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.

A two-member of the HC, comprising Chief Justice Ajai Lamba and Justice Soumitra Saikia, said the woman’s steadfast refusal to wear sakha and sindoor – the trappings of a Hindu bride – denotes her unwillingness to be considered married to her husband.
A two-member of the HC, comprising Chief Justice Ajai Lamba and Justice Soumitra Saikia, said the woman’s steadfast refusal to wear sakha and sindoor – the trappings of a Hindu bride – denotes her unwillingness to be considered married to her husband. (Santosh Kumar/HT file photo. Representative image)

KEY HIGHLIGHTS

  • The HC overruled the family court’s decision and granted permission to the husband to divorce his wife
  • The woman had filed a filed a dowry-harassment case against her husband and his family
  • The HC bench said that filing criminal cases based on ‘unsubstantiated allegations’ amount to cruelty on husband and/or his family

The Gauhati high court (HC) has observed that a Hindu married woman’s refusal to wear sakha – bangles made of conch-shell – and sindoor (vermillion), as per the marriage rituals and customs, 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 steadfast refusal to wear sakha and sindoor – the trappings of a Hindu bride – denotes her unwillingness to be considered married to her husband.

“… 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 (husband). Such categorical stand of the respondent (wife) points to the clear intention of the respondent that she is unwilling to continue her conjugal life with the appellant,” the high court said in the judgment passed on June 19.


The man and the woman had married on February 17, 2012, but they started fighting soon as she started demanding not to live along with his family members. As a consequence, the two have been living separately since June 30, 2013.

She had lodged a police complaint against her husband and his family members accusing them of torturing her, but the allegation of subjecting her to cruelty was not sustained, the bench said.
“Such acts of lodging criminal cases on unsubstantiated allegations against the husband and/or the husband’s family members amounts to cruelty as held by the Supreme Court,” they said in the order.


The family court completely ignored the fact that the woman compelled and prevented her husband from performing his statutory duties towards his aged mother under the provisions of the Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act, 2007, the judges said.

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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