The need to create greater gender awareness in the judiciary has been highlighted in a recent judgment of the Karnataka High Court. The judgment underlined the “insensitivity” on the part of a senior civil judge of a trial court about the laws that uphold women’s interests.

A Division Bench comprising Justice N. Kumar and Justice H.G. Ramesh, in its verdict pertaining to the Gulbarga Circuit Bench, severely criticised a senior civil judge of Humnabad, Bidar, for committing a “serious error” in granting divorce on a plea by an assistant executive engineer of Gescom on the ground that his wife had subjected him to “cruelty” by filing cases against him.

“Unfortunately, the learned [trial] judge dealing with this matrimonial matter has lost sight of the legal aspect. He [trial judge] is insensitive of the suffering of the married woman. He seems to think that a wife should not go against husband in a court of law,” the High Court said while describing the order of the trial judge as “erroneous, unsustainable and perverse.”

The Bench said the law has been well settled that it cannot be termed as “cruelty” if a married Hindu woman asserts her legal right conferred on her and takes her husband to court on genuine reasons.

“Mere going to court constitutes cruelty according to him [trial judge]. It only shows his lack of understanding of the law, the intention behind these legislation and the need for protection of women, in particular married women, and the efforts made by progressive legislation to protect the interests of women,” the Bench observed.

The High Court was dealing with a petition filed by a 33-year-old woman, mother of two, challenging the dissolution of her marriage by the civil court based on a divorce plea by her husband, Veershetty (40). Mr. Veershetty had complained that she “deserted” him after he stopped giving money to her father and started “harassing” him through litigations. The trial court had accepted his contentions.

The High Court, however, found from the materials on record that the couple got married in 1996 and there was no problem for the first four years. Thereafter, Mr. Veershetty started ill-treating her and she tolerated it for a long time. She finally lodged a criminal complaint and he was chargesheeted after an investigation.

On learning that he was illegally trying marry again, she moved a court again and got temporary injunction against his marriage plan. As he failed to look after her as per law, she sought interim maintenance from him for herself and two children. She had to knock on the doors of the court again for payment of maintenance as he failed to obey the court order.

Despite injunction against the second marriage, Mr. Veershetty got married and had three children, the High Court found from the records.

The provision of divorce in the Hindu Marriage Act does not come to the aid of such persons who have no respect for law, who has not treated his wife properly, and who has denied maintenance to wife and children despite a court order, the High Court held.

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