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Understanding Restitution of Conjugal Rights under Indian Law

Restitution of Conjugal Rights, a concept deeply rooted in the matrimonial laws of India, allows a spouse to legally demand the company of their partner if the latter has unjustifiably deserted them. This legal provision is defined under Section 9 of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, and equivalent provisions exist in other personal laws as well.



Section 9 of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955: Restitution of Conjugal Rights

Section 9 of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, allows for a decree of restitution of conjugal rights. It is a provision that allows a spouse to seek the court's intervention to restore their marital rights, i.e., the right to cohabit with the other spouse. The purpose of this section is to preserve the institution of marriage, foster reconciliation, and prevent the unnecessary dissolution of marital ties.



Essentials of Restitution of Conjugal Rights

Three crucial components constitute the basis for applying the decree for restitution of conjugal rights:

  1. Withdrawal from Society: One spouse must have withdrawn from the society of the other without reasonable excuse.

  2. Lack of Reasonable Excuse: The petitioning spouse must show that the respondent's withdrawal from their society is without any reasonable ground.

  3. Court's Satisfaction: The court needs to be satisfied about the truthfulness of the statements made in the petition.



Implementation in Other Personal Laws

This decree is not limited to the Hindu Marriage Act but also finds its place in other personal laws:

  1. Section 32 and 36 of the Parsi Marriage and Divorce Act, 1936

  2. Section 22 of the Special Marriage Act, 1954

  3. Section 36 of the Indian Divorce Act, 1869

In each of these provisions, a spouse who has been unjustifiably abandoned has the right to seek the court's help in restoring their marital rights.



Relevant Case Laws

Several case laws underline the importance and nuances of this provision:

  1. T. Sareetha vs Venkata Subbaih: In this case, the Andhra Pradesh High Court declared Section 9 of the Hindu Marriage Act as unconstitutional, stating that it violated the right to privacy. However, this judgment was later overruled.

  2. Harvinder Kaur vs Harmander Singh Choudhry: The Delhi High Court upheld the constitutional validity of Section 9, stating that it does not force an unwilling spouse to physically live with the petitioner. The objective of Section 9 is to enable the courts to assist married couples in living together, thus preserving the sanctity of marriage.



Conclusion: The Significance of Restitution of Conjugal Rights

Restitution of Conjugal Rights serves as a tool to prevent the unnecessary breakdown of marriages. It affords the deserted spouse a legal remedy to reclaim their marital rights and possibly mend their marital relationship. Despite criticism concerning the potential violation of individual rights, courts have upheld this provision, underlining the societal importance of preserving the institution of marriage.

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