Till death do us part!
Special on International Women's Day
When Manu (an ancient Indian sage) wrote the Manu Smriti (religious book on Hinduism) in the post Vedic era defining the code of conduct for the Bharatiya Nari (Ideal Indian Woman) little did he realize that Indian women would literally take their role as laid down by him very seriously and that too spanning centuries. Fast forward to the 21st century and meet Priti Saini, who has lived through a nightmare for past three years and all thanks to her better half. But yet she today is living up to the image of a dutiful wife!
So why is Priti with her husband being epitomized as the ideal pair?
Ironically, as she mustered up the courage to fight against the brutality she and her children faced. But thanks to the outdated concepts upon which our legal system works when it comes to marital disputes, today, she has been forced to make peace with the very man who is her perpetrator. And that too when she was close to getting justice she was demanding.
What is even more unbelievable is that she has made peace with her husband despite haunting memories of seven hatchet wounds to her head and an equal number on her body inflicted by goons hired by him as he wanted her dead!
Today she lives with a man who almost became her murderer and both are flaunted as a success story at the family courts in Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh!
Their case is flashed before most warring couples who come to seek solutions to their marital disputes by dissolving their marriage, and, told- if the Saini’s can any couple can and live happily ever after!!!
A bit hard to digest, nevertheless, Priti’s story is termed as a miracle even by the lawyers here. The legal eagles sing praises of Priti who they equate with the Sati Savitri (pious woman) of modern age!!!
But then why not with if over 15,000 cases pending at the family courts even one happy ending is a cause for celebration, however brutal it’s history may have been. After all Indian marriages are made in heaven and broken only after death and our legal system truly endorses that dictum, and firmly.
So far so good, but one has to wonder why was Priti and Sudhir’s case so unique that even the courts refused to break the marriage?
As Priti herself puts it, “He is my husband if I did not forgive him who would? Since 2007 we are living apart we needed some time together. When that happened he realized he was wrong so I guess he deserves another chance.”
Good Point, but she was not as submissive when she took the lead to fight for her rights when she was abandoned by Sudhir with three children few years back when he had a illicit relationship which led to the strife in their marriage.
He wanted her dead and he made all the attempts but she survived and watched him stand by and scream ‘ kill her, kill her’ when she was being hacked by the hired killers.
He then hired more men to break in to the house and murder her and their children, but they survived even that. Then he abducted their youngest son but even then she did not come under pressure and give him the divorce he wanted so he could marry his mistress.
An employee of the High Court Lucknow with a mistress who was a inspection officer with the HC as well the duo ensured that every step taken by Priti to counter the attacks on her and her family was negated.
Then her husband went ahead and married the woman he was seeing after forging Priti’s signatures on a fake divorce decree. Their marriage was considered dissolved.
Priti countered even that, and with the courage seen rare in such situations. She appeared before the former Chief Justice of UP, Hemant Laxman Gokhale and asked him to ppoison her and her children so that they would not have to bear torture at the hands of an employee of the Chief Justice’s court.
Her case was then forwarded to the family court.
Recalls Ranjana Dixit, President, Family Courts Lawyers Association, who contested the case, “Every minute Priti would be sitting in the family court I knew she was in grave danger as her husband would be waiting outside with hired killers. He used to constantly call on her mobile and ask her to come outside the court premises. I knew he wanted the killers to identify her so they could finish the job off properly this time. A number of times he threatened me yet we continued with the case and managed to send him behind bars.”
In the meantime time Preeti ‘s self esteem took another blow when she found out that her husband’s mistress was pregnant with his child.
“I was shattered as this was the ultimate betrayal for a wife. But I was even more shocked when I heard that she aborted the child that too at seven months, both of them were so confidently breaking the law and getting away with,” she says.
But things took a dramatic turn in November 2009 when Sudhir was released from jail after 17 months and he came straight home. Preeti in an blink of an eye forgave him when he asked her to take him back as her husband.
A most unexpected turn of events that too when Priti had the upper hand. She had managed to get Sudhir suspended from his post at the High Court Lucknow and was recieving a monthly maintenance through the family court from his salary. So what made her pull back?
Feels Prof (Dr) Roop Rekha Verma, former Vice Chancellor (VC), University of Lucknow and a women’s rights activist, “On one hand women have very limited access to the legal aid and on the other those who do muster the courage to come to court to seek justice are forced to wait for a judgment for so long that their resolve finally breaks. They have no option but to go back to the husband or abusive in laws. I feel a huge attitude change is a must in family courts and in the entire working of the legal system at least to ensure that women get timely and fair justice when they raise their voice against injustice. Cases of marital disputes should not be kept hanging for years but decided as soon as possible only then justice can be done.”
But reasons Ranjana Dixit, “Most disputes fizzle out with time as we know the tedious trips date after date to appear for hearings does bring a good many warring couples to their senses. That’s why as lawyers we don’t push for any immediate action to dissolve the marriage. In my experience I have seen even the worst couples getting back together within two to three years again.”
But she is not the only one in the legal system who believes marriages must not break come what may. A disturbing trend that is fast gaining acceptance now is that it assumed that most marital disputes can be worked out if given space however bitter or brutal the differences?
Adds Dixit, “Never have I seen such a outcome of a case as the Saini’s. When Preeti came to me she was in a very bad condition battered and abused and her life was also under threat by her own husband. He not only had criminal antecedents but was also the secretary of the employees association at the Lucknow High Court. It was a doomed case from the start. A number of times during the case Sudhir made attempts on her life and even abducted his own son to work as a domestic servant at his mistress’s house.But today husband and wife are inseparable. So I think every relationship has a chance if given some space. This case has confirmed what we believed in all along.”
But at what price?
A huge one of course as the message that such a case does send out is that even if women showed tremendous resolve to fight injustice and seek their rights in marital disputes, it will all be in vain as she would eventually have to go back to a man who wronged her in the first place. Sadly women like Priti will never inspire another woman who faces what she has when the final outcome will always be so stereotyped. And Priti realizes that.
“I don’t know what changed my husband. But he has changed and that’s enough for me. When he was to be released from jail I went to my parents asking them to give me shelter as I was afraid he would again try to kill me. But they refused to take me in and asked me never to come back to them. I was again on my own, where would I go? So when my husband pleaded before me to take him back I did,” she avers teary eyed.
A sacrifice only a woman is capable of making however high the price!
Anjali Singh - CNS (www.citizen-news.org )