Ambreen Akhoon initiated legal proceedings against her husband and mother-in-law under Section 26 of the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act (PWDVA) before the Family Court. Confusion arose because of differing restrictions on who can be held as a respondent under PWDVA versus under Family Court laws. Specifically, under Section 7 of the Family Courts Act only parties to the marriage (i.e. the husband or wife) can be respondents, but section 26 of PWDVA has a wider definition, and thus relatives of the husband can be held as a respondents under the act.
Akhoon’s mother-in-law filed an application to be removed as a respondent to the proceedings on the grounds that the Family Court guidelines for “respondent” have precedent over PWDVA guidelines. The Judge of the Family Court at Bandra, Mumbai issued an order siding with the mother-in-law. Akhoon filed this petition against the Family Court’s order; the High Court of Bombay sided with Akhoon, thus overruling the mother-in-law’s petition to be exempted from the proceedings.
2. This Writ Petition involves a question of law as to whether any relief can be sought against the relative of the respondent husband in the proceedings filed under section 26 of the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act before the Family Court? 3. In this writ petition, the petitioner challenges the legality of the order dated 11.5.2015 passed by the Family Court at Bandra, Mumbai in Petition No.A-1086 of 2013. The petition before the Family Court was filed for Sherla V. divorce under the Special Marriage Act, 1954 r/w Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 (for the sake of brevity, hereinafter referred to as ‘D.V. Act’). In the said petition, the petitioner/wife has made her mother-in-law as a party respondent. Therefore, an application was moved by Respondent No. 2, the mother-in-law, under section 9A and Order 1 Rule 10 of the Civil Procedure Code for deleting the party on the ground of a misjoinder of party. An issue was raised before the Family Court that Respondent No. 2 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 between the parties to marriage only. The said application for compensation in the said petition was objected to on the ground that Respondent No. 2, the mother of the husband, cannot be party to the proceedings under the D.V. Act before the Family Court. The learned Judge of the Family Court heard the matter and passed a reasoned order by which application under section 9A with Order 1 Rule 10 of the Civil Procedure Code was allowed and inter alia the preliminary issue is framed as to “whether the petitioner has proved that Respondent No. 2 is a necessary party to the proceedings”?
5. The learned Counsel for the petitioner argued that the order passed by the learned Judge of the Family Court is erroneous.
6. Both the learned Counsel for the respondents have opposed the petition.
10. Section 26 of the D.V. Act enables a party to seek relief available under sections 18, 19, 20, 21 and 22 of the D.V. Act in any legal proceeding before the civil Court or Family Court or criminal Court affecting the aggrieved person and whether such proceeding was initiated before or after the commencement of this D.V. Act. Subsections (1) and (2) of section 26 presupposes that there should be a suit or legal proceeding before the civil or criminal Court wherein the relief under the D.V. Act also can be sought in addition to that relief.
11. Section 7 of the Family Courts Act limits the jurisdiction of the Family Court to the parties to a marriage.
12. Though jurisdiction of the Family Court is restricted to the parties to a marriage, under subsection (2) of section 7, the jurisdiction of the Family Court is widened as the cases under Chapter IX of Criminal Procedure Code are also made triable before the Family Court; so also, under section 2(b), ‘such other jurisdiction is conferred on it by any other enactment’. Thus, under clause (b) of subsection (2), if there is a specific provision under any other statute that such matters can also be entertained and tried by the Family Court, then, the jurisdiction of the Family Court can be extended to that effect. Any relative of the husband is covered under the definition of respondent under section 2(q) of the D.V. Act. If the statute covers a particular person in the array of the respondent, then, the status and necessity of that person cannot be challenged under Order 1 Rule 10 of the CPC. Thus, this issue cannot be raised at all as the D.V. Act covers the relatives of the husband under the definition of respondent. Hence, mother-in-law can be brought under the definition of ‘respondent’ under the D.V. Act has to be adopted while granting relief and entertaining petition under the D.V. Act.
14. 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 D.V. Act takes care of any type of violence in the house and, therefore, the meaning of respondent is not restricted to only husband 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 and so different than the word ‘respondent’ under section2(q)of the D.V. Act … [For] the purpose of section 26 of the DV Act, a meaning of word ‘respondent’ on 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.
18. As a question of law is raised before this Court, the Court has restricted its finding only to that extent and answered that the relatives of the husband being respondents under section 2(q) of the DV Act can be made party respondents before the Family Court if the proceedings specified under section 26 of the D.V. Act are preferred.
20. In the circumstances, the petition is partly allowed.