A man forcing his traditional Indian wife to consume beef, pork and alcohol, forcing her to pose in skimpy clothes and uploading such photographs on a website amounts to cruelty, the Bombay high court has decreed. A division bench of Justice P B Majumdar and Justice R V More on Friday upheld a family court order allowing a Ghatkopar resident to divorce her US-based husband.
"This is an eye-opener for parents whose daughter is going to marry a person settled in a foreign country," said the judges. "In such cases they are required to take appropriate care to find out the credentials of the person who has settled in the other country. If the matrimonial knot is tied without proper verification, it may result in serious difficulties, as has happened in the present case."
Naina, 32, married California resident Ritesh Karnik (36) in June 2002 in Nashik according to Hindu Vedic rites and moved to the US with him. Their marital bliss did not last long, with Naina returning to India within seven months and filing for divorce.
The aggrieved wife claimed that after reaching the US, Ritesh insisted on her discarding her traditional lifestyle for the American one. He made her cut her hair and eat beef and pork, even asking her to cook meat on days when she was fasting, "showing no respect for Gods and Hindu deities". When she refused, he would deny her money to buy Indian food, and she had to survive on bread and jam. Her other grievances: on a trip to Hawaii, Ritesh forced her to wear "short and vulgar dresses", "mix with boys and girls in parties" and later uploaded her photographs on websites.
Ritesh's lawyers, while denying that he had uploaded her photographs, argued that there was no cruelty in asking one's wife to cook a certain food or wear a particular kind of outfit. "Naina married Ritesh with the full knowledge that she was required to settle in America. Consequently she cannot make any complaints regarding the lifestyle which she was required to follow," Ritesh's advocate contended, adding that she was expected to "adjust" to the environment of the new country.
The judges, however, did not buy this argument. "It is not expected from Naina to sacrifice her own culture and adopt an atmosphere which may not suit a lady (brought up in a) different Indian culture altogether," remarked the court. "To ask a wife to wear a particular type of outfit or compelling her to take wine or alcohol, in our view, can be said to be an act of cruelty to the wife. Even if the husband compels the wife to mix with his friends when she is unwilling, it would also amount to cruelty to her." The judges also took a strong view of Naina's allegation that her photographs in short dresses of the couple's trip to Hawaii were uploaded on websites under fake profiles. "Normally no wife will tolerate the projection of her photographs on websites," the judges said.
Naina told the court that she did not want any maintenance from Ritesh. During the hearing of the appeal, Ritesh offered divorce if Naina withdrew all the criminal cases she had registered against him under the cyber crime laws for allegedly uploading her photographs. Naina refused. The court also rejected Ritesh's plea for a retrial in the family court — Ritesh had said that while he would not come to India, his mother should be allowed to testify on his behalf.
(Names of the couple have been changed to protect their identities) - Published from Times of India