Wife’s refusal to make tea no provocation for assault: Bombay high court

Published on Feb 25, 2021 09:04 AM IST

On the day of the incident, a quarrel ensued between the two and when the woman refused to make tea for him, he assaulted her with a hammer

Representational image.
Representational image.
ByKAY Dodhiya

Observing that the notion of patriarchy wherein a man treats his wife like property and can do as he wishes unfortunately still persists in the majority mindset, the Bombay high court rejected the appeal of a man who was convicted for assaulting his wife with a hammer which resulted in her death in 2013.

The man who was convicted and sentenced to 10 years’ rigorous imprisonment approached the court seeking reduction in his sentence on the grounds that the refusal of his wife to make tea for him resulted in grave and sudden provocation that made him assault her.

However, the court held that as the man after assaulting his wife had wasted precious time in destroying the evidence before taking her to the hospital, there was no infirmity in the sentence and hence rejected the man’s appeal.

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Justice Revati Mohite Dere, while hearing the appeal filed by 36-year-old Santosh Atkar against his conviction and sentence by additional sessions judge, Pandharpur, on July 1, 2016, was informed by advocate Sarang Aradhye that the man was sentenced for culpable homicide not amounting to murder 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.

Aradhye submitted that as the conviction was based on the extra-judicial confession of the man and the trial court had discarded the witness of the daughter, and as the man had been in prison since 2013, the appeal seeking reduction of the sentence to the time he had already served in prison should be allowed.

According to the complaint registered by the maternal uncle of the deceased woman on December 19, 2013, when he reached Vitthal Hospital, he was informed by the husband that he had assaulted his wife Manisha. The man repeated the same confession to the mother of the deceased woman. The police investigation revealed that the couple used to quarrel frequently.

On the day of the incident, a quarrel ensued between the two and when the woman refused to make tea for him, he assaulted her with a hammer. Rather than rush his bleeding wife to the hospital, the man bathed her and cleaned the blood and took her to the hospital after an hour of the assault. The couple’s six year-old daughter was a witness to the entire incident.

As the woman was not responding to treatment, the man was asked to shift her to Civil Hospital in Solapur. The woman who could not talk due to the assault succumbed to the injury at the hospital on December 25.

After hearing the submissions, Mohite Dere observed that the daughter was a natural witness and the delay in recording the daughter’s statement which was recorded after almost 11-12 days of the incident was condonable as she must have been in trauma during the initial few days, hence it should not have been disbelieved at the time of trial.

The bench also rejected the argument that the assault was a result of grave and sudden provocation as the woman refused to make tea for the man and observed, “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 case, reflect the imbalance of gender – skewed patriarchy, the socio-cultural milieu one has grown up in, which often seeps into a marital relationship.”

Referring to a study, “Man Who Mistook His Wife For Chattel” by Margo Wilson and Martin Daly, the court said, “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 of the learned counsel for the appellant 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.”

While rejecting the appeal, Mohite Dere observed that the conviction and sentence did not suffer from any infirmity and said, “The appellant not only assaulted his wife, but also after assaulting her, wasted precious and crucial time i.e. around one hour, in covering his act by destroying evidence, by wiping the blood from the spot and bathing Manisha before taking her to the hospital. If the appellant had rushed Manisha to the hospital, soon after the incident, possibly her life could have been saved and [daughter of the couple] would not have lost her mother.”

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