Can a married woman lawfully live with her lover against the will of her husband? The Rajasthan High Court says yes.
In a judgment on Wednesday, the court allowed a married woman, Manju, to live with her lover, Suresh. “It is improper to pass an order to hand over any unwilling married woman to her husband with whom she does not want to stay,” said justices GS Mishra and KC Sharma. The court also said that nobody should consider an adult woman as a consumer product.
While dismissing a habeas corpus petition filed by Manju’s husband, the court came down hard on the misuse of habeas corpus petitions by people who want to thrust their will upon adult women without their consent. The court said the husband was free to approach the family court for divorce.
Commenting on the judgment, senior Supreme Court advocate and noted women’s rights activist Indira Jaising said, “Though it sounds strange, I am in complete agreement with the high court.”
"At the end of the day an adult woman has a right to decide whom she wants to live with. She can’t be forced to go with her husband against her will," Jaising said.
In this case, Jaising said, it is clear that the woman was prepared for divorce. She also felt that Manju’s husband had abused the habeas corpus petition because such petitions were generally filed when somebody is actually missing.
Asked whether it amounted to adultery, Jaising clarified that the woman could not be prosecuted for this offence under the law. As for the other man, she said, “it seems he is ready to face that”. National Commission for Women Chairperson Girija Vyas said that although it seemed like an important judgment, she could not comment on it since she had not seen it yet.
Manoj Chaudhry, the counsel for Manju and Suresh, had earlier rejected as baseless the allegations that Manju had been kept in illegal confinement by Suresh.
He said that the duo had been living together by their free will and that the relationship had begun even before Manju had got married.
With inputs from Satya Prakash and Sutirtho Patranobis.