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Refusing to make tea for husband is not grave and sudden provocation: Bombay High Court

Wife’s refusal to make tea for her husband will not amount to grave and sudden provocation, the Bombay High Court recently ruled upholding the conviction of a man for culpable homicide not amounting to murder.

The man had inflicted an injury on his wife’s head with a hammer after she refused to make tea for him. She had eventually passed away due to the injury.

“Submission of the learned counsel for the appellant that the deceased by refusing to make tea for the appellant offered grave and sudden provocation, is ludicrous, clearly untenable and unsustainable and as such deserves to be rejected,” the Court said.

The Court while upholding the conviction, made some strong observations on the skewed patriarchy and imbalance in husband-wife relations in our society.

Justice Revati Mohite Dere was hearing an appeal of a person convicted under Section 304 (culpable homicide not amounting to murder) and 201 (causing disappearance of evidence) of the Indian Penal Code.

Frequent quarrels used to ensue between the appellant and his deceased wife on account of the former suspecting her character. During one such argument, the wife has about to leave the house after refusing to make tea for the husband. This prompted him to strike her in the back of the head with a hammer. The incident was witnessed by the couple’s six-year-old daughter.

Soon after the assault, the appellant gave his wife a bath, wiped the blood stains from the spot, and only then took her to the hospital. She was transferred to another hospital while in critical condition and thereafter succumbed to her injuries.

Before the High Court, the appellant claimed that the act was committed by the sudden and grave provocation offered by the deceased after she refused to make him tea. For this reason, it was argued that his sentence should be reduced to the period already undergone.

The Court took a dim view of this argument, noting in its judgment, that it was ludicrous and unsustainable.

“…submission of the learned counsel for the appellant that the deceased by refusing to make tea for the appellant offered grave and sudden provocation, is ludicrous, clearly untenable and unsustainable and as such deserves to be rejected.”

Though the trial court convicted the appellant, it discarded the testimony of the daughter as there was a delay of twelve days in recording her evidence.

After perusing the daughter’s cross-examination, Justice Dere noted that her evidence inspires confidence and cannot be disbelieved.

Disagreeing with the finding on the delay in recording of evidence, Justice Dere sympathised with the trauma of the daughter who had to watch the events unfold before her.

“The trauma of a child loosing a loved one in such a brutal way, will have to be borne in mind. Having regard to the facts, in these circumstances, delay in recording her statement cannot be said to be fatal,” Justice Dere remarked.

After perusing the trial court order and the evidence on record, Justice Dere concluded that no interference was warranted.

She also proceeded to make observations on how such cases of treating the wife like “chattel” showed the “skewed patriarchy” in a marital relationship.

“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. Cases such as these, are not uncommon. 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 imbalance of gender roles, where wife as a homemaker is expected to do all the household chores. 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,” the judgment said.

The Court proceeded to term it a medieval notion which is nothing but patriarchal.

“This medieval notion of the wife being the property of the husband to do as he wishes, unfortunately, still persists in the majority mindset. Nothing but notions of patriarchy,” the Court said.


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