HC judge apologises to women litigants for humiliating questions posed to them by a lawyer during cross examination

6 days ago 36
The judge points out that the case on hand reflected how misogynistic our society was though now it appeared to be changing rapidly. 

The judge points out that the case on hand reflected how misogynistic our society was though now it appeared to be changing rapidly.  | Photo Credit: File Photo

In a rare gesture, Justice D. Bharatha Chakravarthy of the Madras High Court has apologised to four women litigants for the “insensitivity” shown by a lawyer who had made one of them stand in a witness box and posed “humiliating questions”, during cross examination in a partition suit, before an Additional District Judge in Dharmapuri.

The judge could not fathom that the lawyer, representing a son born to a landlord through his second wife, had questioned the paternity of the three daughters born through the first wife and had even gone to the extent of making a false claim that the landlord had divorced his first wife (mother of the three daughters) because of her questionable character.

“Such insensitive cross examination, especially in the absence of any valid material regarding the same, should not be resorted to. A learned brother member of the Bar had done so and it had happened under the supervision of the court. Therefore, this court conveys its apologies to P.W. 1 in particular and the plaintiffs in general,” Justice Chakravarthy wrote.

“The purpose of cross examination was not to create indelible scars in the minds of the litigants or to humiliate them. It is time that we are a little more empathetic to the litigants who approach us.” When hapless women approach the court for their legitimate right, they could not be subjected to character assassination, he said.

The judge concurred with the women’s counsel V. Raghavachari that the daughters were magnanimous enough to accept their stepbrother as a legal heir and give him equal share in the properties but the latter had made a highly unreasonable allegation that the women were not born to his father and that their mother was of questionable character.

Justice Chakravarthy also pointed out that the case on hand reflected how misogynistic our society was though now it appeared to be changing rapidly. The landlord V.R. Mani was unhappy with his first wife “because she begot three girl children”. Therefore, he had married another woman illegally and begotten a son through her.

When the son turned 18, the landlord bestowed all his properties upon him and left the girl children in lurch. “It is not his individual mistake but a reflection of our collective failure. On behalf of the society at large, this court conveys due apologies once again to the daughters. They can be rest assured that they are as good as sons for all purposes,” the judge said.

In so far as the merits of the case were concerned, the judge said, the landlord’s son would be entitled to much lesser share in the property because he could not be elevated to the status of a coparcener. However, since the daughters were willing to give him equal share, the judge ordered accordingly.

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