In a tongue and cheek account the author has described with great clarity and insight the current mess the (Indian) judiciary finds itself in. He has also suggested ways and means by which this crisis in the legal system could be tackled. This book is essential reading for policy makers, those concerned with the law and the concerned citizen.
Rajesh gives an overview of the book:
Recently a trail Court colleague recounted the following incident to me about one Lakshmi, a middle aged, middle class housewife married to a bank officer.
After twenty five years of marriage, one day Lakshmi’s husband decided that he didn’t want to live with her anymore and so he filed a divorce petition against her in the Court of the District Judge. Soon after filing the petition he unceremoniously kicked her out of the house. Both her parents being dead, and there being no children from her marriage there was really no place she could stay for very long and she therefore came back the very next day, after spending the night with a relative. Pleading to be taken back, she would not leave the house despite her husband’s kicks and blows.
Subsequently, one day while she was away at the same relative’s house after another fight, the husband immediately filed an application in the Court praying that the Court may pass an order restraining Lakshmi from entering the house. In support of his case he filed copies of the title deeds to the house, which showed him as the exclusive owner of the property in question.
Satisfied on the basis of documents filed that the husband was indeed the sole owner of the matrimonial home the judge directed both the parties to retain status quo – in effect a direction that Lakshmi should not enter the house.
The following day, the husband appeared in Court complaining that his wife was now not entering the house but had set up camp immediately outside in the verandah with all her luggage and belongings. Thus, he alleged, she was cleverly managing to avoid committing contempt - at the same time she was creating a terrible nuisance for him. The Court, he prayed, should modify its earlier order and direct her not to come within one hundred yards of the house. The Court accepted the husband’s contentions and modified its earlier order accordingly. The case was adjourned for two months on which date the Court would finally decide whether or not he wife should be permitted to re-enter the house.
Two days later the husband was back in Court. His wife, he now alleged, was not complying with the Court’s directive and continued to camp outside the house in the verandah, from where she managed with the assistance of benevolent neighbors. Thus, he insisted, she was willfully and deliberately committing contempt of the Court’s order and should be sentenced to imprisonment under the law. The Court issued notice to the wife on the contempt application.
Lakshmi’s case discussed above is not an isolated one. Such cases of housewives who have no place to go when their marriage breaks up, are gaining in frequency and raise an important question as to the rights and status of married women in India in property acquired by and in the name of their husbands during the course of their marriage
Generally speaking whenever divorce proceedings are initiated by the husband, the wife is compelled to leave the house. A housewife with no experience of working outside the home, can only seek refuge in her parents house. In traditional families, this is never an easy or happy option. Moreover her parents might be living with their son and daughter in law and her return might cause resentment from several quarters. Even when it is the wife who initiates divorce proceedings, she is the one to leave the house. Thus, irrespective of whether the initiative for divorce comes from the husband’s side or the wife’s, it is the wife who has to leave the matrimonial home.
Under the law, Indian wives have a right to receive only maintenance from their husbands – nothing else.
If the above narrated incident had taken place in certain countries in the West, quite possibly the shoe would have been on the other foot. Had Lakshmi been an Englishwoman or European her situation might have been radically different.
Rajesh Talwar is mainly a writer. He has practised law for many years, taught at University and worked for the United Nations in Somalia, Liberia, Kosovo, Afghanistan and now Timor-Leste. He writes fiction (novels, plays, children's books) and well as non fiction (human...