Arti Raghavan speaks to us on the origins, provisions and impacts of Section 9 of the Hindu Marriage Act 1955

In February 2019, a petition was filed in the Supreme Court, challenging Section 9 of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955. This section, which deals with ‘restitution of conjugal rights’, essentially forces a wife who has left her husband, to return and cohabit with him. Although it is gender neutral (applying to either spouse), it is back in focus partly owing to the growing spotlight on criminalising marital rape.

The petition challenging this law, titled Ojaswa Pathak vs Union of India, was last heard on July 8, 2021 and has been pending since then, with the Supreme Court website showing no further dates. Justice Rohinton Nariman, who led the Bench which heard the case, has also retired. Meanwhile, adding another twist to the discourse around sexual autonomy of the married woman in India, the Centre has conveyed to the Delhi High Court that India should not “blindly” follow the West in criminalizing marital rape.

With the petition against Section 9 pending in the Supreme Court for so many months without a hearing, there is a growing clamour for an early resumption of hearings. What exactly do the provisions of Section 9 say? What has been their impact so far, and how did we end up with such a law in the first place?

Guest: Arti Raghavan, practicing advocate at the Bombay High Court

Host: G. Sampath, Social Affairs Editor, The Hindu

Edited by Ranjani Srinivasan

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