Not wearing sindoor sign of refusal to accept marriage: Gauhati HCUpdated: Jun 29, 2020, 23:48 IST
New Delhi: The refusal to wear “sakha” and “sindoor” by a woman married according to Hindu rituals and customs signifies her refusal to stay married to her husband, the Gauhati high court has said while granting a husband’s plea for divorce.
Sakha is a bangle made of conch shells that is worn by newlywed women in some customs, while sindoor is vermillion that some Hindu married women apply on their heads.
A categorical refusal by the wife to wear sakha and sindoor points towards her unwillingness to continue her married life, a bench of chief justice Ajai Lamba and justice Soumitra Saikia ruled. “Under such circumstances, compelling the husband to continue to be in matrimony with the wife may be construed to be harassment,” the court added in its June 19 order.
A family court earlier, in December 2018, had rejected husband’s plea for divorce on these grounds.
But the high court observed that the husband alleged before the lower court that the wife refused to wear sakha and sindoor, and that this contention was not disputed by the wife. “The same remained uncontroverted and is therefore an evidence material for the purpose of this proceedings. 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,” the high court ruled.
The couple was married in February 2012. According to the plea filed by the husband, after a month of living together in the husband’s house with his relatives, the wife raised the demand to live with the husband separately in another house. The relationship deteriorated following this, leading to frequent quarrels, and the woman left the matrimonial home in 2013. She filed a case against the husband and his family members for cruelty and dowry harassment under section 498A of the Indian Penal Code, according to the petition.
The husband and relatives were acquitted in that case, and the husband, by then, filed a suit for divorce on the ground of “cruelty” by the wife.
She contested the plea alleging harassment at the hands of husband and in-laws for dowry, and that she was denied food and medical treatment.
The family court turned down the husband’s plea, but the high court overturned the family court verdict that said that there was no cruelty against the husband and his family members by the wife. The high court relied on the fact that the wife had filed a frivolous complaint against the husband and his family members alleging cruelty in which all of the accused were later acquitted.
“The allegation of subjecting the 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”, the high court order said, making that also a ground for granting divorce.
“Customs like wearing Mangalsutra or sindoor could be a pointer towards whether a woman is interested in the marriage or treats the marriage as valid. The court is not completely wrong in using it based on other circumstances to determine whether or not the woman is interested in the marriage. It can, however, be considered a parochial way of looking at a marriage and a woman’s interest in the relationship. While judging the relationship between two persons there’s no one size fits all approach. Even if we say it is parochial, it might not be true for someone from a rural background, but it could be so for a person from an urban background. So the court’s enquiry should always be based on the cultural and mental set up of the parties”, said Shreya Srivastava, assistant professor at Institute of Law, Nirma University, Ahmedabad.