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Marriage and divorce: mental cruelty by the wife

By Rakesh Shukla

In this case of granting a divorce on grounds of mental cruelty by the wife, the Supreme Court seems to have gone out of its way to change the parameters of what constitutes mental cruelty on the part of the woman. It could have far-reaching consequences for future cases

Mental cruelty

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Gap between law in theory and in praxis

A recent Bombay High Court judgment stating that a daughter ceases to be part of a father’s family on marriage, coupled with reports that a lady judge has listed her daughters as liabilities in her public declaration of assets, underlines just how subjective law is, says Rakesh Shukla

law on sati

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Patriarchy cedes to gender equality

By Rakesh Shukla

Deeply entrenched patriarchy continues in modern India, from the airlines to the armed forces. But the Supreme Court’s November 2011 judgment, stating that Air India’s policy of appointing only males as in-flight supervisors was patently discriminatory, is a victory

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Child custody in the context of foreign court orders

By Rakesh Shukla

In a matrimonial dispute case involving a child, where the child was removed from his natural environment (the US) by the mother, and brought to India, the Supreme Court of India ruled that it was the child’s best interests that must be given priority. Both mother and son were ordered to return to the US within 15 days

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Free to choose: Mental retardation and reproductive choice

By Rakesh Shukla

In a landmark judgment, the Supreme Court of India struck down a high court order to terminate the pregnancy of a mentally retarded woman, against her will

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Apex court rules anew on cruelty by husband and relatives

By Rakesh Shukla

The Supreme Court does not just decide individual cases -- it lays down the law of the land. A recent ruling in which the apex court held that kicking a woman and threatening her with divorce do not amount to cruelty could set an unhealthy precedent

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SC flip-flops on irretrievable breakdown of marriage

By Rakesh Shukla

The Supreme Court has in the past granted divorce based on irretrievable breakdown of marriage, but a recent judgment dismisses it. The law must be settled once and for all, in the best interests of society

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Sexual harassment at defence establishments

By Rakesh Shukla

If a woman employed in the defence services files sexual harassment charges at the workplace, she is likely to be further harassed by the initiation of disciplinary proceedings against her, as the recent case of the principal of Army Public School demonstrates

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Medical expenses and maintenance

By Rakesh Shukla

In a judgment regarding medical reimbursement to a wife by her husband, the Supreme Court observed that the terms ‘maintenance’ and ‘support’ include means of living, food, clothes, shelter, recreation, health, proper care, nursing and medical assistance during sickness. Therefore, a wife is entitled to get medical reimbursement from her husband as part of maintenance

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Maintenance for wife and children: final and interim

By Rakesh Shukla

What is the law’s position on maintenance for the wife and children, after a divorce? What happens if the courts take years to arrive at a final decision regarding maintenance? Can the wife and children avail of interim maintenance during pendency of the proceedings?

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The finer points of dowry death

By Rakesh Shukla

In Baldev Singh versus State of Punjab 2008 (11) SCALE 120, although a demand by the husband for a fair share for his wife in her father’s property did not constitute a demand for dowry there were other circumstances and evidence to prove that the wife was being harassed by her husband and her in-laws for dowry, and subsequently died, making it a dowry death

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The 'husband' in the context of cruelty, dowry death and the validity of marriage

By Rakesh Shukla

How does one interpret the expression “husband” in the context of the offences of cruelty and dowry demands, in cases where the validity of the marriage is in question?

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Who is a legally wedded wife?

By Rakesh Shukla

If a woman is duped into marriage by a man who is already married, and then deserted, can she claim maintenance for herself and her children?

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Hindu women and adoption

By Rakesh Shukla

A recent Supreme Court judgment in the case of a disabled woman from Madhya Pradesh highlighted that a married Hindu woman cannot adopt a child

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SC upholds the importance of informed consent

By Rakesh Shukla

Can a doctor remove a patient’s organs without informed consent, in the course of surgery, even if he thinks it’s in the patient’s best interest? In a recent judgment, the Supreme Court decreed that correctness or appropriateness of the treatment procedure does not make the treatment legal in the absence of consent

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Love, romance and the age of marriage

By Rakesh Shukla

Legally, a Hindu bridegroom should be aged 21 and a bride 18. However, several girls over 15 but under 18 elope to marry men of their choice. In many cases, the boy is subsequently arrested and charged with rape and kidnapping. What does the court do in such circumstances?

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Raped woman's testimony overrides medical evidence

By Rakesh Shukla

The sexist attitudes of a patriarchal society ensure that convictions in rape cases in India are rare. The recent Supreme Court judgment, convicting the accused solely on the basis of the complainant's testimony, is therefore a welcome departure from the norm

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At odds with the Domestic Violence Act

By Rakesh Shukla

In its first ever judgment involving the Domestic Violence Act, the Supreme Court gives an interpretation clearly at odds with the objectives of the Act and against the interests of women who face domestic violence

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Defining mental cruelty

By Rakesh Shukla

In a recent judgment the Supreme Court attempted to clarify the concept of 'mental cruelty' in matrimonial law. Do these conditions and definitions work in a country like India with so much gender inequality?

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A setback for the battle against dowry

By Rakesh Shukla

A recent Supreme Court judgment stating that money demanded on account of financial stringency or to meet urgent domestic expenses does not constitute dowry has serious repercussions for ongoing and future dowry-related cases

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Children of void marriages and inheritance rights

By Rakesh Shukla

What is the status and rights of children from marriages that are declared null and void? Can they legally inherit property?

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Multiple testimonies by victims of gender violence

By Rakesh Shukla

The courts tend to take an insensitive stand on the multiple, and often contradictory, versions of victims/survivors of gender violence - whether it's Zaheera Sheikh of the Best Bakery case or a woman widowed in the 1984 riots. Surely the trauma of the individual concerned should be taken into consideration?

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Love, inter-caste marriage and criminal law

By Rakesh Shukla

The Supreme Court recently ruled that there is no bar on inter-caste or inter-religion marriages under the Hindu Marriage Act. Anyone who harasses, threatens or subjects such a couple to acts of violence will be prosecuted

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Looking after children of women prisoners

By Rakesh Shukla

In response to a public interest litigation, the Supreme Court of India has issued directions to the central and state governments to provide children of women prisoners in jail, and their mothers, the facilities and opportunity to lead normal healthy lives

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The 'fault theory' vs the 'breakdown theory' of divorce

By Rakesh Shukla

Should divorce be granted solely on the basis of who is 'at fault'? Or should 'irretrievable breakdown' of a marriage be cause for divorce? In a recent judgment, the Supreme Court held that situations causing misery should not be allowed to continue indefinitely, and that the dissolution of a marriage that could not be salvaged was in the interests of all concerned

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Dowry deaths and dying declarations

By Rakesh Shukla

Dying declarations are vital evidence in establishing dowry deaths. When a woman dies without making such a statement, but has earlier alleged harassment and threats to her life, can her statements be considered a 'dying declaration'?

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Urmil's story

By Rakesh Shukla

What constitutes a dowry death? Various amendments have been made to the Dowry Prohibition Act of 1961 to make the law more effective. The Pawan Kumar vs State of Haryana judgment on the dowry death of Urmil is significant in this regard

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Convert and remarry?

By Rakesh Shukla

If a non-Muslim converts to Islam without any real change in belief, merely to avoid an earlier marriage and enter into a second one, should the second marriage be considered void and the person prosecuted for bigamy?

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Maternity benefits for all women

By Rakesh Shukla

Thousands of women all over India earn daily wages as 'muster-roll' employees. Though they work without a break in service they are not made permanent, and are not entitled to maternity leave and other benefits. A Supreme Court judgment in the Municipal Corporation of Delhi versus Female Workers case in 2000, changed all that

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The two-child qualification for panchayat officials is gender-insensitive

By Rakesh Shukla

In upholding Haryana's legislation disqualifying men and women with more than two children from holding office at the panchayat level, the Supreme Court of India may be compromising the rights of women. This is the first in a new series on the crucial impact of judicial interventions on India's women by Rakesh Shukla

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