The respondent had told the court that her mother-in-law used to make her do household chores even while she was recovering from surgery.

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news Court Sunday, May 31, 2020 - 20:15

The Kerala High Court recently made a few problematic observations while considering a divorce petition. The court observed that it is not unusual to make a daughter-in-law do household chores, and that it is common for elders to sometimes even abuse youngsters. The observation came even when the respondent in the case told the court that her mother-in-law forced her to do household work while she was recuperating from a surgery.

The case pertains to a Kannur man who challenged a Family Court order rejecting his request for a divorce on the grounds of cruelty by his wife. It was while quashing the Family Court’s judgment and granting divorce to the man that the High Court made the observation. The order, which was issued on May 20, was recently uploaded on the court’s official website.

The couple has been living separately since 2011 after eight years of marriage. The divorce petition was filed by the man on the basis that he had been treated cruelly by the woman. Meanwhile, the woman, who stated that she was being badly treated by the mother-in-law, said that she wants to be reunited with her husband in a separate home without his mother. She told the court that she was physically and mentally ill-treated by the man’s mother. “Petitioner’s mother was so cruel to her and made her to do all domestic work even during the convalescence period after a surgery,” the court records the woman as saying.

To this, the court made the observation that it was ‘common’ for elders to abuse youngsters and not unusual to make a daughter-in-law do the household chores. The court further placed the blame on the respondent for “ill-will” towards her mother-in-law.

“No family is totally devoid of clashes among its members. It is common for elders to scold and sometimes abuse youngsters. Making a daughter-in-law do the household/domestic work is also not something unusual. From the evidence tendered by the respondent, it is all the more clear that the aforestated factors formed the basis for her ill-will to the petitioner’s mother,” the order states.

The order also makes only a passing mention of the husband getting drunk and assaulting the woman and their daughter.

The observation was made by a two-member bench consisting of Justices Mary Joseph and AM Shaffique.

Reacting to the High Court’s statements, Advocate Harish Vasudhevan said the court acted like agents of patriarchy.

“These are not mere observations by the court, it looks as if the court has taken a stand. By giving out these statements, the judges have acted as agents of patriarchy. This is something which has to be removed from the judgment,” Harish tells TNM.

He also said that the judgment can even have dire impacts in other family court cases. “These statements are classic examples of patriarchy. Since one is elder to another, it does not give a right to abuse the other. It is true that an individual who grew up in a patriarchal society will have their biases. Judges are also humans and they too might have this subject bias, but they should realise this as their limitation and there should be a concerted effort to overcome it,” he adds.

Meanwhile HC also slammed the Thalassery Family Court for counselling the couple while rejecting the divorce petition.

“The Family Court has taken the role of a counsellor rather than an adjudicator while doing so. It is after much effort and counselling that a case comes up before the court for adjudication. Then the role of the court is to adjudicate the issue involved in the case based on the evidence after duly appreciating it. The Family Court is not supposed to advise the remedies to the parties and issue directions. We are not satisfied with the way in which the Family Court had dealt with the case on hand,” the HC further observed.

The observation made by HC on family courts, Harish says stands true. “This is something we often see in the family courts in Kerala, trying to reconcile the couples. It is not a family court’s role to reconcile the couples,” Harish says.

Read:

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