Wife’s not a chattel; refusal to make tea not provocation for assault: Bombay HC

HC upholds sentence of 35-year-old man who had beaten wife with a hammer, leading to her death, after she refused to make tea for him in 2013

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In his defence, Param Bir Singh said, "These are hard facts coming from the person who occupied the highest post in the police force in the city and from someone who has served for more than 30 years."

Noting that a wife is not a “chattel or an object”, the Bombay High Court has upheld the conviction of a man for assaulting his wife to death, only because she refused to make him tea in 2013.

“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,” Justice Revati Mohite Dere said in an order passed earlier this month.

Justice Dere said the patriarchal mindset that woman is a man’s property still prevails in society, encouraging a man to deem his wife as his “chattel”.

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“Thus, the 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 35-year-old man Santosh Atkar who had hammered his wife, resulting in her death, was sentenced to 10 years’ of rigorous imprisonment by an additional sessions judge in 2016. The man had moved the high court challenging the lower court’s order.

Atkar’s counsel Sarang Aradhye had submitted that the man was sentenced for culpable homicide not amounting to murder under sections 304 and 201 of the IPC. Aradhye had said that the trial court had not taken into consideration the witness of convict’s daughter, and as the man had been imprisoned since 2013, the sentence be reduced to the time he had already served in prison.

The couple reportedly had a fight on the fated day after the woman refused to make tea for her husband. Enraged, he had hit her with a hammer. Instead of taking her to hospital, he had bathed her and taken her to the hospital, one hour after the assault. The woman had succumbed to her injuries on December 25. The couple’s six-year-old daughter was a witness to the incident.

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Ruling that the child’s testimony “inspires confidence and cannot be disbelieved”, the court said “there is nothing in the cross-examination of this witness to disbelieve her presence in the house at the relevant time.”

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