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Restitution of Conjugal Rights |Law Notes

Introduction:

Marriage under any matrimonial law is a union of two bodies and souls. Marriage has been accepted as an important institution in all personal laws, whether it be Hindu or Mohammedan law.

It imposes certain duties upon both the spouses and both take ‘seven pheras’ around the pious fire and agree to follow the marital duties (as per Hindu Marriage Act). The necessary implication is that they will always live together.

Earlier, people were bound by the Doctrine of Unity and it was stated that they cannot separate and have to live together till their seven lives.

But, with the complexity in the marital relationships, the Act was amended and issues of separation with divorce or judicial separation and many other were added and the laws were codified.

What is Restitution of Conjugal rights?

Restitution means ‘to restore something; here relation’ and Conjugal Right means ‘rights relating to marriage’

The legal definition is given in Section 9 of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 which states that:

 “When either the husband or the wife has, without reasonable excuse, withdrawn from the society of the other, the aggrieved party may apply, by petition to the district court, for restitution of conjugal rights and the court, on being satisfied with the truth of the statements made in such petition and that there is no legal ground why the application should not be granted, may decree restitution of conjugal rights accordingly.” 

This means that if a spouse, either husband or wife has withdrawn from the society without any reasonable excuse to terminate the existing relationship, the other spouse can file a petition to bring the other spouse back to their matrimonial home.

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The burden of proof lies on the spouse who has withdrawn to provide for a reasonable excuse.

Case Law(s):

Sushila Bai vs. Prem Narayan

It was stated that the husband deserted his wife and was unresponsive towards him. the Court laid down the proven elements:

  • The behavior shown by the petitioner is that he has withdrawn from society and is guilty of misconduct.
  • The Respondent can file for a matrimonial relief against the suit

Mirchumal vs. Smt. Devi Bai

 In this case, the wife to continue with the job wanted to live away from her husband. But as per the Court, this was contingent and the husband was allowed to use his marital rights thereby denying her to do the job.

This cleared the fact that even if Hindu women wanted to be independent and choose their careers, they were not allowed to do so as the Courts ordered them to give up their jobs if that is what their husbands desired.

Application of Provision:

Under Section 9 of the Act, the aggrieved party may apply by petition in the District Court for the Restitution of Conjugal rights.

The Court on hearing the petition must be satisfied that there was a bonafide reason to stay away from the spouse and if it finds you are taking advantage of the law, it will dismiss the petition. 

Conclusion

Marriage is a pure relation between two spouses and ‘Restitution of Conjugal Rights’ is just a small way of reconciling the parties and protecting society and their marital rights. If they do not agree to stay together for 1 year, then it becomes a good case of divorce.

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