18 Feb 2023 4:59 AM GMT
The Kerala High Court on Wednesday held that a family court does not have the jurisdiction to entertain a claim for defamation. For a family court to assume jurisdiction, the dispute must have a proximate relationship to the marital relationship of the parties, the court observed. A division bench of Justice Anil K.Narendran and Justice P.G. Ajithkumar was hearing an appeal filed by the...
The Kerala High Court on Wednesday held that a family court does not have the jurisdiction to entertain a claim for defamation. For a family court to assume jurisdiction, the dispute must have a proximate relationship to the marital relationship of the parties, the court observed.
A division bench of Justice Anil K.Narendran and Justice P.G. Ajithkumar was hearing an appeal filed by the wife, claiming damages for defamation against her husband and father-in-law. The cause of action was the pleadings before the Family Court and also utterances made in the presence of others, describing her as a mentally ill person. The court considered the question of whether the family court has jurisdiction to entertain a petition claiming compensation on account of defamation. The court was of the opinion that in such cases the determining factor is the nature of the dispute involved, not the identity of the parties.
“The cause of action for the appellant to claim compensation is the injury allegedly caused to her reputation on account of such libel and slander. It is an action for tort. A tort is a civil wrong and that by itself constitutes cause of action. Whether or not she is married to the 1st respondent, the alleged statements made by the respondents if defamatory, is a sufficient cause of action.”
The appellant wife’s case was that on account of the statements made by her husband and her father in law her image was tarnished and her reputation was lowered in the eyes of the public. The appellant claimed an amount of Rs.50 lakhs, before the family court, as compensation for the damage caused. The family court held the same as not maintainable and returned the petition for being presented before the proper court. The appellant approached the High Court aggrieved by the order of the family court.
The explanation (d) of Section 7(1) of the Family Courts Act, states that the family court can entertain a suit or proceeding for an order or injunction in circumstances arising out a marital relationship. The counsel for the appellant argued that, when the claim for compensation is made by a party to the marriage against the other party, the cause of action has a nexus to the marriage. Hence under Section 7(1) of the Act the Family Court would have jurisdiction, the appellant averred.
The court concluded that the claim for compensation in this case is not a property upon which the appellant has a vested right but an action for tort. The pertinent question here would be whether the claim stems from the circumstances arising out of the marriage. When tort is a civil wrong, which constitutes a cause of action on its own, the relationship between the parties is irrelevant.
“When the sole reason for claiming compensation is such statements, the marital relationship between the appellant and the 1st respondent does not have any relevance or role in resolving such a dispute. The relationship between the appellant and the respondents would not make any impact in the ultimate decision. In that view of the matter it cannot be said that the dispute involved has any nexus to the marital relationship or is a dispute in the circumstances arising out of the marital relationship"
The court concluded that such a dispute would not fall within the purview of Explanation (d) of Section 7(1) of the Family Court Act and upheld the order of the Family Court.
Counsel for the Appellant: Advocates V T Madhavanunn and V A Satheesh
Counsel for the Respondents: Advocates Abdul Raoof Pallipath and K Ravinash (Kunnath)
Case Title: R v. R
Citation : 2023 LiveLaw (Ker) 86
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