Family courts not bound by technicalities of CPC or Indian Evidence Act: Punjab and Haryana High Court

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A family court is not bound by the technicalities of the Code of Civil Procedure (CPC) and is also well within its powers to take into evidence any material whether or not such material fulfills the requirements of Indian Evidence Act, 1872, observed the Punjab and Haryana High Court recently.

Justices Sudhir Singh and Sumeet Goel explained that the Family Courts Act, 1984 was enacted to adopt a radically different approach from that adopted in ordinary civil proceedings and to simplify the rules of evidence or procedure so that a family court could deal more effectively with a matrimonial dispute.

Therefore, a family court is entitled to lay down its own procedure as long as such procedure is in consonance with the basic cannons of the jurisprudence such as natural justice, good conscience and equity, the Court said.

Accordingly, the procedural rigours of the CPC does not apply to family court proceedings, the High Court observed. Section 14 of the Family Courts Act was introduced to “wither away the rigours of the Indian Evidence Act”, the High Court further noted.

“The legislature, while broadly mandating for application for CPC to proceedings before a Family Court, has vested discretion in favour of such Family Court to devise a procedure on its own … the Family Court has been empowered to take any material into evidence which as per its opinion furthers the cause of effective adjudication of a matrimonial dispute … Family Courts are not fully bound by provision of CPC,” the High Court’s order stated.

The Court made the observation while dismissing a husband’s plea challenging an order passed by a family court, whereby his application raising objections to his estranged wife’s affidavit of evidence was rejected.

The husband’s counsel contended that the wife had sought to produce additional evidence in violation of the CPC and the Indian Evidence Act.

The Court, however, dismissed the husband’s appeal, opining that the family court was not fully bound by the CPC or the Evidence Act.

“A family Court is well within its powers to take into evidence any material, which in the judicial discretion of such Family Court, may be essential for effectively adjudicating a lis before it whether or not such material fulfills the requirements of Indian Evidence Act, 1872. However, while exercising such discretion, the family court ought to bear in mind that receiving of such material by way of evidence does not violate the basic principles of our legal system”, the High Court said.

The Court also noted that the CPC provision cited by the husband’s counsel, which concerns the filing of applications for permission to submit additional documents, was not a mandatory provision when it came to family court cases.

“Order VIII, Rule 1-A CPC of 1908 is not mandatory provision and rather it is a directive in nature only especially with respect to the proceedings under Family Court Act, 1908. A Family Court will be well within its judicial discretion to take into evidence any material in terms of sub-rule (3) of order VIII, Rule 1-A of CPC, 1908 without any formal application for grant of leave by the defendant. However, while exercising such discretion the Family Court is required to pass a reasoned order”, the Court held.

The High Court proceeded to uphold the family court’s decision and dismiss the husband’s appeal.

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