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While speaking at a 2-day event at the Jharkhand Judicial Academy, in Ranchi on Saturday, Justice NV Ramana of the Supreme Court floated a 37-point proposal with respect to legislation, investigation and working of family courts in the country.

The 1st Regional Training Programme for Sensitization of Family Court Judges was also marked by the rich presence of Supreme Court Judges, Justice R Banumathi and Justice Indira Banerjee; Delhi High Court Chief Justice DN Patel, and Acting CJ of Jharkhand High Court, Justice HC Mishra, Family Court Judges of 13 states, lawyers, police officials and others also graced the event with their presence and participation.

Justice Ramana said, “I should warn that our adversarial court system, unnecessarily intensifies the antagonistic characteristics in a family dispute, be it a couple or brothers. Sometimes, it makes it impossible to reconcile, even when there might have been possibility of the same.”

Some of the suggestions, as highlighted by Justice Ramana are as follows:

  1. Family courts should have jurisdiction to deal with offences against women relating to marriage under Chapter XX and XXA of IPC.
  2. The rigours of Dowry Prohibition Act and section 498 A of IPC needs to be reconsidered as incarceration of the husband puts the family sustenance at stake.
  3. Inclusion of more scientific measures for the determination of paternity and maternity disputes.
  4. Need for enactment of a comprehensive domestic law.
  5. Need for mechanism to avoid abnormal delays in realization of maintenance to deserted wives and children.
  6. Need for evolution of remedial international understanding and convention as deserted wives and children of non-resident husband/father are practically left without any legal remedy due to non-service of notice.
  7. Making pre-litigation mediation or conciliation mandatory before matter is placed before family court.
  8. Family court should mandatorily conduct proceedings in-camera to help parties resolve their disputes in a free atmosphere.
  9. Having separate Mahila courts for exclusively trying offences against women needs to be propagated.
  10. More Mahila police stations need to be established.
  11. Need to create congenial atmosphere for women to ventilate their grievances without inhibition, including doing away with formal dress codes of lawyers and judges and setting up family courts outside the usual court compounds.
  12. Offences against women should be investigated into by woman police officer.
  13. Steps to ensure that anti-social elements are kept at bay to protect women approaching courts from harassment or indecent behavior, stressing on early settlement of family dispute cases.
  14. The state government in consultation with high courts should make appropriate rules to appoint sufficient number of counselors, psychiatrists and experts to assist the family court.
  15. Summary procedure for family courts to be made compulsory.
  16. Family courts should be encouraged to use the liberty laid down in its procedures to arrive at a settlement.
  17. Need for provision of legal assistance to family court litigants unable to engage advocates.

Justice Banumathi pointed out the need for humane approach of judges, looking at the fact that in some cases, interim maintenance was delayed for upto a decade, leaving the woman and minor children impoverished.

Justice Banerjee, on similar lines, said that an amicable settlement must be the priority of advocates and judges alike, as smaller issues like lack of understanding and ego of the husband and wife hurts the children in the long run who have to witness painful litigation in their growing up years.

— India Legal Bureau

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