A ruling that stirred a much talked about controversy, the Supreme court of India last Thursday passed the judgment that a Hindu husband could divorce his wife on the grounds of cruelty if she tried to separate him from “pious obligation” to live with his elderly parents and look after them.
The court was affirming the divorce of a Karnataka-based couple in a recent judgment. Married in 1992, the lower court granted the husband divorce after he alleged on his wife’s part. He quoted cases of her constant suspicions about him having affairs that were prohibited with a maid, apart from constantly asking to get a separate place on the grounds of unwillingness to share her husband’s income.
What is considered lawful and lawless in India continues to oscillate between the tragic and the ludicrous. Just when you think things can’t get any worse, they invariably do.
In all wisdom dawned upon us, a bench of Justice Anil R Dave and L Nageshwara Rao said “It is not a common practice or desirable culture for a Hindu son in India to get separated from his parents on getting married at the instance of the wife, especially when the son is the only earning member in the family. A son, brought up and given education by his parents, has a moral and legal obligation to take care and maintain the parents, when they become old and when they have either no income or have a meagre income.”
After all In India, usually people don’t subscribe to the western notion, where, upon getting married or attaining majority, the son gets separated in the family, the court said. In normal circumstances, a wife is anticipated to be after the marriage.
Further adding that to his patriarchal sets of thought the bench also claimed that a wife wanting her husband to stay separately from his parents is alien to our ethos and culture, perhaps a western thought.
‘a woman becomes a part of the husband’s family and cannot seek to separate him from his parents for the sole reason that she wants to entirely enjoy his income.’
It all sounds familiar, of course. So far so good. One hardly expects evolved complexities in such cases. But it is the absence of a parallel thought process that makes this extremely disturbing.
But, Is the same law under said obligations applies to woman also brought up and given education by her parents too?!
Does the jusgement also authorize ALL married women to divorce their husbands when they are forced to leave the parental home at the time of marriage?
And what if the elderly parent can provide for themselves, would the law still applies?
I think not.
on the definition of ‘cruelty’ to the husband in the concerned case, the ruling states that the wife behaved ‘cruelly’ towards her husband by her attempts and threats to commit suicide.
“No husband would ever be comfortable with or tolerate such an act by his wife and if the wife succeeds in committing suicide, then one can imagine how a poor husband would get entangled into the clutches of law, which would virtually ruin his sanity, peace of mind, career and probably his entire life. The mere idea with regard to facing legal consequences would put a husband under tremendous stress. The thought itself is distressing.”
However, on a personal note Would the judges care to inform us who is supposed to care for ageing parents of married women who have no male sibling? And though the judges talked about income and that it is a “pious obligation” of a son to maintain his parents, it is evidently not just about monetary concerns, or else a rule passed about a mandatory monthly cheque being sent to dependent parents would have sufficed.
It is rather disheartening to realize that even in today’s date and age we do have law makers who are still constraint with patriarchial midset which conjures up the desirable picture of a perfect family where the son and daughter-in-law are being dutiful towards ageing parents. The major, horrid flaw in the picture being the total absence of the wife’s ageing parents.
Most of us wish to be there for our parent as they grow older and more vulnerable. As their age start to take a toll, or anxiety escalates to another level. We are in constant state of worrisome all the time.
But having said that, surely an adult couple should be left to sort out these kind of important life decisions between themselves without the precious “Hindu son” being awarded special status over his wife by the law! Or else perhaps the wife should just tell him and the law to take a walk!
It is quite an ambitious and sterling failure on the part of our respectful lawmakers, to still have hypocrisy take over their moralistic duty. May be its time to move forward than just saying all that jibber-jabber of women empowerment and do something for real!