‘Not unusual to make bahu work at home’: Kerala HC upholds mother-in-law’s ‘rights’ | India News – Times of India

KOCHI: It is quite common for elders in a family to reprimand younger members and making a daughter-in-law do household or domestic work is not unusual, the Kerala high court observed in a recent judgment.
The observation was made by a division bench comprising Justices AM Shaffique and Mary Joseph while considering whether a wife trying to force her husband to throw out her mother-in-law from their home amounted to “cruelty” and therefore sufficient grounds for grant of a divorce.
In the judgment authored by Justice Mary Joseph, the court said, “No family is totally devoid of clashes among members constituting it. 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 (daughter-in-law), it is all the more clear that the afore-stated factors formed the basis for her ill-will to the petitioner’s mother (her mother-in-law). We do not find any other justifiable reason for her to get the petitioner’s mother excluded from the family or to be desirous of having a separate residence to the exclusion of her.”
The court was considering a case (Mat. Appeal No. 137/2014) where a 41-year-old man from Thalassery, in Kannur district, sought a divorce from his 37-year-old wife. They got married in April 2003 and had a girl child. In January 2014, the Thalassery family court had turned down the husband’s plea for divorce on grounds of “cruelty”.
At the high court, the husband’s counsel argued that the wife forcing the husband to abandon his mother amounted to cruelty and that the family court was wrong in not granting a divorce. The counsel relied on a 2016 judgment by the Kerala high court (Narendra vs. K Meena) in which it was held that the effort of a wife to separate the husband from his family would be “torturous” and constitutes an act of cruelty.
Though the wife’s counsel argued that such a contention was not taken before the family court, the high court held that it was evident in the pleadings. The court also said the petitioner becoming a drunkard can only be taken as the natural outcome of the pressure exerted on him by the wife to have a separate residence by excluding his mother.
The bench referred to the Supreme Court’s judgment of 2003 (Vijayakumar Ramachandra Bhate Vs Neela Vijayakumar Bhate) to point out that in Hindu society it is a pious obligation of the son to maintain the parents and that the wife must have justifiable reason to attempt to deviate from the normal practice and custom of society.
Allowing the appeal, the high court reversed the family court’s judgment and passed a decree on grounds of cruelty for dissolution of the marriage in favour of the husband.

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