A judge’s obligation to the public starts and ends with his or her analysis of the law, its correct use, not with the preaching of personal beliefs or preferences. Chief Justice S H. Kapadia once said, “High Courts and the Supreme Court are courts of principles. The judges should not speak anything beyond the principles of a particular case. Let us not give lectures to the society. The problem is sometimes we judges impose our own values, our own likes or dislikes on the society”. The Karnataka High Court seems to have missed this message. The comments made by Justice Bhaktavatsala in various domestic violence and divorce court proceedings recently are perpetuating the myth of patriarchy and his opinions going beyond the legal scope..The judges are supposed to protect and enforce human rights of the citizens , but here we have a judge who is against women rights and even encouraging them to continue to stay in a violent relationship. Such views are retrograde and against the tenets of the Constitution of India.
I am shocked at the comments made by Justice Bhaktavatsala of Karnataka , High Court, in various domestic violence and divorce cases recently are perpetuating the myth of patriarchy and his opinions are unconstitutional The judges are supposed to protect and enforce human rights of the citizens , but here we have a judge who is against women rights and even encouraging them to continue to stay in a violent relationship.
According to media reports on August 31, he went out of his way to counsel a young woman whose stated reason for not living with her husband was that he used to beat her. Justice Bhaktavatsala said, “Women suffer in all marriages. You are married with two children, and know what it means to suffer as a woman. Yesterday, there was a techie couple who reconciled for the sake of their child. Your husband is doing good business, he will take care of you. Why are you still talking about his beatings? I know you have undergone pain. But that is nothing in front of what you undergo as a woman. I have not undergone such pain. But madam (Justice BS Indrakala) has.”
The court asked the woman if her parents were present, at which her father walked up to the bench. The judge remarked, “Ask your father if he has never beaten your mother!” When the woman said her husband would beat her in the open, in front of everyone, Justice Bhaktavatsala remarked that it was she who was bringing it out in the open. The court was told that the husband would beat her in the middle of the night and had thrown her out of the house.
When the woman’s advocate produced photographs showing her swollen face, the court said, “You have to adjust. Are you just behind money? There is nothing in your case to argue on merits. You have to give him a divorce or go with him. Have you read about actor Darshan. He spent 30 days in jail after beating his wife. But they are living together now. What is on your mind and what is on your agenda?” The court directed the couple to go out and talk to each other.
This is just not an isolated case in another case reported , a young advocate had not imagined she would be receiving a lesson on married life when she took up a case on behalf of an estranged wife. She was summarily told by Justice K Bhaktavatsala that she was unfit to argue a matrimonial case as she was unmarried. While the lady advocate was citing the allegations against the husband, Justice Bhaktavatsala stopped her midway and asked, “Are you married?” When she replied in the negative, the judge said, “You are unfit to argue this case. You do not know real life. Why are you arguing like this? He is your (client’s) partner,not a stranger.Family matters should be argued only by married people, not spinsters. You should only watch. Bachelors and spinsters watching family court proceedings will start thinking if there is any need to marry at all. Marriage is not like a public transport system. You better get married and you will get very good experince to argue such cases.”However, despite the peace making efforts of the court,the case remained unresolved.
In another case, in a bid to unite a couple who are seeking divorce he directed the duo to spend two days at Bangalore Club. The techie couple have been trying to get a divorce for the past five years.Justice Bhaktavatsala asked the woman to take her husband to her house and spend two days along with their daughter and return after two days but she refused saying that, her reputation would get “spoiled”. Later the judge asked the man to take his wife to his house but he also refused saying, “his mother would faint at the first look of his wife”. Then Justice Bhaktavatsala suggested that the couple stay in a Bangalore club with their daughter and parents. He said all arrangements for it would be done by the counsel and added “let this be a progress of family union”.
Last year in a a habeas corpus petition by a Bangalore resident seeking reunion with his newly married wife, who he claimed was being illegally detained by her parents, Justice Bhaktavatsala had recommended that the Hindu Marriage Act be changed so that a girl under 21 cannot marry without permission of her parents. Presently the law requires the girl to be 18yrs. In a case of marriage by choice he sent the boy to jail.
I am extremely disturbed at these comments that appear to advocate silence and acquiescence of women who are subject to violence within the family. Also, to suggest that the woman was seeking a divorce to gain some monetary advantage is, apart from trivializing her travails, a complete misconception as single mothers and divorced women suffer immense financial setbacks.If this is the response to women who struggle against stigma and fear to speak up about domestic violence, their confidence in obtaining justice will also be shaken. Such views are retrograde and against the tenets of the Constitution of India.
There should be an inquiry into the remarks passed by the judge to ensure that there will be no miscarriage of justice in all cases relating to women because of such biased views. He should be removed ,as a gender insensitive judge, is perpetuating stereotypes and the patriarchal values which women have been fighting for years and are still fighting.
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