Eminent women lawyers and the National Commission for Women (NCW) have pitched for a review of the law on Restitution of Conjugal Rights and sought equal rights for both spouses. "Today, with changing society, the concept of marriage is also changing. People are having long distance relationship, they have their own independent identity, they keep relations as and when required but it is a matter of consent of both the parties for a healthy relationship," said Delhi High Court Justice Mukta Gupta.
Gupta was speaking at a panel discussion on Review of laws Related to Restitution of Conjugal Rights, recently conducted by Faculty of Law, Delhi University, in collaboration with the NCW, at the Indian society of International Laws. Underlining the drawbacks of the controversial section, while terming it as "totally redundant", she said, "Right to privacy and right to freedom, as enshrined in Article 21 and 19 of the Constitution respectively, should be ensured to the couple also as each one is the individual identity and their sentiments, emotions need to be respected for a harmonious relationship."
"In today’s scenario it is necessary that it should be accepted that in marital relationship, the emphasis is on the temperamental compatibility of the spouses," she said. These days we are seeing that couples taking autonomous decisions are sharing a very healthy and long lasting relationship rather than the bonded one where one couple is forced to act on the dictates of another, she added.
She also asked for the ommission of Section 9 of the Hindu Marriage Act (HMA), 1955 that gives the aggrieved spouse rights to apply under the Restitution of Conjugal Rights (Right to Stay) if the other spouse has withdrawn from their society without giving a reasonable excuse. "This is high time we recognised the rights of each of the individuals. We not only need to abolish Section 9 but also respect the individuality of both the parties," the Justice noted.
The session raised key questions related to marriage and sought to know if marriage was a union or is it the husband claiming property rights over his wife. The panel discussed as to how marriage could be reconciled by forced sex.
Additional Solicitor General in the Supreme Court, Pinki Anand, who was also one of the key speakers, questioned the relevance of Section 9 of the HMA. "Section 9 is used as a tool whose object is not matrimonial relief as such," Anand said. At the end, she said, people cannot be "compelled to live together" in a relationship, which is "intrinsically private" in nature where the state "should not interfere".
Dr Pinki Sharma, director of the panel discussion, along with co-director Shaveta Gagneja, apprised that review of RCR in India was under a proposal approved and funded by the National Commission for Women.
Led by the NCW Joint Secretary Vandana Gupta, the panel's welcome note was delivered by Ved Kumari, Head and Dean of the Faculty of Law, University of Delhi, The daylong event saw deliberations made by multidisciplinary thought leaders.