Libertatem Magazine

Exception Made by Supreme Court, Directs Family Court To Hear Matrimonial Cases Virtually

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In these extreme situations of COVID-19, everyone is working virtually. The Courts, including various High courts and the Supreme Court, are no exception. After the judgement given in the case of Santhini vs. Vijaya Venketesh, the general principle was that “video conferencing is not permissible in matrimonial cases.” But in the backdrop of COVID-19, Supreme Court on Friday (Jan 22, 2021) made an exception in the rule and said that “the trial of marriage disputes can be conducted virtually by video conferencing in the court.”

Facts of the Case

This case is a case of matrimonial dispute in which the Petitioner, wife, was seeking transfer of a matrimonial case filed by her husband from the family court of district Gautambudh Nagar, UP to the family court of Delhi.

This was not the first time when the Petitioner applied for transfer of the case from one family Court to another. Earlier, in 2016, she filed the petition for transfer of the case from the family Court of Gautambuddh Nagar, UP to family court of Saket, Delhi. However, her appeal was previously dismissed on the ground that there would be no significant inconvenience for the petitioner to move between Gautambudh Nagar, UP, to Saket, New Delhi. The Court ordered the trial to be held by video conference in Gautambudh Nagar.

After the rejection of the transfer petition, a review petition was submitted by the Petitioner to the Supreme Court.

Arguments Advanced

It was contended by the Petitioner that the family court of Gautambudh Nagar, District Courts, does not have a video-conference facility.

The plaintiff also contended that the hearing by video conferencing is not permitted in the matrimonial disputes according to the principle laid down in the Santhini Case. 

In the case of Santhini vs. Vijaya Venketesh, the Supreme Court Bench overruled the directions issued in the case of Krishna Veni Nagam vs. Harish Nagam, and held that if proceedings are directed to be conducted through videoconferencing, “the spirit of the 1984 Act will be in peril and further the cause of justice would be defeated.

Observation of the Court

The Court observed that “Due to the ongoing pandemic, physical functioning of the Courts has been stopped since March, 2020. Proceedings in all Courts are being conducted only through video conferencing.”

Order of the Court

While dealing with this review petition, the Bench comprising of CJI SA Bobde, L. Nageswara Rao and Vineet Saran, passed the directions and the order for hearing of matrimonial cases taking note of the present situation, where all proceedings are being conducted virtually. 

The Court held that “In the normal course we would not have directed video conferencing in respect of matrimonial matters as per the judgment of this Court mentioned above. However, in the present situation where all proceedings are conducted through video conferencing, we direct the Family Court, District Gautambudh Nagar, UP to conduct the trial through video conferencing,” 

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