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Section 9 of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955

When either the husband or the wife has, without reasonable excuse, withdrawn from the society
of the other, the aggrieved party may apply, by petition to the district court, for restitution of
conjugal rights and the court, on being satisfied of the truth of the statements made in such
petition and that there is no legal ground why the application should not be granted, may decree
restitution of conjugal rights accordingly.
In Sushila Bai v. Prem Narayan, the husband deserted his wife and thereafter was totally
unresponsive towards her. This behavior was held sufficient to show that he had withdrawn from
the society of his wife, and therefore the wifes petition for restitution of conjugal rights was
allowed. The defense to this principle lies in the concept of a reasonable excuse. If the
respondent has withdrawn from the society of his spouse for a valid reason, it is a complete
defense to a restitution petition.
Opinions of the Court
The court will normally order restitution of conjugal rights if:
i. The petitioner proves that the respondent spouse has without reasonable excuse withdrawn
from his/her society
ii. The statements made by the aggrieved spouse in the application are true, and
iii. There is no legal ground why the petitioners prayer should not be granted
The court has held in various cases that the following situations will amount to a
reasonable excuse to act as a defence in this area:
i. A ground for relief in any matrimonial cause.
ii. A matrimonial misconduct not amounting to a ground of a matrimonial cause, if sufficiently
weighty and grave
iii. Such an act, omission or conduct which makes it impossible for the petitioner to live with the
respondent.
[quote]It is significant to note that unlike a decree of specific performance of contract, for
restitution of conjugal rights, the sanction is provided by the court where the disobedience to
such a decree is willful that is deliberate, in spite of opportunities.[/quote]
During the time of introducing the provision for restitution of conjugal rights in the Special
Marriage Act, 1954 and the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, there were heated debates in the
Parliament for and against it. In Shakila Banu v. Gulam Mustafa, the Honble High Court
observed: The concept of restitution of conjugal rights is a relic of ancient times when slavery
or quasi-slavery was regarded as natural. This is particularly so after the Constitution of India

came into force, which guarantees personal liberties and equality of status and opportunity to
men and women alike and further confers powers on the State to make special provisions for
their protection and safeguard.
Checking The Constitutionality of Restitution of Conjugal rights
[quote]The constitutional validity of the provision for restitution of conjugal rights has time and
again been questioned and challenged. The earliest being in 1983 before the Andhra Pradesh
High Court in T.Sareetha v. T. Venkatasubbaiah where the Honble High Court held that the
impugned section was unconstitutional. The Delhi High Court in Harvinder Kaur v Harminder
Singh though had non-conforming views. Ultimately Supreme Court in Saroj Rani v.
Sudharshan gave a judgment which was in line with the Delhi High Court views and upheld the
constitutional validity of the Section 9 of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 and over-ruled the
decision given in T. Sareetha v. T. Venkatasubbaiah.[/quote]
[highlight]The restitution of conjugal rights is one of the reliefs that are provided to the
spouses in distress in the institution of marriage by law. Decree of restitution of conjugal
rights could be passed in case of valid marriages only. Apart from legislation relating to
matrimonial law, courts in India in case of all communities have passed decrees for
restitution of conjugal rights.[/highlight]

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