Observing that notions of patriarchy and the idea that the woman is a man’s property still prevail in society, Bombay High Court upheld the conviction of 35-year old man for culpable homicide not amounting to murder. The man had hit his wife’s head with a hammer after she refused to make tea for him.
A single judge bench of Revati Mohite Dere noted, “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 also noted that wife is not a chattel and such cases reflect the imbalance of gender, skewed patriarchy one has grown up with, which often seeps into marital relationship and shows medieval notion of wife being property of husband to do as he wishes.
On July 1, 2016, 35-year-old Santosh Atkar from Pandharpur was convicted by a Session Court under Section 304 (10-year rigorous imprisonment for culpable homicide not amounting to murder) and Section 201 (2-year rigorous imprisonment for causing disappearance of evidence) of the Indian Penal Code.
As per the police reports, the man was suspicious about his wife’s character which led to frequent quarrels between the two. On December 19, 2013, they again started quarreling over the same issue and also because she refused to make tea for him. The husband hit her on the head with a hammer from the back while she was leaving the home. Their 6-year old daughter witnessed the whole incident.
As per the daughter’s statement, Atkar gave his wife a bath, cleaned the blood stains from the crime spot, and then took her to the Vitthal hospital. Considering her critical condition, she was shifted to the Civil Hospital in Solapur. On December 25, 2013, she succumbed to her injuries.
Advocate Sarang Aradhye appearing for the convict argued that the police case was based on weak evidence and the trial court had discarded the daughter’s witness. Aradhye sought the reduction in the sentence to the imprisonment already suffered by him.
The court observed that the daughter’s evidence inspires confidence and cannot be disbelieved.
“If the appellant had rushed his wife to the hospital soon after the incident, possibly her life could have been saved and the daughter would not have lost her mother,” the court noted.
The court stated, “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.”
The court further added, “There is an imbalance of gender roles, wherein the 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 hand over themselves to their spouses. Thus, men, in such cases, consider themselves as primary partners and their wives, ‘chattel’.”
The court rejected the appeal made by the convict stating, “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. Thus, the submission by the appellant’s counsel, 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.”