JUSTICE Aftab Alam, and JUSTICE Ranjana Prakash Desai in the case of Vajresh Venkatray Anvekar vs State Of Karnataka on 3 January, 2013

Learned Sessions Judge has refused to rely upon the evidence of the parents, brother and brothers-in-law of Girija primarily on the ground that they are interested witnesses. We find this approach to be very unfortunate. When a woman is subjected to ill-treatment within the four walls of her matrimonial house, ill-treatment is witnessed only by the perpetrators of the crime. They would certainly not depose about it. It is common knowledge that independent witnesses like servants or neighbours do not want to get involved. In fact, in this case, a maid employed in the house of the appellant who was examined by the prosecution turned hostile. It is true that chances of exaggeration by the interested witnesses cannot be ruled out. Witnesses are prone to exaggeration. It is for the trained judicial mind to find out the truth. If the exaggeration is of such nature as to make the witness wholly unreliable, the court would obviously not rely on him. If attendant circumstances and evidence on record clearly support and corroborate the witness, then merely because he is interested witness he cannot be disbelieved because of some exaggeration, if his evidence is otherwise reliable. In this case, we do not find any such exaggeration qua the appellant. The witnesses have stood the test of cross- examination very well. There are telltale circumstances which speak volumes. Injuries suffered by Girija prior to the suicide cannot be ignored. The pathetic story of Girija’s woes disclosed by her parents, her brother and her brothers-in-law deserves to be accepted and has rightly been accepted by the High Court. A1 and A3 have been acquitted by the Sessions Court. That acquittal has been confirmed by the High Court. The State has not appealed against that order. We do not want to therefore go into that aspect. But, we must record that we are not happy with the manner in which learned Sessions Judge has ignored vital evidence.

Learned Sessions Judge’s observation need to be quoted: “… … …When the death of the deceased had come to the knowledge of P.W.1, it was around 2.30 p.m. and that house of the accused in which deceased committed suicide was hardly 2 K.Ms. away from the P.S. I feel that P.W.1, reaching the police station as late at 22.15 hours., is a delay and this delay is not explained. The possibility of P.W.1Suresh discussing with his relatives also to net in the in-laws as A-1 and 3 with oblique motive cannot be ruled out. Therefore this delay of 5 to 6 hours which is un-explained is a fatal to the case of prosecution. … … …”
We are amazed at this observation. When a man looses his daughter due to cyanide poisoning, he is bound to break down. He would take time to recover from the shock. Six hours delay cannot make his case untrue. It is also not proper to expect him to give all minute details at that stage. The F.I.R. contains sufficient details. It is not expected to be a treatise. We feel that the comments on alleged delay in lodging the F.I.R. and its contents are totally unwarranted.

We are wary of passing comments against the subordinate courts because such comments tend to demoralize 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. We need to quote certain extracts from learned Sessions Judge’s judgment which will show why we are so anguished.
“The other allegations in Ex-P1 complaint is that the deceased was asked to get up at 5.00 a.m. early in the morning and she was asked to attend to house-hold work. Even the accused had asked the deceased to attend to house hold chorus, that is not the act of cruelty, so as to drive the deceased to commit suicide………………………………… …………………………Conduct of the accused in reprimanding the deceased for her lethargic habits, strongly advising her to be more compatible with members of the family and to evince interest in the domestic shores cannot be considered as acts of cruelty.”

Learned Sessions Judge further observes as under: “In 1995, Cri. L.J. Page -2472, (Neelakanth Patil vs. State of Orissa), it is held that; mere statement that the deceased wife was not happy with the husband-accused, is not sufficient. Particularly in the absence of any direct evidence, oral or documentary about ill treatment one or two incident of assault by the accused-husband is not likely to drive the wife to commit suicide. Therefore, the Hon’ble High Court held the conviction of the husband was not proper.” (emphasis supplied)
Reproduction of Orissa High Court’s judgment does not appear to be accurate. Learned Sessions Judge further observes as under: “PW-11 has not stated the particular day of the noticing face of the deceased turning brownish and right eye upper portion blackening. He has not stated particular day on which he found deceased to be panic. He has not stated particular day on which he found the deceased physically weak. Therefore, again these imputations are all general allegations. As I said earlier even if upper eye portion or face of Girija had changed their colour because of A-2 giving beatings, that alone as I said earlier is not the act of cruelty driving the deceased to commit suicide.”
“As I said earlier A-1 and 3 are the ordinary residents of Karwar. In between the date of the marriage and the death of the deceased on 13.6.2002 she was very much staying with her husband A-2 in Bombay. Therefore, giving one or two beating is not cruelty to drive the deceased to commit suicide.”

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. But to make light of slaps given to Girija which resulted in loss of her eyesight is 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 generalization 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 learned Sessions Judge’s observations. 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 in such cases. 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 learned Sessions Judge’s judgment can be characterized as perverse. They show a mindset which needs to change. There is a phenomenal rise in crime against women and protection granted to women by the Constitution of India and other laws can be meaningful only if those who are entrusted with the job of doing justice are sensitized towards women’s problems.