Challenge to Section 12 DV Act proceedings sustainable only under Article 227 of Constitution: Madras High Court Full Bench

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A full bench of the Madras High Court on Thursday held that proceedings under Section 12 of the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 (DV Act) can be challenged only under Article 227 of the Constitution and not under Section 482 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC).

A Bench of Justices PN Prakash, RMT Teeka Raman, and AD Jagdish Chandira held that High Courts have no jurisdiction to quash a complaint made under Section 12 of the DV Act in exercise of its inherent powers granted by Section 482 CrPC.

It was held that Section 482 could not be invoked for such proceedings because the magistrate’s court and not a criminal court was the designated court to hear cases under the DV Act. Further, the family courts have only additional jurisdiction and not original jurisdiction to hear cases seeking various relief under the DV Act. Therefore, cases under the DV Act cannot be transferred from the courts of the judicial magistrate or the metropolitan magistrate to the family courts.

“You can file an appeal in the sessions court against the magistrate court’s order and then come to us in appeal under Article 227 but not under 482 (of the CrPC),” the Bench said.

The Court also said that its order will be applicable only prospectively. Thus, such cases that have already been transferred to family courts by previous orders of the High Court will not be sent back.

“What has already happened, let it be. For how to open a Pandora’s Box? The disputes (under the DV Act) are usually matrimonial in nature and they may further prolong the agony of the parties if transferred from one court to another,” the Bench reasoned.

In August this year, single-judge Justice N Sathish Kumar was hearing a batch of petitions seeking to quash an application filed under Section 12 of the DV Act by invoking Section 482 CrPC.

The lawyers in that case cited two orders of the High Court on the issue – one by a single-judge bench of Justice Anand Venkatesh in Dr P Padmanathan v. Monica & Ors and another that of a Division Bench of Justices M Duraiswamy and Sundar Mohan in P Ganesan vs M Revathy Prema Rubarani. It was pointed out that the two judgments were contradictory in nature.

Justice Venkatesh had held that the High Court had no jurisdiction to quash a complaint under Section 12 of the DV Act while invoking Section 482 CrPC. The Division Bench, however, had held that the proceedings under Chapter IV of the DV Act were civil in nature, and thus the High Court could exercise its power under Section 482 of the CrPC in respect of DV Act proceedings.

Justice Kumar had then directed the Registry to place the issue before the Chief Justice for constituting a Bench of requisite strength to authoritatively decide it.

On Thursday, the Full Bench said that the findings of the single-judge’s verdict must be upheld.

“We are overruling the judgment in P Ganesan and upholding Padmanathan. All 52 directions in Padmanathan we have upheld. Parties cannot decide jurisdiction by consent. That is fundamental law. Only a court can decide jurisdiction,” it said.

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