Marriage confers important rights and entails corresponding obligations both on the husband and wife some of these rights are capable of being altered by the agreement freely entered into by the parties. But mainly, the obligations arising out of marriage are laid down by the law. An important obligation is consortium which not only means living together, but also implies a ‘union of fortunes’. A fundamental principle of matrimonial law is that one spouse is entitled to the society and comfort of the other. Thus, where wife without lawful cause, refuses to live with her husband, the husband is entitled to sue for the restitution of conjugal rights and similarly, the wife has the right to demand the fulfillment by the husband of his marital duties. The restitution of conjugal rights is often regarded as a matrimonial remedy but at the same time, it has faced a lot of criticisms. In majority of the cases in the sub-continent, the question which arises is regarding its origin, its roots in religion and the it constitutionality.
When either the husband or the wife has, without reasonable excuse, withdrawn from the society of the other, the aggrieved party may apply, by petition to the district court, for restitution of conjugal rights and the court, on being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. Where a question arises whether there has been reasonable excuse for withdrawal from the society, the burden of proving reasonable excuse shall be on the person who has withdrawn from the society.
Marriage is considered more of a religious, than a social or legal contract, in most communities. For example, DF Mulla in his ‘Mohammedan Law’ explains that the object of marriage is procreation and legalization of children. Similarly, it is considered a ‘samskar’ or sacrament instead of a social-legal contract in the Hindu society. It was established in Gurdev Kaur v. Swaran Singh, that the action for restitution was borrowed from old Ecclesiastical courts in England, and was, in fact, originally not Hindu. The concept of restitution of conjugal rights was transferred from the ecclesiastical courts to the Divorce Court by the Divorce Act of 1857. If one spouse left home, the other could ask the court for a writ for the restitution of conjugal rights. In a case where no excuse for their absence was presented, the court would order the spouse to return home. The penalty for non-compliance would be “attachment”, which meant that the guilty party would be imprisoned until they agreed to obey the court order. Christian marriages treated the woman as part of the man. Canon law considered a man and his wife as one person, which meant that the case could only be dealt with by Ecclesiastical courts and not by civil courts. However, no such principle exists in Islamic or Hindu laws.  Under the ancient Hindu law, the most important duty of the wife was to honor and serve the husband, and it was the duty of the husband to provide residence and maintenance for his wife. The remedy of restitution was not mentioned in the Shastric texts. However, if one of them failed to perform their marital duties, the other spouse was entitled to enforce his or her rights in a court of law. The English Ecclesiastical law of the restitution of conjugal rights was grafted into the existing Indian Penal Code in the nineteenth century with little modification, it subsequently became completely controlled and shaped by Indian interpretations of marital rights and obligations. 
The significant feature of the restitution of conjugal rights is that it is a remedy aimed at preserving the marriage and not dissolving it. However, as observed in R. v. Jackson , a woman named Mrs. Jackson was confined by her husband, and hence the award was impotent and not a useful one. Lord Herchell described it in his judgment as ‘barbarous’. Earlier marriages were formed on the fundamental principle that the wife was considered a property of her husband, which is why she was required to live with him willingly or unwillingly, in the home provided by her husband. In the case that the woman refused to comply or left her husband, she could be compelled to live with him. M. A. Qureshi in his book, 'Marriage and Matrimonial Remedies' explains this phenomenon by comparing the women in those marriages with cattle which could be brought back to their masters in the case that they ran away.
With the Hindu Marriage Act of 1955, this idea of the wife being unconditionally tied to the husband was completely altered. According to Section 9 of the Act, both parties can avail restitution of conjugal rights. In Baburao v. Sushila, the Madhya Pradesh High Court stated that only when the petitioner deserves it should the restitution be allowed. However, it cannot be granted if there is no hope for the parties to cohabit happily. It further states that, “in marital matters it is the attitude of the mind and the feelings that count, and no decree of the court can force the parties to live together.” 
Despite the fact that all of the religions in India made references to marital duties and cohabitation, lawyers and judges continually pointed out during this period that importing the concept of restitution of conjugal rights was entirely inappropriate as it did not formally constitute part of any of the major religions in India. The most common practice, in cases of severe disagreements between couples, was that the wife would flee to her natal family.  In the mid-nineteenth century, the Restitution of Conjugal Rights (Act XV of 1877, Schedule 11, Article 34) was available to the husband claiming the society of his wife. Formerly, women could seek help of the extended family in cases of violence against them by the husbands, but Section 259 of the Civil Procedure Code (1882) stated that the extended family could not interfere, particularly if the person ‘harboring’ her was a distant relative- such as an uncle instead of a parent. 
Arguments were presented for and against the doctrine of the restitution of conjugal rights during the legislative debates on the Special Marriage Act, 1954 and the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955. In Shakila Banu v. Gulam Mustafa, the 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.”
Later, in T.Sareetha v. T. Venkata Subbaiah , the Andhra Pradesh High Court held the section 9 of the Hindu Marriage Act to be violative of the Constitution. The court indicated that ''the consequences of such a decree are firstly to transfer the choice to have marital intercourse to the state from the concerned individual and secondly to surrender the choice of the individual to allow or not to allow one's body to be used as "a vehicle for another human being's". Court also stated that the section assailed on the touchstone of “minimum rationality... it promotes no legitimate public purpose based on any conception of the general good and hence, is arbitrary and void.”
In Islamic law, according to A.A.A. Fyzee in ‘Outlines of Muslim Law’, the Holy Qur'an gives the husbands the right to retain their wives with kindness or part with them with an equal consideration. However, if the husband has not paid the dower money, he cannot ask for the restitution of conjugal rights under Islamic law. It is further discussed in the Hedaya that until the wife receives her dower from the husband, she may refuse her husband to a carnal connection. Ameer Ali in the 'Mohammedan Law' has referred to the Hedaya again, which provides that the husband has no power to stop his wife from traveling or leaving his house to visit her friends until he has paid the whole amount of dower, because he does not have the right to “secure fulfillment before rendering fulfillment himself.” This rule was used in Eidan v. Mazhar Hossain  where the Allahabad High Court stated that the wife could refuse to cohabit with her husband until he had paid the dower, in a suit by the husband to enforce his conjugal rights. Other such reasons due to which the court can refuse to grant order of the restitution of conjugal rights may be cruelty of husband or in-laws towards the wife, failure of husband to perform marital obligations, and second marriage of the husband. The Qur'an commands the husbands to keep their wives with kindness, or to part with them with an equal consideration. The husband can divorce a wife who is unwilling to live with him, or marry another woman, leaving his first wife in peace.
Owing to the Muslim husband being dominant in matrimonial matters, the Court leans in favour of the wife generally, and requires strict proof of all allegations necessary for matrimonial relief. The obligation of the wife to live with her husband is not absolute. The law recognizes circumstances which justify her refusal to live with him. For instance, if he has deserted her for a long time, or if he has directed her to leave his house, he cannot ask the assistance of the Court to compel her to live with him. Irregularity of marriage is also a valid defense to a suit for the restitution of conjugal rights, as it is necessary for a marriage to be valid according to Muslim law before the Courts can grant a decree of restitution of conjugal rights.  In another judgment, it was discussed that Islam does not force the spouses a life devoid of harmony and happiness and the parties cannot live together as they should, it permits a separation.
As understood, the restitution of conjugal rights is a part of the personal laws of the individual, thus they are guided by ideals such as religion, tradition and custom. A very important feature of restitution of conjugal rights to be emphasized is that it is a remedy aimed at preserving the marriage, and not at disrupting it, as in the case of divorce or judicial separation. So the restitution of conjugal rights remedy tries in promoting reconciliation between the parties and maintenance of matrimonial. It tries to protect the society from denigrating. But the final decision is that of the parties whether to obey the decree of restitution of conjugal rights and to continue with the matrimony or not.
 Gurdev Kaur v. Swaran Singh, A.I.R. 1959, Punj. 164.
 M.A. Qureshi, Marriage and Matrimonial Remedies: A uniform civil code for India, p. 80
 M.L. Shanley, Feminism, Marriage and the Law in Victorian England, p. 177
 .A. Qureshi, Marriage and Matrimonial Remedies: A uniform civil code for India, p. 82
 S. Sarkar & T. Sarkar, Women and Social Reform in Modern India, p. 289
 R. v. Jackson (1891) 1 Q. B. 671.
 A. Qureshi, Marriage and Matrimonial Remedies: A uniform civil code for India, p. 79
 Baburao v. Sushila A.I.R. 1960, M.P., 73
 As cited in A. Qureshi, Marriage and Matrimonial Remedies: A uniform civil code for India, p. 84
 S. Sarkar & T. Sarkar, Women and Social Reform in Modern India, p. 287
 S. Sarkar & T. Sarkar, Women and Social Reform in Modern India, p. 288
 AIR 1971 Bom. 166, ILR 1971 Bom. 714
 AIR 1983 AP 356
 Pg. 116
 C. Hamilton, The Hedaya or Guide, pg. 54
 Eidan v. Mazhar Hossain 1877 I.L.L. All., 483
 Surah 65, verse 3
 (1934) 59 Bom. 426
 Ameer Ali, Mohammedan Law. 6th Ed. Pg. 383
 PLD 1959 Lah. 1014
 PLD 1959 Lah. 566