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Kerala High Court dismisses PIL seeking family court not be set up in Punalur court complex

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The Kerala High Court has dismissed a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed seeking a direction to the State and the Registrar, not to take any steps in furtherance of establishing the Family Court sanctioned for Punalur, in the premises of the Punalur Court complex in Chemmanthoor.

The PIL filed by two advocates practising before the courts at Punalur in Kollam District further seeks to take steps to identify a suitable location and premises with the requisite infrastructure for the establishment of the Family Court sanctioned for Punalur, so as to meet the objectives for which the Family Courts are required to be established.

The State Government, in consultation with the High Court, is mandated to establish a family court for every area in the State comprising a city or town whose population exceeds one million. The State is also empowered under Section 3(1)(b) of the Act, 1984 to establish the Family Court for such other areas in the State as it may deem necessary.

A requirement arose for the establishment of additional Family Courts in the State and the Registrar of the Court submitted a letter dated 27.02.2020 to the State Government proposing establishment of 7 Family Courts in the State, including the one at Punalur. The State Government granted in principle sanction for the establishment of 5 Family Courts, including the one proposed at Punalur, as per a Government Order dated 11.02.2021.

The contention put forth by the petitioners is that the respondents are taking hasty steps to establish the Punalur Family Court in the newly constructed Chemmanthoor Court complex, which is situated at a remote location 2 km from Punalur town. According to the petitioners, as the said complex is already congested and no other space is available, the Conference Hall on the third floor in the said complex is planned to be converted as a Family Court.

That apart, it is submitted that the Family Court should not run in makeshift arrangements with insufficient infrastructure and therefore, it is the duty of the respondents to ensure that adequate facilities and infrastructure are provided for the proper functioning of the Family Court. It was accordingly that the petitioners have submitted representation dated 21.05.2022 to the Registrar of the Court pointing out that the old court complex is located at the heart of the town and by making suitable modifications and repair, the whole court complex can be used, especially due to the fact that they are lying vacant consequent to the opening of the new court complex.

On June 29, when the matter came up for admission, the Division Bench of Chief Justice S. Manikumar and Justice Shaji P. Chaly sought a report from the Registrar of this Court, who has reported that at present there is no Family Court in Punalur and it was taking note of the requirement of establishment of the Family Court in Punalur, in terms of the objectives of the Act, 1984 that the Government, in continuation of the in principle sanction, has issued Government Order bearing No. G.O. (Ms.) No. 79/200/HOME dated 13.04.2022 according sanction for establishing Family Courts including one at Punalur.

It is also stated that, in the new court complex at Punalur, there is enough space to accommodate the Family Court. It is further stated that at present, the Judge, Family Court, Kottarakkara is conducting camp sitting at Punalur every Saturday in the MACT Court Hall, Punalur, which is in the new court complex, since MACT, Punalur conducts camp sitting on that day at Kottarakkara.

On a perusal of the proposal dated 27.02.2022 submitted by this Court to the Additional Chief Secretary to Government, Home (C) Department, the Court found that the same was submitted on the basis of the letter issued by the Government to submit the proposals afresh after fixing the priority and necessity based on the pendency of the cases and the average time required for the disposal of each cases and to forward the priority list in that regard. The Court has prioritized the requirements and forwarded a proposal to the Government along with the staff pattern required for the establishment of a Family Court.

“It is also evident from the order dated 11.02.2021 passed by the Government that the Government have examined the matter in detail and accorded sanction for the establishment of the 5 Family Courts, including the one at Punalur, subject to the condition that necessary posts will be sanctioned as and when the courts are commenced. It was thereafter that the Government accorded in principle sanction as per order dated 23.09.2021 to establish the 5 Family Courts. Therefore, it can be seen that it was after taking into account various facts and circumstances and the relevant inputs required for the establishment of the Family Courts that the Government has ultimately granted sanction. The Registrar has reported that there is sufficient space in the new court complex to establish and conduct the Family Court with sufficient infrastructure,” observed the Bench.

The grievance highlighted by the petitioners in the writ petition is that the new court complex is situated 2 km away in a remote area. The Court does not think that a distance of 2 km from the old court complex cannot be said to be a distant place and the same can never be considered as a long distance, especially due to the fact that it is very difficult to secure land within Punalur town to establish a court complex.

Taking into account the infrastructure and other statutory requirements for establishment of a family court, the Bench held that the parking facility for vehicles of the lawyers and the litigants etc; the relevance of the establishment of the Family Court in order to tide over the present adverse situation due to the pendency of numerous cases in the Kottarakkara Family Court; if and when the Family Court is established at Punalur, the cases can be transferred from the Family Court Kottarakkara and other courts, and thereby reduction of the large pendency of the cases and thus, to protect the public interest, the destination identified for functioning of the court at the present location cannot be said to be bad, illegal or arbitrary justifying interference of the High Court. In our view, the reliefs sought for by the petitioners are against the public interest.

“Thus, taking into account various facts and circumstances deliberated above, we do not think that the petitioners have established any public interest in the matter, which requires to be adjudicated after securing counter affidavits from the respondents, which course, if adopted by us, would again delay the establishment of the court in new court complex at Punalur,” the order reads.

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