Posted in Fundamental Rights, Marriage and family

“Restitution of Conjugal Rights OR Deprivation of Privacy Rights”?

Marriage is defined as “the civil status, condition, or relation of one man and one woman united in law for life, for the discharge to each other and the community of the duties legally incumbent on those whose association is founded on the distinction of sex”[1]. Marriage is the union of a man and woman by law for mutual rights and discharge of obligations. This cluster of mutual rights is collectively called conjugal rights.

As per Hindu law, marriage is eternal, divine, and sacramental. According to the Hindu philosophy, the objectives of marriage are Dharma- righteousness, virtue and justice, Praja or Santhana – Procreation, and Rati- Pleasure. “Marriage is considered as a socio-legally sanctioned route to progeny, in obligation to ancestral debts and mandates.[2]

A positive remedy that was formulated to protect the institution of marriage by the Hindu Marriage Act is a restitution of conjugal rights. Though it was constituted a positive remedy for preserving the sanctity and affirmation, the provision does not adapt itself with changing times. Since the institution of marriage had several changes, only confusion and problems are popping out of this remedy.

The first case where this provision was declared to be unconstitutional was T. Sareetha v Venkata Subbaih[3]. In this case, the Andhra Pradesh High court had held restitution of conjugal rights as against right to privacy. This judgment was subsequently overruled in Saroj Rani[4] Case. But it should be noted that the right to privacy was not considered a fundamental right when these judgments were declared. But now the Honourable Supreme court had held that right to privacy is a fundamental right[5] under Art 21 of the constitution. Therefore, this puts the validity of the provision into question.

Article 21 states that “No person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to the procedure established by Law”. This is narrated in a negative style but entrusts the positive rights of life and personal liberty. Privacy is an element of Art 21 and privacy includes at its core the preservation of personal intimacies, the sanctity of family life, marriage, procreation, the home and sexual orientation[6]. Therefore, sexual activity without the person’s will is only making “one’s body a vehicle for the procreation of another human being”, as stated in the T. Sareetha[7] case. This leads to surrender one’s body to the domination of another is a mental torture, degrading dignity and grossly violating the right of privacy.

A right of free choice is complete autonomy to decide how one’s body is to be sensed and how it is to be used of procreation of children. Forced marital cohabitation is a major violation of the right to privacy and this should never be carried on with a legal sanction and support from legislation. “A decree of restitution of conjugal rights thus enforced offends the inviolability of the body and the mind subjected to the decree and offends the integrity of such a person and invades the marital privacy and domestic intimacies of such a person.[8]” Therefore, restitution of conjugal rights gives wide scope to degrade the integrity of one’s body and restricts the autonomy of decision making about oneself.

Marriage, procreation and sexual orientation are integral parts of the right to privacy that gets infringed because of this provision. Even the ancient Hindu law does not forcibly compel the wife to cohabit with her husband. In Bai Jiva v Narsingh Lalbhai[9] it was observed by the Bombay HC that, “Hindu law itself even while it lays down the duty of the wife of implicit obedience and return to her husband, has laid down no such sanction or procedure as compulsion by the courts to force her to return against her will”.

Restitution of conjugal rights originated in England where marriage is considered as a contract and wife is a chattel supposed to be owned and possessed by the husband. The same started having its roots in India from the case of Monshee Buzloor V Shumsoonaissa Begum[10] in 1866. But in Britain itself, this remedy was abolished in 1970. It is clear that restitution of conjugal rights is a remedy that had never existed in ancient India; it was implemented in India from England even in England this had been abolished in 1970. Moreover, this remedy infringes the fundamental right of right to privacy. Therefore, it is high time for the legislature to amend this outdated unconstitutional provision for the protection of dignity and privacy rights.

[1] Black’s law dictionary, 4th edition, 1968

[2] 71st Report of the Law Commission- the Hindu Marriage Act, para 6.5

[3] T. Sareetha v Venkata Subbaiah, AIR 1983 AP 356

[4] Saroj Rani v Sudarshan Kumar Chanda, AIR 1984 SC 1562

[5] Justice K.S Puttaswamy and others v Union of India and anr

[6] ibid

[7] Supra note 3

[8] ibid

[9] ILR 1927 Bom 264

[10] 1866-67 (11) MIA 551


Sowjanya S


Miss Sowjanya S is a third-year law student at School of law, Sastra deemed to be University, Thanjavur, Tamil Nadu where she is pursuing LL.B.(Hons). She hails from Chennai where she had also completed her schooling. Research had always been a fascinating work for her.  She is a hardworking smart student who always has the curiosity to learn. She loves to brainstorm problems and find effective solutions.


Posted in Marriage and family

An Analysis of Restitution of Conjugal Rights

Marriage is union of endless supply of the life partners certain conjugal obligations and provides for each of them certain legitimate rights. The important ramifications of marriage are that parties will live respectively. Every companion is qualified for solace consortium of the other. So after the solemnisation of the marriage if either spouse has left the other without giving any reasonable ground, the Hindu Marriage Act 1955 gives the aggrieved party remedy in the form of Section 9 under the restitution of conjugal rights. The section 9 of the HMA reads that,

“When either the husband or the wife has, without reasonable excuse, withdrawn from the society of the other, the aggrieved party may apply for restitution of conjugal rights.What the aggrieved party needs to do is file a petition to the district court and on being satisfied of the truth of the statements made in such petition and that there is no legal ground why the application should not be granted, the judge may decree restitution of conjugal rights in his favour.”

Historically tracing the concept of this Law we can go back to the fact that Hindu marriage is seen as a sacrosanct. It has both contractual and sacrament aspects. The smritis, which contain a noteworthy wellspring of Hindu law, generally see marriage as a fundamental samskara or religious obligation. The order of spouse as dharampatni implies an arrangement of unalienable religious duties and obligations. The courts expect that in trade for the rights gave by the individual laws on the gatherings to the marriage; they satisfy the conjugal commitments forced on them by the arrangements of the demonstration. In this unique situation, the execution of religious functions and ceremonies are regarded required and the consecrated conjugal bond as endless and in dissolvable.

The constitutional validity of the arrangement has over and over been addressed and tested. In 1983 the Andhra Pradesh High Courtin T. Sareetha v. T. Venkatasubbaiah, A.I.R 1983 A.P. 356 held that the denounced provision was unlawful. The Delhi High Court in Harvinder Kaur v Harminder SinghAIR 1984 Del.66 however had non-accommodating perspectives. At last Supreme Court in Saroj Rani v. Sudharshan Kumar Chadha A.I.R 1984 S.C 1562gave a judgment which was in accordance with the Delhi High Court sees and maintained the protected legitimacy of the segment 9 and over-ruled the choice given in T. Sareetha v. T. Venkatasubbaiah.

The instance of T.Sareetha, was the first to scrutinize the foundational authenticity of the stipulation on the rebuilding of conjugal rights. The petitioner contended that Sec 9 was “liable to be removed from the statute as it was in violation of articles 14, 19 and 21. The petitioner implied that this remedy is contrary to the freedoms of life, liberty and dignity.”

According to Justice Chowdary, marital rights connote two formulations, first that marriage partners have right for each other and second, marital intercourse. He held that “enforcing this right would amount to transfer of the right of the individual over her body, to the state”. He posited against the continued use of the section to enforce unwilling sex over a partner, under the garb of tyranny of the law.
Lord Herschell has also recorded his strong opinion about such proviso, since it violates the sanctity of the body. In Russel v Russel(1897) AC 395he went as far to say that ‘some of the case outcomes, based on restitution, bordered on the barbaric’. The judgement highlights the way that even the choice to have a child is a personal choice that ought to be taken by the lady and not something she ought to be forced into without wanting to. This provision is genuinely an indication of the ill-conceived frontier time. It needs legitimate sponsorship and is a glaring encroachment of an individual’s directly over his/her body, in this manner disregarding an individual’s freedom under Article 21 of the Indian constitution. Justice Subba Rao insightfully mentioned this objective fact and extended the privilege to life to incorporate individual’s freedom also.

One year after the historic Sareetha judgment, the Delhi High Court in Harvinder Kaur v Harminder Singh,re-examined this issue and held to the contrary. In this case the wife challenged a decree for restitution granted to her husband by the lower court. The court, while dismissing the appeal, held that the section was constitutionally valid, stating that the dual objective of the section was ‘restoring amity in marital life through a legally enforced rapprochement’. The court went ahead to include that presenting protected law in the circle of marriage resembles a bull in a china shop, and that articles 14, 21 have no place in the security of the home. The Delhi court re-imagined the establishments of conjugal connections, far from the security of appropriate to protection. Facilitate, the court considered intercourse as an imperative component of marriage, yet not really the ‘sumnumbonum’, behind petitions of restitution. Hence, not at all like Justice Chowdhary, the Delhi high court took a more restricted perspective of the stipulation of restitution.

The Supreme Court inSaroj Rani V. S.K Chadda,illuminated its position on this arrangement. The court translated that marriage, as a socially endorsed practice and family as its basic structure, gave a couple innate rights over each other’s society. The Supreme Court communicated its inspiration to ensure these uncodified laws towards, the social capacity of keeping the separation of the marriage. The Supreme Court likewise called attention to how the segment contained adequate shields to counteract abuse of a gathering to the marriage. Promote, the court held that the rule 32 of Order 21 was not coercive, but rather just a money related instrument to instigate the re-foundation of conjugal relations and to keep the separating of the conjugal tie. Hence, Justice Mukherjee found that area 9 was not disregarding Art 14 and 21 of the constitution.

In conclusion it can be said that the proverb “You can take a horse to the water, but you can’t make him drink”, suits well on the provision for restitution of conjugal rights under the Indian personal laws. The court can pass a decree for restitution of conjugal rights and request the failing mate to live together with the distressed life partner. However, it is to be noticed that the court can’t force the defaulting mate to physically come back to the solace consortium of the announcement holder life partner.




Prerna Deep is currently a first-year student at Campus Law Centre, University of Delhi.  She has completed English Honours from Miranda House, DU. Literature gave this forever bibliophile the wings to follow her heart and Law gave her the strength to believe that she too can change the world. She considers receiving an award for her essay on ‘Women and Law in India’ from Mr Ram Jethmalani a treasure. When not writing she’s probably binge-watching sitcoms.  She believes nothing describes her best than Virginia Woolf’s words:
“I have a deeply hidden and inarticulate desire for something beyond the daily life.”