The Bombay High Court, while observing that “the medieval notion of the wife being the property of the husband to do as he wishes, still persists”, upheld the conviction of a husband who killed his wife after she refused to make tea for him.
The Single-judge Bench of Justice Revati Mohite Dere was hearing a criminal appeal filed by the husband convicted under sections 304 (culpable homicide not amounting to murder) and 201 (causing the disappearance of evidence) of the Indian Penal Code.
The prosecution had stated that the couple frequently quarrelled and in one such instance, the deceased wife was about to leave the house without preparing tea. This compelled the convicted husband to give a blow on her head from behind, with a hammer. He also allegedly kept questioning her character.
Soon after she was assaulted, the appellant husband gave her a bath, wiped the blood-stains from the spot and took her to Vitthal Hospital where she succumbed to her injuries after a week. During the trial, he had submitted that the incident was a result of “grave and sudden provocation”.
The court observed that this was “nothing but notions of patriarchy”. It held that the ground of grave and sudden provocation because she did not make tea was “ludicrous, clearly untenable and unsustainable”.
The court also made observations on social issues of patriarchy, strict gender roles and the arbitrary responsibility imposed on married women. Justice Revati said, “It would not be out of place to observe that a wife is not a chattel or an object. Marriage ideally is a partnership based on equality. More often than not, it is far from that… Such cases reflect the imbalance of gender – skewed patriarchy, the socio-cultural milieu one has grown up in, which often seeps into a marital relationship. There is an imbalance of gender roles, where a wife as a homemaker is expected to do all the household chores.”
It further observed, “Emotional labour in a marriage is also expected to be done by the wife. Coupled with these imbalances in the equation, is the imbalance of expectation and subjugation. Social conditions of women also make them handover themselves to their spouses. Thus, men, in such cases, consider themselves as primary partners and their wives, chattel.”
The High Court also took into account the testimony of the child of the couple that was initially discarded by the trial court as it was recorded after 10-12 days of the brutal incident. The 6-year-old child had witnessed the entire incident.
Justice Revati held that a delay of a few days is not “fatal”. She said, “It will have to be borne in mind, first the trauma of a young child, aged 6 years on seeing her mother being assaulted by her father; the trauma of seeing not only the assault but of seeing her mother lying there for an hour, during which, her father (appellant) gave her mother a bath, to clean the blood and also cleaned the spot”.
Placing all facts on record, the Bombay High Court upheld the decision of the trial court and refused to provide any leniency.
The judgment may be read here: