Thali issue: What did the court say?

News published on the media that Madras High Court Judges have said in the judgment that “a wife removing her thali is mental cruelty to her husband” has created a stir.

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Sivakumar, a medical college professor from Erode, had filed for divorce in 2014, claiming that his wife, a school teacher, was suspicious of his behaviour and was causing emotional distress by not wearing the thali he had tied. However, the petition was dismissed by the Family Court. Subsequently, he filed a case in the Madras High Court. The case came up for hearing before a bench of Justices VS Velumani and S Soundhar.

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Sivakumar has stated that reconciliation efforts between the husband and wife failed and that his wife removed the thali while they were separated. Sivakumar’s wife has said that her husband is having an extramarital affair but she wants to live with him for the sake of their daughter’s future.

After hearing the arguments of both sides, Justices V.S. Velumani and S. Soundhar said, “Doubting the character of her husband, going to his office and fighting, accusing him of having sexual relations with a colleague, etc. come under Section 13(1) of the Hindu Marriage Act.”

She has said that she only removed the chain but retained the thali (Thirumangalyam), and is still with her. His lawyer argued that it is not mandatory for a woman to wear a thali as per Section 7 of the Hindu Marriage Act, and even if the removal of the thali is true, it does not affect the marriage bond. But everyone knows that tying thali is an essential part of marriage rituals.”

Subsequently, “the woman has admitted that she removed her thali and kept it in the bank locker. No Hindu woman removes her thali as long as her husband is alive. A thali around the wife’s neck is a sacred thing that symbolizes the continuity of married life. It is to be removed only after the death of the husband. Therefore, the petitioner can claim that the removal of the thali by the wife is an act reflecting mental cruelty. Because it will cause pain and hurt the husband’s sentiments,” the judges have said that it is useful to quote what has been said in the judgment of the Vallabhi v/s Rajasabaki case in 2016.

Finally, ”removing the thali is often considered an unceremonious act. We are not saying that removing the thali is sufficient to end the marital knot. But the said act of the defendant is a piece of evidence to draw an inference about the intentions of both parties. The act of removal of Thali chain at the time of separation, along with the various evidence available on record compels us to come to the firm conclusion that both the parties have no intention to continue the marital relationship even after reconciliation.”

In the discussion related to removing thali, the judges have mentioned the verdict in another case that the wife removing her thali can be considered as an act that causes mental cruelty to the husband. In this divorce case, the removal of thali was mentioned by the court only to consider the intention to dissolve the marital relationship.

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