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Family Courts Act | Not All Transactions With In-Laws Qualify As Circumstance Arising Out Of Marital Relationship: Kerala High Court

Hannah M Varghese
23 March 2022 8:40 AM GMT
Family Courts Act | Not All Transactions With In-Laws Qualify As Circumstance Arising Out Of Marital Relationship: Kerala High Court
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The Kerala High Court has ruled that every transaction by either of the spouse or by both of them with the in-laws or relatives cannot be termed as 'in circumstances arising out of a marital relationship under the Family Courts Act, 1984. A Division Bench of Justice A. Muhamed Mustaque and Justice Sophy Thomas found that the impugned transaction in the plea was purely a business...

The Kerala High Court has ruled that every transaction by either of the spouse or by both of them with the in-laws or relatives cannot be termed as 'in circumstances arising out of a marital relationship under the Family Courts Act, 1984. 

A Division Bench of Justice A. Muhamed Mustaque and Justice Sophy Thomas found that the impugned transaction in the plea was purely a business transaction between the son-in-law and father-in-law, and hence held that it cannot be termed as circumstances arising out of a marital relationship.

"Every transaction by either of the spouse or by both of them with the in-laws or relatives cannot be termed as 'in circumstances arising out of a marital relationship'. There may be many personal or commercial transactions for either of the spouse or by both, with the in-laws or their relatives or even remotely between the family members or relatives of either spouse. Such transactions cannot have any nexus with the marriage or marital relationship between them."

The respondent herein had filed a plea before a Family Court against his wife, parents in law and brother-in-law for recovery of amounts borrowed from him by the father-in-law who was running a business.

The contention was that although the father-in-law had paid a part of the outstanding amount, the balance was not repaid despite sending a legal notice. He argued that the transaction occurred on account of his marital relationship with his wife. 

The plea was allowed by the Family Court permitting the petitioner to realise the amount from his wife and father-in-law.

However, alleging that she was deliberately not served notice, the wife moved the High Court assailing the decision of the Family Court.

The primary contention was that the Family Court did not have the jurisdiction to entertain the dispute, as it is not a suit or proceeding under Section 7(2) of the Family Courts Act. 

The Family Court's reasoning to this question was that if there was no such marital relationship, the respondent herein would not have advanced money to his father-in-law, and so, it was a transaction arising out of a marital relationship under Section 7(1)(d) of the Family Courts Act.

After referring to the relevant provisions, the High Court noted that the 'circumstances' in relation to a marital relationship will be those particulars which closely precedes, surrounds, accompanies and follows a marital relationship. 

"The main requirement is that such 'circumstances' must have a direct bearing on marriage, since the marriage precedes, the existence or origin of a 'marital relationship'. 'Circumstances' arising out of a marital relationship are therefore, 'occurrences or things which stand around or about, which attend upon, which closely precede or follow, which surround and accompany, which depend upon or which support or qualify the principal event' of a marriage or marital relationship."

However, in this case, the transaction between the son-in-law and the father-in-law was purely a business transaction of advancing amounts either to invest in a business or to repay with interest as and when demanded

It was also noted that the son-in-law had categorically deposed that his wife never demanded money from him and it was the father-in-law who demanded the money and received the same. Therefore, it was held that this could not be termed as a circumstance arising out of a marital relationship. 

Further, the Court held that the cause of action for realising the money advanced would exist independently before an ordinary civil court as the transaction is purely a civil dispute.

Moreover, it was established that the place of marriage or last residence of the spouses has no bearing in a claim for money in a civil suit between the son-in-law and the father-in-law, though his wife and in-laws were also made parties to the suit. 

As such, the appeals were allowed and the impugned judgment of the Family Court was set aside. 

Advocates A.K Preetha and Hema R appeared for the appellants while Advocates Santhosh Mathew, Arun Thomas, R. Parthasarathy, Seema, T.B Sivaprasad and Jennis Stephen represented the respondents in the matter.

Case Title: P.T. Philipose & Anr. v. Sunil Jacob & Ors.

Citation: 2022 LiveLaw (Ker) 139

Click Here To Read/Download The Order

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