also wasted precious and crucial time of around one hour in covering his act by destroying evidence. “If the appellant had rushed his wife to the hospital soon after the incident, possibly her life could have been saved and the daughter would not have lost her mother,” said the court.

Justice Revati Mohite-Dere remarked, “It would not be out of place to observe that a wife is not a chattel or an object. Marriage ideally is a partnership based on equality. More often than not, it is far from that. Cases such as these are not uncommon. Such cases reflect the imbalance of gender – skewed patriarchy, the socio-cultural milieu one has grown up in, which often seeps into a marital relationship.”

The judge added, “There is an imbalance of gender roles, wherein the wife as a homemaker is expected to do all the household chores. Emotional labour in a marriage is also expected to be done by the wife. Coupled with these imbalances in the equation, is the imbalance of expectation and subjugation. Social conditions of women also make them hand over themselves to their spouses. Thus, men, in such cases, consider themselves as primary partners and their wives, ‘chattel’.”

Rejecting the plea, Justice Mohite-Dere went on to note, “This medieval notion of the wife being the property of the husband to do as he wishes, unfortunately, still persists in the majority mindset… nothing but notions of patriarchy. Thus, the submission by the appellant’s counsel, that the deceased by refusing to make tea for the appellant offered grave and sudden provocation, is ludicrous, clearly untenable and unsustainable and as such deserves to be rejected.”

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