DELHI HIGH COURT PLACES THE ISSUE OF WHETHER A SUIT SEEKING INJUNCTION IN CIRCUMSTANCES ARISING OUT MARITAL RELATIONSHIP IS TO BE FILED BEFORE CIVIL COURT OR FAMILY COURT, BEFORE A LARGER BENCH
The High Court of Delhi comprising of Justice Navin Chawla passed a Judgment dated 01.06.2023 in a recent case of Geeta Anand v Tanya Arjun & Anr, CS(OS) 601/2022 & I.As. 15957/2022, 20302/2022 and decided to place the issue i.e. whether in a suit filed for seeking injunction ‘in circumstances arising out of a matrimonial relationship’ is to be adjudicated by a Civil Court or a Family Court, before a larger Bench.
1) In the present case, one Geeta Anand, the Plaintiff, filed a Suit before the Civil Court, Delhi (Trial Court) seeking injunction against her Daughter-in-Law, Tanya Arjun, the Defendant No. 1 and her Son, the Defendant No. 2 and relatives of the Defendants from visiting or entering her property located at No. 26, Anand Lok, New Delhi (Suit Property) and from causing interference to the Plaintiff’s peaceful possession of the Suit Property.
2) The Defendant No.1 and 2 got married on 10.12.2005 and are blessed with two children.
3) The Plaintiff alleged that the Defendant no.1 was aggressive and abusive towards the Plaintiff, and hence, the Plaintiff asked the Defendants to move out of the Suit Property in May, 2019. But the Plaintiff allowed the Defendants to live at her residential apartment at A-109, 9th Floor, DLF King’s Court, Greater Kailash Part II, New Delhi (DLF Apartment).
4) The Plaintiff averred that in the last week of June, 2022, the Defendants, through a family friend, reconciled their matrimonial disputes. Thus, the Plaintiff and the Defendants entered into a Memorandum of Understanding dated 28.06.2022 (MOU).
5) As per Clause 6 (b) of the MOU, it was agreed that the Defendant No.1 would move into the DLF Apartment and remove her belongings from the Suit Property and would not re-enter the Suit Property unless particularly invited by the Plaintiff.
6) As per Clause 6(c) of the MOU, the Plaintiff agreed to repay the loan taken on the DLF Apartment and thereafter, transfer the DLF Apartment to the Defendant No.1 and the Defendants’ children.
7) The Plaintiff alleged that she performed her part of the obligations under the MOU, whereas, the Defendant No.1 alleged that the MOU was signed under duress. The Plaintiff further alleged that the Defendant No.1 intimidated and harassed the Plaintiff by barging into the Suit Property against the Plaintiff’s wishes and threatened to stay there until her illegal demands are met.
8) Aggrieved, the Plaintiff filed a Suit before the Civil Court seeking injunction ‘in circumstances arising out of matrimonial relationship’, against the Defendants visiting or entering the Suit Property.
9) Aggrieved by the aforesaid Suit, the Defendants filed an Application under Order VII Rule 11 of the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 (CPC) (Rejection of plaint) in CS (OS) 601/2022 before the High Court of Delhi on the ground that the exclusive jurisdiction to adjudicate upon the dispute raised in the aforesaid Suit lies with the Family Court in terms of Section 7(1) Explanation (d) of the Family Courts Act, 1984 (Jurisdiction)[i] and hence, the Suit filed the Plaintiff before Civil Court is barred under law.
Contentions of the Parties
Both the Parties relied upon precedents of the High Court which gave contradictory views about the issue -whether in claims made by plaintiff in respect of exclusive ownership of the Suit Property, if certain facts lead to the cause of action that refer to the marital relationship of the defendants, such a suit can be filed before Civil Court as a normal suit or before Family Court, as injunction sought ‘in circumstances arising out of a matrimonial relationship’ is to be adjudicated only by a Family Court.
Analysis and Finding of the High Court
The High Court vide Order dated 01.06.2023 observed that in Sabina Sahdev & Ors. v. Vidur Sahdev, Order dated 07.03.2018 passed in CRL M.C. No. 878/2018, a learned Single Judge of the High Court, faced with a similar situation of conflicting opinions of two Benches of equal strength on the issue of interim maintenance to a wife under Section 125 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, who then placed the issue before Hon’ble the Acting Chief Justice for being placed before a Larger Bench for settling the issue. The same course had been adopted by the Supreme Court in O.M. Bhargava (Dead) by LRs v. Satyavati Bhargava and Others, (1994) 4 SCC 662, when confronted with contradictory views taken by two Benches of co-equal strength.
Thus, based on the aforesaid observations, the High Court held that as there are precedents of the High Court that have given conflicting observations, the High Court decided to place the issue whether injunction sought ‘in circumstances arising out of a matrimonial relationship’ is to be adjudicated by a Civil Court or a Family Court, before a Larger Bench.
The Indian Lawyer
[i] Section 7 of the Family Courts Act 1984: Jurisdiction
(1) Subject to the other provisions of this Act, a Family Court shall—
(a) have and exercise all the jurisdiction exercisable by any district court or any subordinate civil court under any law for the time being in force in respect of suits and proceedings of the nature referred to in the Explanation; and
(b) be deemed, for the purposes of exercising such jurisdiction under such law, to be a district court or, as the case may be, such subordinate civil court for the area to which the jurisdiction of the Family Court extends.
Explanation.—The suits and proceedings referred to in this sub-section are suits and proceedings of the following nature, namely:—
(a) a suit or proceeding between the parties to a marriage for a decree of nullity of marriage (declaring the marriage to be null and void or, as the case may be, annulling the marriage) or restitution of conjugal rights or judicial separation or dissolution of marriage;
(b) a suit or proceeding for a declaration as to the validity of a marriage or as to the matrimonial status of any person;
(c) a suit or proceeding between the parties to a marriage with respect to the property of the parties or of either of them;
(d) a suit or proceeding for an order or injunction in circumstance arising out of a marital relationship;
(e) a suit or proceeding for a declaration as to the legitimacy of any person;
(f) a suit or proceeding for maintenance;
(g) a suit or proceeding in relation to the guardianship of the person or the custody of, or access to, any minor.
(2) Subject to the other provisions of this Act, a Family Court shall also have and exercise—
(a) the jurisdiction exercisable by a Magistrate of the first class under Chapter IX (relating to order for maintenance of wife, children and parents) of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 (2 of 1974); and
(b) such other jurisdiction as may be conferred on it by any other enactment.