Bombay HC: Wife not a ‘chattel’ of husband

While ruling that a wife’s refusal to make tea for her husband would not amount to a grave and sudden provocation for killing her, the Bombay High Court sharply observed that a wife is not the husband’s property required to all the household work.

Upholding a judgement of a lower court awarding a 10-year jail to a Solapur man for assaulting his wife with a hammer as she refused to make tea for him and she later succumbed to her injuries, Bombay High Court Justice Revati Mohite-Dere commented on such instances of how a wife is treated like a ‘chattel or an object’, displaying the ‘skewed patriarcy’ in a marital relationship.

“Marriage ideally is a partnership based on equality. More often than not, it is far from that…Such cases reflect the imbalance of gender-skewed patriarchy, the socio-cultural milieu, one has grown up in, which often seeps into a marital relationship,” Justice Mohite-Dere ruled.

She said that there is ‘imbalance of gender roles’ where the wife as a home-maker is expected to do all the household chores, coupled with the emotional labour.

Coupled with such imbalances in the equation is the imbalance of expectation and subjugation and social conditions of women also make them ‘handover’ themselves to their spouses, which is a ‘midieval and patriarchical notion’ of the wife being the property of the husband to do as he wishes.

In the present case, the accused – Santosh M. Atkar, 35 – had clobbered his wife Manisha with a hammer on Dec. 19, 2013, around 6.00 am, after a quarrel as she was leaving the home without making tea for him.

Their 6-year old daughter Rohini was a witness to the incident and later Atkar rushed his injured wife Manish to the Vitthal Hospital and later to the Civil Hospital where she breathed her last after a week (Dec. 25, 2013).

During her treatment, Manisha had informed her Machhindra Waghmare of the circumstances leading to her injuries after which he lodged a complaint with Pandharpur Police Station.

The Pandharpur District Sessions Court Additional Sessions Judge tried the case and finally in July 2016, awarded Atkar 10-years’ rigorous imprisonment for culpable homicide not amounting to murder and other charges.

Filing an appeal before the Bombay HC, Atkar contended that the act was committed by the sudden and grave provocation of the deceased (Manisha) when she refused to make tea and hence his sentence should be reduced to the period already served by him.

Rejecting the contentions by Atkar as ‘ludicrous, clearly untenable and unsustainable’, Justice Mohite-Dere also perused the daughter Rohini’s evidence as a ‘natural witness’, and ruled that no interference was warranted in the matter.