A Karnataka High Court judge has come under intense criticism after he said that a husband bashing the wife is acceptable as long as he takes good care of her.
The shocking statement was made by Justice K Bhakthavatsala while hearing a case in which the woman was seeking divorce on the grounds that she was being subjected to cruelty and abuse by her husband.
The Judge told the woman that she should just "adjust" to the situation for the sake of her marriage and future of her children.
"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?" Justice Bhaktavatsala was quoted as saying by a Bangalore Daily.
An online campaign has been launched against Justice Bhaktavatsala and online protesters have sought the Chief Justice of Karnataka to take serious action against Bhaktavatsala besides having him removed from his post.
More than 500 people have signed an online petition supporting the activists demand for striping Bhaktavatsala off his Justice position.
Here is the full text:
Hon’ble Chief Justice
Mr Vikramjit Sen
Karnataka High Court
Sub- An appeal to look into gender insensitive remarks of Justice Bhaktavatsala
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.
I urge you not to give matrimonial cases to Justice Bhaktavatsala, so that there will be no miscarriage of justice in all cases relating to women because of such biased views.
Kamayani Bali Mahabal
Human rights and women rights activist