Bom HC | Wife, a chattel? On refusing to make tea, husband assaults wife with a hammer. HC observes ‘imbalance of gender – skewed patriarchy’

Bombay High Court: Revati Mohite Dere, J., while addressing a very significant issue of assault, expressed that:

“There is imbalance of gender roles, where wife as a homemaker is expected to do all the household chores.”

Factual Matrix

Appellant was married to Manisha (deceased) and they both used to reside with the appellant’s mother.

According to the prosecution, the appellant was suspecting Manisha’s character as a result of which, there used to be frequent quarrels between them.

On 19-12-2013, Manisha was leaving the house without preparing tea on account of which, there was an exchange of words between the appellant and the deceased. Since the appellant was suspecting Manisha’s character and as she refused to make tea for the appellant, it was alleged that the appellant had given a blow on Manisha’s head from behind, with a hammer.

Further, it was alleged that the said incident was witnessed by Rohini, the appellant and Manisha’s daughter.

Prosecution submitted that after Manisha was assaulted, the appellant gave her a bath, wiped the bloodstains from the spot and thereafter took Manisha to Vitthal Hospital.

At the time when Manisha was admitted, her uncle visited, during that time appellant informed Manisha’s uncle that he had assaulted Manisha. Hence a complaint was lodged and a charge sheet was filed against the appellant for the offence punishable under Sections 302 and 201 of the Penal Code, 1860.

Sessions Judge convicted the appellant for the above-stated offences.

Analysis, Law and Decision 

High Court observed that on the day of the incident on being refused tea, the appellant assaulted Manisha with a hammer, but in Court’s opinion:

“…deceased-Manisha, by refusing to make tea for the appellant, by no stretch of imagination, can be said to have offered grave and sudden provocation for the appellant to assault her, much less, such a brutal assault.”

Bench also observed that:

“…a wife is not a chattel or an object.”

Cases as the present one, reflect the imbalance of gender – skewed patriarchy, the socio-cultural milieu one has grown up in, which often seeps into a marital relationship.

While making very essential observations, Bench quoted from a study, ‘The Man Who Mistook His Wife For Chattel’ by Margo Wilson and Martin Daly:

“by `proprietary’, we mean first that men lay claim to particular women as songbirds lay claim to territories, as lions lay claim to a kill, or as people of both sexes lay claim to valuables. Having located an individually recognizable and potentially defensible resource packet, the proprietary creature proceeds to advertise and exercise the intention of defending it from rivals. Proprietariness has further implication, possibly peculiar to the human case, of a sense of right or entitlement”. 

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.

Bench refused the appellant counsel’s argument the deceased by refusing to make tea for the appellant offered grave and sudden provocation.

In view of the present set of circumstances and arguments, Court stated that appellant not only assaulted his wife, but also after assaulting her, he wasted precious and crucial time by wiping the blood from the spot and bathing Manisha before taking her to hospital, if the deceased would have been rushed to the hospital, her life could have been saved.

Therefore, Court found no infirmity in the impugned judgment and dismissed the present appeal.[Santosh Mahadev Atkar v. State of Maharashtra, 2021 SCC OnLine Bom 248, decided on 02-02-2021]


Advocates who appeared before the Court:

Sarang Aradhye for the Appellant

V. Gavand, A.P.P for the Respondent–State

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