Observing that the pendency rate in the family court was high and urging that “the principal judge must coordinate with other judges to draw up a plan and fast-track five-year-old cases”, Bombay High Court acting Chief Justice Naresh Patil on Sunday said the court needs to settle these cases to allow couples to settle in life.
Justice Patil was addressing lawyers, judges and law students at GJ Advani Law College, Bandra, to mark the 29th foundation year of the family court in Mumbai. Of over 14,000 pending cases in the family court, he said 2,499 cases were two-five years old, 424 cases were five-10 years old and at least nine cases were pending for more than 10 years. “We must address these old cases. Unless we settle these cases, the spouses involved in the matter cannot settle in life,” Justice Patil said.
“Young lawyers must be trained to present cases in brief. We are trained to give lengthy judgments, but time is changing. We need to present our cases in brief to expedite procedures,” he added.
The growing number of cases of men and women marrying Non-Resident Indians (NRIs) and facing marital issues was also discussed. “There are international treaties, sometimes we serve Red Corner notices. But NRI marriages present complex issues that need solutions,” Patil said.
Justice Revati Mohite Dere, guardian judge for family courts in the Mumbai region, said that cases that family courts witness “involve human emotions”. “Endeavour must be to see that both parties are equally represented,” she said, adding that marriage disputes involving NRIs were more complex because of long distance, problem of issuing summons and deciding the jurisdiction in which the case falls.
Faced with rising disputes and divorces involving NRI marriages in Punjab, Maharashtra and Gujarat, the Home ministry, Women and Child Development (WCD) ministry, Law ministry and Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) are drafting a Bill to regulate such marriages. The government hopes to now attach the property of the husband and his parents in cases where court summons are issued to him but he does not appear to testify.
Meanwhile, the WCD ministry has also opened a single-window portal to accept complaints related to NRI marriages. In cases requiring government intervention, the ministry will provide names to the MEA to issue lookout notices and the MEA can revoke passport in cases where the spouse does not respond.
The judges also observed that infrastructure remains a problem in the family court, with a new building approved facing a delay since five years. In Pune and Aurangabad courts, a pre-litigation centre has been started. The next one is scheduled to open in Nagpur. “We will see to it that steps are taken to open a similar centre in Mumbai and a courtroom that is child-friendly. Rs 30 crore has been allocated for that. A minor victim should be given a safe environment to depose in a case,” Patil said.