Wife-beating not accepted social norm, observes SC

Apex court says judges need to be sensitised about womens issues

The Supreme Court has expressed its anguish over a judgment delivered by a Karwar sessions court judge, which suggested that beating wife was a normal facet of life.

Describing the judgment as “perverse”, a bench of Justices Aftab Alam and Ranjana Prakash Desai asked for bringing in change in the mindset of judges in order to deal with the phenomenal rise in the crimes against women. “There is a phenomenal rise in the crimes against women and protection granted to women by the Constitution of India and other laws would be meaningful only if those who are entrusted with the job of doing justice are sensitised towards women’s problems,” the bench said.

The court dismissed an appeal by Vajresh Venkatray Anvekar, who was fined and sentenced to five years jail by the Karnataka High Court, for driving his wife Girija to commit suicide in June 2002. Their marriage had taken place in December, 2001. The apex court said the high court had rightly reversed the judgment delivered by the trial court, which had acquitted the accused.

It, however, pulled up the fast-track court judge for writing a judgment that suggested occasional slapping of wife was not that strong a reason for the woman to end her life.
“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? We do not think that that can be a right approach.

“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. Judges have to be sensitive to women’s problems. Perhaps learned Sessions Judge wanted to convey that the circumstances on record were not strong enough to drive Girija to commit suicide,” the bench said.

The court said that making light of slaps given to Girija, which resulted in loss of her eyesight, was to show extreme insensitivity.

“Assault on a woman offends her dignity. What effect it will have on a woman depends on facts and circumstances of each case. There cannot be any generalisation on this issue,” the bench said.

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