Removal of Mangalsuthra by the wife is ‘mental cruelty of highest order’: Madras High Court

The Madras high court on July 14 observed removing the mangal sutra or ‘thali’ by a wife as mental cruelty of high order against the husband. The court ruled out the statement while granting divorce to an aggrieved individual.  A division bench of Justices VM Velumani and S Sounthar made the decision while hearing the appeal of a professor at Erode Medical College, C Sivakumar.

Soon after the amendment, many women came forward and said that their husbands are in perfect mental health conditions despite them ditching Mangalsutra for years. Several others were simply disappointed with the ruling. 

The bench cited the orders of a division bench of the High Court and said, “Thali around the neck of a woman was a sacred thing which symbolises the continuance of married life and it is removed only after the death of the husband. Therefore, its removal by the petitioner/wife can be said to be an act which reflected mental cruelty of the highest order as it could have caused agony and hurt the sentiments of the respondent.” 

However, social media has reacted to the new ruling by the Madras high court. Netizens mocked the ruling and one among them posted a photo of a stressed man sitting in his office. “Me when my wife removes her mangal sutra,” he captioned the photo. Another man pointed out how his family doesn’t follow the ritual. “

One user on social media has taken the court’s ruling and said, “Mangalsutra is not even mentioned in Hindu Shastras! In fact North Indians never had them as a marriage accessory till Ekta Kapoor serials popularised it. Wearing black is inauspicious for married in the North! Yet courts have time to curtail women’s rights like this. Pity the courts!”

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Moreover, many feminists argued that the same does not really apply to men. That only women are required to show they are married, or ‘taken’, i.e. reduces women to properties of husbands. In this context, the court’s observations that the woman’s act of removing her thali is an act of cruelty towards the husband seems to prescribe to the same patriarchal ideas of a woman’s place in marriage.