Calling the mangalsutra the “most precious ornament for Indian women”, the Bandra Family Court has granted divorce to a nurse whose mangalsutra was surreptitiously sold by her debt-ridden husband. The husband was having an affair with another woman, who had shown up at the couple’s home, pregnant with his child.
The court noted that though he was an unemployed alcoholic, he was otherwise able-bodied. It, thus, ordered him to fork out maintenance for the couple’s two children upon divorce. Medha Raikar married her husband Haresh on April 4, 2004. It was an arranged marriage, where wedding expenses were shared equally. The couple has two children, aged 4 and 6. Medha hoped her husband would change his aggressive ways eventually but he continued with his brutality. On October 15, 2009, he thrashed her with a stick, forcing her to approach police. Despite this, relations between them eventually warmed again.
On one occasion, a woman arrived at the couple’s home, claiming to be Haresh’s lover. She even claimed to be pregnant with Haresh’s child. Sustained ill treatment by Haresh made Medha file for divorce on March 22, 2011. According to Medha’s petition, her unemployed husband had taken money from many people. He was a heavy drinker who regularly returned home late. When asked for an explanation, Haresh would get infuriated and thrash his wife. In October 2004, to meet growing debts, Haresh took away his wife’s mangalsutra and pawned it off.
Judge Rukme observed, “Mangalsutra is the most precious ornament for Indian women. The respondent sold such ornaments... The conduct clearly shows he was failing to discharge marital obligations.” Despite multiple opportunities from the family court for Haresh to come and contest the allegations against him, he never appeared in court.
The judge added, “The woman has double responsibility… She has to focus on the welfare of the children (and) continue fulfilling the expectation of in-laws. The evidence clearly shows that the respondent was not behaving like a loving, caring and responsible husband. He was addicted to liquor. In that influence, he used to abuse the petitioner. Such conduct is more than sufficient to show that the respondent was causing physical as well as mental cruelty.”The court observed that there was nothing to show that Haresh was not physically fit. It has, therefore, ordered him to pay maintenance of Rs 1,000 to each of his children.
(Names of the litigants have been changed to protect identities.)