GUWAHATI: A man in Assam was granted divorce by the Gauhati High Court after it viewed the woman's refusal to wear sakha (bangles made of conch shell) and use sindoor (vermilion) as her unwillingness to accept her marriage.
The relationship between Bhaskar Das and his wife Renu Das went on the rocks within months after their wedlock in 2012. She deserted the house of her in-laws the next year.
Das, who works as a contractual labourer in Digboi in the state, had filed for divorce after he and the members of his family were acquitted by the court. He had cited cruelty by his wife in his divorce application.
Earlier, she had filed a case under various sections of the IPC alleging that she was subjected to cruelty to meet the illegal demands of dowry in the form of cash and kind by her husband, his step-mother, sister-in-law, brother and sisters. She also alleged that she was not provided with food and medical treatment and that it was her brother who used to take care of the bare necessities of her life.
After the case reached the Gauhati HC from a family court in Dibrugarh, a two-judge bench of Chief Justice Ajai Lamba and Justice Soumitra Saikia took note of the woman's statement that she did not use sindoor as she did not consider Bhaskar Das as her husband. The court also took note of Das's statement in the family court that his wife refused to wear sakha and use sindoor.
“Under the custom of Hindu marriage, a lady who has entered into marriage according to Hindu rituals and customs, and which has not been denied by the respondent in her evidence, her refusal to wear ‘sakha and sindoor’ will project her to be unmarried and/or signify her refusal to accept the marriage with the appellant. Such categorical stand of the respondent points to the clear intention of the respondent that she is unwilling to continue her conjugal life with the appellant," the bench said.
"Under such circumstances, compelling the appellant husband to continue to be in matrimony with the respondent wife may be construed to be harassment inflicted by the respondent upon the appellant and his family members. This evidence although available before the Family Court during the evidence adduced, was not taken into account during the discussion in the impugned judgment. As such the Family Court erred in evaluating the evidence in the proper perspective," it observed.
Overturning the family court's decision against divorce, the Gauhati HC bench said: "...The allegation of subjecting the respondent wife to cruelty was not sustained. Such acts of lodging criminal cases on unsubstantiated allegations against the husband and/or the husband’s family members amounts to cruelty as held by the Supreme Court...
"In this context, the Hon'ble Supreme Court in a recent judgment being Rani Narasimha Sastri vs. Rani Suneela Rani, 2019 SCC Online SC 1595 has held that filing of criminal cases like case under Sections 498(A) IPC etc against the husband and the family members and which are subsequently dismissed/rejected by the Family Court, is sufficient to be construed as an act of cruelty by the wife."
Observing that the man is paying a maintenance of Rs 3,000, the court said it would be open to the woman praying for further alimony under the provisions of the Hindu Marriage Act.