New Delhi, Jan. 3: The Supreme Court today slammed a sessions court for its “perverse” view that a woman receiving a slap or two from her husband was a normal facet of domestic life and did not amount to cruelty.
Girija had committed suicide after the beating from Vajresh Venkatray Anvekar, which apparently damaged her eyesight. She had also alleged constant torture and dowry harassment.
“The tenor of the judgment suggests that wife-beating is a normal facet of married life. Does that mean giving one or two slaps to a wife by a husband just does not matter?” a two-judge apex court bench said.
“It is one thing to say that every wear and tear of married life need not lead to suicide and it is another thing to put it so crudely and suggest that one or two assaults on a woman is an accepted social norm.”
Justices Aftab Alam and Ranjana Prakash Desai said: “Judges have to be sensitive to women’s problems.”
They added that perhaps the sessions judge wanted to convey that the circumstances on record were not strong enough to drive Girija to commit suicide.
“But to make light of (the) slaps given to Girija, which resulted in loss of her eyesight, is to show extreme insensitivity. Assault on a woman offends her dignity,” the court said.
They added: “There cannot be any generalisation on this issue. Our observation, however, must not be understood to mean that in all cases of assault, suicide must follow. Our objection is to the tenor of the learned sessions judge’s observations.”
Justice Desai, writing the judgment, observed: “They show a mindset which needs to change. There is a phenomenal rise in crimes against women, and (the) protection granted to women by the Constitution of India and other laws can be meaningful only if those... entrusted with the job of doing justice are sensitised towards women’s problems.”
The apex court upheld the five-year sentence handed to Anvekar by Karnataka High Court, which had reversed the acquittal order by the fast-track sessions court in Karwar, Karnataka.
In his acquittal order on March 2, 2007, the trial judge had observed that Girija’s father had not stated on which particular day he noticed her face “turning brownish and right eye, upper portion, blackening”.
“Therefore... these imputations are all general allegations.... Even if upper eye portion or face of Girija had changed their colour because of (the husband’s) beatings, that alone... is not the act of cruelty driving the deceased to commit suicide.”
The judge added: “One or two beat(ing)s are not sufficient in the ordinary course of woman to commit suicide.”
The other complaint, the judge noted, was that Girija was asked to get up at 5am and attend to household work. “Even... that is not (an) act of cruelty so as to drive the deceased to commit suicide,” the judge said.
“We are wary of passing comments against subordinate courts,” the apex court said, “because such comments tend to demoralise them. But, in this case, we will be failing in our duty if we ignore the insensitivity shown by learned sessions judge to a serious crime committed against a hapless woman.”
It added: “We do not suggest that where there is no evidence, the court should go out of its way, ferret out evidence and convict the accused.... It is, of course, the duty of the court to see that an innocent person is not convicted. But it is equally the duty of the court to see that perpetrators of heinous crimes are brought to book. The above quoted extracts add to the reasons why... (the) judgment can be characterised as perverse.”