04 may 2012
by Rosy Sequeira
Planning when to start a family cannot be treated as cruelty, said the Bombay high court on Thursday, upholding the family court's dismissal of a man's divorce plea.
An HC division bench of judges P B Majmudar and Anoop Mohta was hearing a petition by Pradeep Bapat (30), who said that during their honeymoon his wife Prerna (26) refused to have sex unless he wore a Condom and subsequently refused to conceive on the grounds that they were not financially stable.
"She must not have shown willingness to become a mother unless there was financial stability. She wanted to give the child a better life," Justice Majmudar said. "It is a mutual decision and a husband cannot insist," said Justice Mohta.
The reply of Bapat's advocate– "Why do people go for honeymoon?" – raised a few titters in the courtroom.
The judges also held that Pradeep's other grounds for seeking divorce––not knowing to cook, not being religious, not parting with salary and not folding clothes properly––did not amount to cruelty either. Bapat's lawyer said his family wanted a working graduate as his wife, who would live in their joint family and also do housework. To this, Justice Majmudar said, "A woman is not a slave. The wife is an ardhangini (a man's other half). Her right of freedom of speech cannot be taken away. You have put (common household troubles) in the plea. If we construe these as cruelty, then no marriage will be safe."
Observing that Bapat's family was "conservative" and "full of perfection", Justice Majmudar said, "You (Prerna) should not have selected this house."
Her advocate replied, "She was the eldest (child) and unless she married, her younger sister would not have been able to do so either."
Justice Majmudar said, "Girls are still treated as a burden on parents. A girl must know to which family she is going (after marriage)."
In their order, the judges said the case was an eye–opener for those who were yet to marry. They said that especially in the case of arranged marriages, the prospective husband and wife should get to know each other and see if they could live happily together. "It is the duty of (both sets of) parents to consider various aspects before the actual marriage takes place."
The judges were told that Prerna was willing to return to her marital home, but Bapat did not want her back. The couple married in February 2007; Prerna left her marital home in June the same year.
The judges noted that in a short span of time, the relationship between Prerna and Bapat had become strained. Also, Prerna was "subjected to ill–treatment" and Bapat "treated her as if she was on probation". "A girl coming into an entirely new atmosphere would have expected love and affection. The husband and his family are required to see to it that a (newly) married woman does not feel that she has come to an absolutely strange place," the judges said.