Refusal to wear ‘shakha’ or ‘sindoor’ signifies rebutting marriage

-Avishek Sengupta

An order passed by the Gauhati High Court observed that refusal of marriage rituals and customs by a wife signifies her refusal to accept her marriage to the husband, while granting her husband’s plea for divorce.

A two-member of the HC, comprising Chief Justice Ajai Lamba and Justice Soumitra Saikia, said the woman’s refusal to wear sakha, conch-shell-made bangles and sindoor (vermillion) — “the trappings of a Hindu bride” – denotes her unwillingness to be considered married to her husband.

“Under such circumstances, compelling the husband to continue to be in matrimony with the wife may be construed to be harassment,” the HC held in its June 19 order.

Earlier, a family court in Assam had rejected the husband’s plea for divorce on the grounds that the wife is not found to have inflicted any cruelty against the complainant.

However, the HC observed that the husband had alleged before the lower court that the wife refused to wear sakha and sindoor, a contention that has not been disputed by her.

The marriage between the couple was solemnised in February 2012.

However, a month after the marriage, the wife wanted a separate accommodation for the couple, as she did not wish to live in a joint family.

The husband alleged that their conjugal relationship worsened because of her demand to live like a nuclear family, which led to frequent quarrels and his wife also failed to conceive a child.

She left her husband’s home in 2013 and filed a case against him and his family members under Section 498A (husband or his relative subjecting a married woman to cruelty) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).

Though the husband and his relatives were acquitted in the case by HC, he filed a separate divorce plea, citing cruelty by his wife.

She contested the plea alleging harassment by her husband and in-laws for dowry. She also alleged that she was denied food and medical treatment and it was left to her brother to take care of her basic necessities.

But, the HC overturned the family court’s decision.

“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 HC order said.

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