Family court can hear domestic violence cases: HC
A family court can hear proceedings seeking to annul a marriage alongside grievances raised under the Domestic Violence Act against the husband and his relatives, the Bombay High Court has ruled, while hearing a petition filed by well-known singer Anuradha Paudwal's daughterin-law, Ambreen Akhoon.
Alleging fraud and non-consummation of her five-year-old marriage to Paudwal's son Arun, Akhoon has filed a petition in the Family Court at Bandra against both her husband and Paudwal seeking to end her marriage under the Special Marriage Act as well as under the DV Act.
This is the second time the case has reached the high court. Last year, Akhoon had filed a petition challenging a Family Court order to drop Paudwal's name from the proceedings. The HC had then sent the case back to the Family Court while passing an order in Akhoon's favour.
In the current petition, Akhoon had objected to the Family Court order raising a question as to whether Akhoon has proved that Paudwal is a necessary party to the proceedings. She had contended that the Family Court should have proceeded with her case against Paudwal and not wait to decide this issue separately.
In the HC, Paudwal's lawyers argued that a husband's relative cannot be made party to proceedings seeking to end a marriage. Also, such proceedings can be filed only against the husband, and a DV Act proceeding will have to be filed before a Metropolitan Magistrate.
After going through all provisions of the Family Court Act and related provisions of the Criminal Procedure Code and the DV Act, Justice Mridula Bhatkar concluded that the Family Court was empowered to hear the proceedings.
The court observed that a specific section of the DV Act allowed the woman to seek relief even before a Family Court, and if such a relief is sought, the parties cannot be restricted only to husband and wife.
"The DV Act takes care of any type of violence in the house and, therefore, the meaning of respondent is not restricted to only the husband but his relatives are also included in the definition. It is possible that the same word in one statute may bear a different meaning in the other statute," the court observed.
The HC, however, has left it to the Family Court to decide if Paudwal's name should remain in the case or not, based on the case's own merits.