The Chief Justice of Madras High Court Munishwar Nath Bhandari has constituted a full bench comprising five judges of the Madras High Court to hear the question pertaining to the High Court's jurisdiction on the original side to make decisions on child custody and guardianship cases, owing to the advent of the Family Courts Act, 1984.
The five judges who are part of the full bench are Justice P.N Prakash, Justice R Mahadevan, Justice M Sundar, Justice N. Anand Venkatesh, and Justice AA Nakkiran.
The reference to the full bench was made by the bench of Justice AA Nakkiran, PN Prakash and M Sunder which was constituted by the Chief Justice after Justice V. Parthiban (now retired) opined that the matter must be adjudicated by constituting a larger bench. The three judge bench had considered the reference to a larger bench as the decision in Mary Thoman v. Dr KE Thomas (1989) which approves the simultaneous jurisdiction of High Court was rendered by a co-equal as well as a co-ordinate bench of the three judge bench.
The two questions sought to be answered through the reference are as below:
(i) Whether the jurisdiction of the High Court, on its Original Side, over matters of child custody and guardianship is ousted, in view of the provisions of Explanation (g) to Section 7(1) read with Sections 8 and 20 of the Family Courts Act, 1984?
(ii) Whether the decision of a Full Bench of this Court in Mary Thomas Vs. Dr K.E.Thomas (AIR 1990 Madras 100) is still good law?
The full bench is to hear the reference on 10.06.2022 at 10:30 am. Apart from the counsel appearing for respective parties, the members of the bar have also been called upon to assist the court by making submissions on the question.