Relative of Husband can be made party to proceedings under Domestic Violence Act before Family Court

Bombay High Court in a Judgement has held that family Court, entertaining proceedings under Domestic Violence Act, would be governed by the definition of ‘Respondent’ under the Domestic Violence Act and not under the Family Court Act

In the proceedings filed under section 26 of the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act (D.V. Act) before the Family Court, whether any relief can be sought against the relative of the Husband? In the petition before Family Court, wife had made her mother-in-law as a party Respondent. An application was moved by the mother-in-law under section 9A and Order 1 Rule 10 of the Civil Procedure Code seeking deletion of her name on the ground of misjoinder of party. It was contended that she being the mother-in-law cannot be made a party to the nullity proceedings filed under the Hindu Marriage Act or Special Marriage Act as the Family Court has jurisdiction in respect of the proceedings only between the parties to marriage. It was further contended that she cannot be a party to the proceedings under the D.V. Act before the Family Court.

Family Court allowed the application under section 9A read with Order 1 Rule 10 of the Civil Procedure Code and framed a preliminary issue as to “whether the wife has proved that mother-in-law was a necessary party to the proceedings”?

It was observed that under Order 1 Rule 10, Court has power to delete the parties, who are not necessary for adjudication of the issue. A preliminary issue was framed by the Family Court as to mother-in-law was a necessary party and can be answered by the Family Court depending on evidence led by the parties.

The jurisdiction under section 7 of the Family Courts Act insofar as the parties to the proceedings are concerned, is limited to between the parties to the marriage. However, scope of the term ‘respondent’ is wider under section 2(q) of the D.V. Act. The proviso to section 2(q) of the D.V Act states that an aggrieved wife or female living in a relationship in the nature of a marriage may also file a complaint against a relative of the husband or the male partner.

Under section 26 of the D.V. Act, if at all the jurisdiction to entertain and try matters under sections 18, 19, 20, 21 and 22 of the D.V. Act, is conferred to the Family Court, then, it is to be conferred in entirety in respect of the reliefs which are available and can be sought under the sections specified in the said section. The Legislature did not put any rider while invoking the reliefs under section 26 of the D.V. Act. Therefore, meaning of the word ‘respondent’ has to be borrowed from section 2(q) of the D.V. Act for the proceedings under section 26 of the D.V. Act. Adding and reading any qualification will amount to illegal interpretation of the law.

The D.V. Act takes care of any type of violence in the house and, therefore, the meaning of respondent is not restricted to husband only but his relatives are also included in the definition. It is possible that the same word in one statute may bear a different meaning in the other statute. The word ‘respondent’, if taken under the Family Courts Act, is restricted but different than the word ‘respondent’ under section 2(q) of the D.V. Act. However, section 26 is an enabling section for a wife to seek remedy under the D.V. Act in the other proceedings pending under the Family Courts Act. The intention of the Legislature in allowing to claim reliefs which are available under the D.V. Act in the proceedings pending under the Family Courts Act is to curtail the multiplicity of litigation, to save the time of the Court and litigants, to avoid duplication of the evidence and so on.

Thus, for the purposes of section 26 of the DV Act, meaning of the word ‘respondent’ in the Family Courts Act is controlled by the definition of ‘respondent’ under section 2(q) of the DV Act. Therefore, by plain interpretation of law, the word ‘respondent’ under section 2(q) is to be given the same meaning under the sections which are specified under sections 26 of the D.V. Act, which are triable by the Family Court.

If jurisdiction is widened under section 7(2) of the Family Courts Act, then, by applying the rule of harmonious construction, the definition of the word ‘respondent’ as contemplated under the D.V. Act is necessarily to be imported when the said proceedings are tried before the Family Court. Section 36 of the Family Courts Act reads that the Act shall be in addition to and not in derogation of the provisions of any other law, for the time being in force. Thus, section 26 of the D.V Act is in fact in consonance with section 36 of the Family Courts Act.

In the present matter, a preliminary issue whether mother-in-law was a necessary party was based on and decided as per the facts and merit of that particular case independently. The case against the mother-in-law considering the merits of the matter and evidence, may fail and the Court thus was free to hold on merit whether she would be liable for the reliefs prayed against her by the wife.

Ambreen Akhoon vs. Aditya Arun Paudwal & Anr.

Bombay HC, 04.08.2015

Writ Petition No. 5648 of 2015