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

The Court added that there should be mutual respect between the husband and wife in a marriage.

“In Matrimonial House Wife Can’t Be Treated As A Chattel Or Bonded Labour To Stay On Husband's Conditions: Chhattisgarh HC

The Chhattisgarh High Court recently observed that in the matrimonial house, the wife should not be treated as a hired chattel or a bonded labour to stay under the conditions imposed by the husband. The bench also opined if the husband expects the wife to stay at a place other than his company, without any sufficient cause, and if the wife resists his demand, it would be not cruelty by the wife

The bench of Justice Goutam Bhaduri and Justice Deepak Kumar Tiwari observed thus while noting that it is a natural and rightful demand of the wife from her husband to keep her with him.

With this, the bench allowed an appeal filed by a wife against the judgment and decree passed by a Family Court allowing the application filed by the husband under Section 13 of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955

The facts in brief

The parties got married in May 2008 and the lady delivered a baby girl in July 2009. It was the case of the husband, that he wanted her to reside with him in his village Barduli, but she did not accept the said proposal and therefore, he sought a divorce on the grounds of cruelty and the same was allowed by the Family Court. 

On the other hand, it was the contention of the wife in the appeal that she was always willing to reside in the company of the husband but he never wanted to keep her with him and wanted her to reside separately at Village Barduli.

It was the wife's stand that she used to resist his demand to live in his village as his husband belonged to a rural background and from the very beginning, she wanted to keep herself away from his family and was not willing to reside in a village.

In the appeal, the husband submitted that his Appellant/wife was in the habit of making false allegations and she had also made a police complaint against the Respondent/husband for the offence under Section 498-A of the IPC.

He further submitted that whenever he tried to bring her back, she always threatened to commit suicide and even in the social meeting, she imposed a condition that if someone took responsibility for her life, then only she would return and join the company of the Respondent/husband. 

High Court’s observations 

Taking into account the facts and circumstances of the case and the evidence adduced by the parties, the Court noted that from the very beginning, the husband did not accept the request of the Appellant/wife to keep her with himself. 

Noting that the husband always treated her as chattel and thought that she was bound to live in such a place where he wanted to keep her, the Court, finding faults with the Family Court's judgment, observed thus:

“The Appellant/wife is not willing to reside at Village Barduli and wants to reside along with her husband, therefore, we are of the view that only on this issue, the dispute between both the parties exists and the trial Court has not appreciated the evidence in its proper perspective.”

Further stressing 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.

“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. So 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,” the Bench remarked. 

Consequently, the Court concluded that none of the grounds had been satisfied individually or collectively to entitle the Respondent/husband to claim a decree of divorce. Hence, the Appeal was allowed and the impugned judgment passed by the Family Court, Bemetara was set aside.

Supreme Court judgments on granting of maintenance to wife

Neha Tyagi v. Lieutenant Colonel Deepak Tyagi (2021)

A father’s duty and responsibility to keep his child until they reach the age of majority cannot be excused. It is also undeniable that the child has a right to be cared for in accordance with his father’s position. This was observed by division bench judges comprising of Hon’ble Justices Mukeshkumar Rasikbhai Shah and A.S. Bopanna of the Supreme Court of India,  in the matter of Neha Tyagi vs. Lieutenant Colonel Deepak Tyagi (2021).

Facts of the case 

The facts of the case are that the appellant and respondent were married and had a son out of wedlock. A disagreement erupted between the husband and wife, and the appellant-wife filed a number of complaints against the respondent-husband along with his employer, the Army Authorities. The complaints included the respondent’s extramarital affairs as well. The respondent-husband filed a divorce petition against the appellant-wife in the learned Family Court of Jaipur, alleging cruelty and desertion by the appellant. On May 19, 2008, the learned Family Court issued a decision dissolving the marriage between the appellant and the respondent based on cruelty and desertion by the appellant-wife. The appellant, in this case, filed an appeal with the High Court, feeling offended and unhappy with the ruling. The High Court dismissed the said appeal and upheld the decision and decree of the learned Family Court in the contested judgement and order. As a result, at the request of the appellant-wife, the present appeal was filed in the Supreme Court.

Observation by the Apex Court 

  1. After reviewing the facts and arguments offered, the Supreme Court concluded that the respondent’s duty and responsibility to maintain his son until he reaches the age of majority cannot be relieved. A child should not be made to suffer because of a disagreement between husband and wife. The father’s duty and responsibility for the child’s maintenance remain until the child reaches the age of majority. It is likewise unarguable that the son has a right to be maintained in the same manner as his mother. 
  2. It has been stated that the mother is unemployed. As a result, regardless of the decree of dissolution of the marriage between the appellant-wife and the respondent, a reasonable/sufficient sum is necessary for her son’s maintenance, including his schooling, which must be provided by the respondent. 
  3. In light of the foregoing reasons indicated above, the current appeal was dismissed by affirming the divorce/dissolution of marriage decree entered between the appellant-wife and the respondent-husband. However, the respondent-husband is ordered to pay the appellant Rs.50,000/- per month beginning in December 2019 for the support of his kid, based on the respondent’s current condition.

Rajnesh v. Neha (2020)

In Rajnesh v Neha (2020), a Supreme Court division Bench comprising of Justices Indu Malhotra and Subhash Reddy put down extensive norms to control the payment of maintenance in matrimonial cases on November 4th, 2020.

Facts of the case 

In this case, the appellant, Rajnesh, was ordered by the Family Court to pay maintenance to the respondent, Neha, and their minor child. He unsuccessfully challenged this order in the Bombay High Court and finally filed an appeal before the Supreme Court. Rajnesh was ordered by the Supreme Court to pay all his debts and make interim maintenance payments. 

Guidelines by the Supreme Court of India 

While adjudicating this case, the Court found the need to frame guidelines that would cover overlapping jurisdiction under different enactments for maintenance payment, interim maintenance payment, determining the quantum of maintenance, the date from which maintenance is to be awarded, and the enforcement of maintenance orders.

  1. The Court while addressing the conflict arising out of overlapping jurisdiction noted that, while there is no restriction on invoking multiple laws to obtain maintenance, it would be inequitable to direct the husband to pay maintenance under each of the proceedings, independent of the relief granted in a previous proceeding. As a result, the spouse seeking support must inform the Court if they have been awarded maintenance in a prior or separate proceeding. Furthermore, while determining the amount of maintenance, the Court must take into consideration any previous maintenance order in order to reduce or offset the amount.
  2. The Court has simplified the interim maintenance process in light of the judicial delay in adjudicating interim maintenance actions and the usual practice of parties concealing their financial position. The Court created affidavit templates for parties to use when declaring their financial situation. It also established deadlines to avoid delays and observed that the respondent must make their disclosure within four weeks, and the concerned court must rule on interim maintenance within four to six months.
  3. The Court acknowledged that there was no straitjacket formula to calculate the quantum of maintenance. The Court noted that the same should balance the applicant spouse’s interests with the responding spouse’s financial competence. The Court outlined considerations to examine when determining the amount of maintenance to be paid. The following items were included on the list, namely, 
  • The parties’ status, 
  • The applicant’s needs, 
  • The respondent’s income and property, 
  • The claimant’s liabilities and financial responsibilities, 
  • The parties’ age and employment status, 
  • The parties’ residential arrangements, 
  • The parties’ minor children’s maintenance, and 
  • Illness or disability.

4. The Supreme Court noted that in the past, courts have utilised a variety of criteria to determine when maintenance should be paid to the applicant, including the date the application was filed, the date of the court order, and the date the respondent received the notification. After considering each of these cut-off dates, the Apex Court in the present case determined that awarding maintenance from the date of the application’s submission would be in the applicant’s best interests.

5. The Court devised three techniques to address the challenges of implementing maintenance orders. First, the maintenance orders might be implemented in the same way as a civil court decision would, with the court having civil detention, property attachment, and other powers. Second, the court may dismiss the respondent’s defence. Finally, the court has the authority to begin contempt proceedings. Any of these tools might be used by the court to enforce maintenance orders.

Choose A Format
Formatted Text with Embeds and Visuals
Youtube and Vimeo Embeds
Voting to make decisions or determine opinions
Trivia quiz
Series of questions with right and wrong answers that intends to check knowledge