In a rare order that would make men think twice before trying to mislead the court to protect his second marriage, the Bombay high court recently reversed a divorce and imposed an exemplary cost of Rs 50,000 on a Pune resident. He has to pay his wife for his deliberate efforts to keep the wife deprived of her conjugal rights and make it impossible for her to resume cohabitation.
If the husband, by his own acts, made cohabitation with his wife impossible by living with another woman, his behaviour amounts to being wrong and disentitles him from seeking a divorce on the grounds that he had no physical relationship with the first wife, the HC stated. (full report)
Is this about morality? The wife was denied conjugal rights and because, technically, the man was still married to her his remarriage was considered bigamous. However, he was granted divorce later. Now, the High Court has rapped the family court for granting him a divorce.
What I do not understand is that a certain amount of time – one year that is the mandatory period, by the courts and according to the Hindu Marriage Act – had passed.The wife says it is because he was living with another woman that she could not have conjugal relations with him. I am surprised that if she had to battle it out, why was there no talk about the children, who were minors when he left?
The court has reversed the divorce. There is no mention of the second wife who he has been living with since 1992. Even if her position stands legally nullified, how about bringing her into the picture since the courts are making moral pronouncements? Was that marriage registered? If so, how do things stand? What about her social status, as she must have been seen as his wife? Did she know he had not got the divorce when they were together? Did she know when he did get it? Was she kept informed by him?
The man has spent more of his life with her (almost 17 years) than with his first wife (11 years).
Regarding the one-year period of not cohabiting, nowhere does it say either of the spouses cannot cohabit outside. And is there any way to ascertain whether such affairs and sexual encounters take place if they are random? What if the man had fled to some other country and did not visit and therefore did not cohabit?
Would the court deem it as denial of conjugal rights?
The worst aspect of this case is how the courts are fighting against each other. This just shows that we are ill-equipped to deal even at the level of family cases. Where will this go? The wife will be happy that she managed to give him a tough time? The children will be happy that their father has been made to eat crow and return? The second wife will be happy that the man whose wife she was considered is now no more his wife, just like that? The man will be happy that he is returning to his old legally-wedded status?
Will he remain loyal? Will the wife take him to court if he has an affair but leaves no traces behind? Is this about morality or proprietary rights?
Fidelity is extremely important but there is legalistic fidelity where you are bound and there is emotional fidelity where you want to be bound.
A court cannot pronounce judgement on these delicate issues.
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An issue related in a different way is about our Border Security Force (BSF) jawans along the India-Pakistan border in Punjab:
Last few years have seen an alarming rise in AIDS cases in the border force, said Shalinder Kaur, medical officer, BSF, Ferozepur sector. A couple of jawans in each of the seven BSF units in the area have contracted the deadly virus and are undergoing treatment, she added.
There are the usual half-denials. But the report quotes a jawan who is being treated as saying:
We should be granted leave and allowed to stay with our families on BSF campuses.
Instead of the conference being planned “to chalk out strategies for combating the disease”, the soldiers must be granted adequate leave and it is ridiculous that families are not permitted to stay with them on campus when sex workers can find their way there. Apparently, they come in as members of orchestra troupes. If this is known, then obviously someone is looking the other way.
Besides the aspect of the disease spreading, where are the security concerns? After all, this is the border area. If such a masquerade can pass muster then what is the guarantee that other kinds won’t?
Espionage is probably sexier than sex itself.