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Party May Not Press Relief But Can't Prevent Family Court From Finding The Truth: Kerala High Court

Hannah M Varghese
14 April 2022 1:37 PM GMT
Party May Not Press Relief But Cant Prevent Family Court From Finding The Truth: Kerala High Court
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The Kerala High Court recently held that the master of the proceedings before the Family Court is the presiding officer of the Family Court and not the parties while reiterating that the Family Court is competent to undertake any enquiry to find the truth.A Division Bench of Justice A. Muhamed Mustaque and Justice Sophy Thomas observed that a party may be able to not press the relief sought,...

The Kerala High Court recently held that the master of the proceedings before the Family Court is the presiding officer of the Family Court and not the parties while reiterating that the Family Court is competent to undertake any enquiry to find the truth.

A Division Bench of Justice A. Muhamed Mustaque and Justice Sophy Thomas observed that a party may be able to not press the relief sought, but they cannot refrain the Family Court from the finding of truth. 

"The scope of enquiry in the Family Court is not confined with the evidence brought before it by the parties. The Family Court is competent to embark upon any enquiry to elicit the truth. The master of the proceedings before the Family Court is the presiding officer of the Family Court and not the parties. So long as the principles of fairness are followed and adhered to, the power of the Family Court cannot be questioned by the parties."

It was also reiterated that the Family Court cannot remain a mute spectator of the proceedings before it. If the Family Court is of the view that the opposite party would be affected or impacted, consequent upon not pressing the petition, it shall proceed with the case to find out the truth as mentioned in the Nisha Haneefa's case.

The petitioner and the respondent herein had registered their marriage before the Local Registrar under the Kerala Registration of Marriages (Common) Rules, 2008. 

Thereafter, the petitioners; parents apparently objected to the relationship. Alleging her illegal detention, the respondent approached this Court seeking the writ of habeas corpus.

However, when the petitioner was produced before the Court, she alleged that she was forced to sign the register under pressure from the respondent. Accordingly, the writ was dismissed. 

Later, the petitioner moved the Local Registrar to cancel her marriage registration with the respondent, but this request was rejected. 

Challenging this rejection, the petitioner approached the Deputy Director of Panchayat who found the marriage registration illegal since no customary ceremonies were followed. Therefore, the registration was cancelled. 

Thereafter, the respondent moved the Family Court seeking restitution of conjugal rights. Simultaneously, he also approached the Deputy Director in revision against the cancellation of marriage registration. As per the direction of the Principal Secretary of the Local Self Government Institution, the cancellation was withdrawn. 

The petitioner objected to the plea in Family Court but this was dismissed. She also moved the High Court against the withdrawal of cancellation and a Division Bench quashed the impugned withdrawal. The validity of the marriage was, however, left to the Family Court to decide. 

Although the respondent approached the Supreme Court, the same view was taken by the Apex Court as well. 

As such, the trial finally commenced before the Family Court but the plea was dismissed after the respondent argued that he was not pressing the petition. 

The petitioner moved the High Court against this dismissal since the question of the validity of the marriage was yet to be decided. 

Advocate M.R. Rajesh appeared for the petitioner while the respondent was represented by Advocate Shahna Karthikeyan

The Court decided that the Family Court ought not to have accepted the request to dismiss the petition in toto without entering into the findings regarding the status of the marriage.

It was observed that the petitioner was not afforded an opportunity to express her views by the Family Court before acting on the memo not pressing the case.

"In light of this Court order as well as the Apex Court's order, the Family Court ought to have afforded an opportunity to Anjana (petitioner) to state her views before the Court on the motion moved by Jayesh Jayaram (respondent) to 'not press the case'."

When rights and obligations of the parties to a litigation are crystalised through the order of the Court, the basis of such an order cannot be whittled down by one party by his unilateral decision of not pressing the case. The Court has to act on such a decision of not pressing by one party as holding that the issues are decided against such a litigant, it was held. 

Therefore, the Bench took the view that the Family Court failed in exercising its jurisdiction in accordance with the Family Courts Act, 1984 and the direction of this Court and the Apex Court. 

"The inevitable conclusion is that the Family Court could not have dismissed the petition for restitution of conjugal rights without going into the question of validity of the marriage."

The Bench, therefore, interfered with the impugned judgment to the limited extent of not deciding on the validity of the marriage.

The Family Court was directed to decide on the validity of the marriage in light of the stand taken by the respondent not pressing the same within four weeks from the date of appearance.

Case Title: T. Anjana v. J.A Jayesh Jayaram

Citation: 2022 LiveLaw (Ker) 176

Click Here To Read/Download The Order 

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