Passing orders on a petition filed by Anita, who said her husband Mahaveer Sancheti had defaulted on payment of monthly alimony of 10,000 since 2011, Justice S Vimala said in an order on Tuesday that courts should not do three things while handling such cases. One: They could not remain a mute spectators, merely recording the fact that maintenance amount had not been given. Two: They could not ask the wife to file a new execution petition, as it would give the husband some more opportunity to drag proceedings. Three: They should not grant innumerable adjournments, so that the wife is unable to realise the maintenance amount.
Fact 1: Family courts in India are places where judges will take several years to pass even an interim order, then maybe another year or two might lapse before that order is actually executed. Many orders of child ‘visitation’ to fathers are routinely flouted, and the judges say “what can I do” if approached by a father. So for all practical purposes, family courts are mute spectators, and thanks to Madras high court for pointing it out. Even in this case, the interim maintenance order has not been executed for more than 3 years, but hold on, family court would be having all the reasons to wash of it’s own hands. Don’t shoot me now, I am only the messenger!
Fact 2: Courts will allow liberally for pleadings/memos/new applications to be filed when older ones remain pending, and of course while the main petition (divorce/RCR etc) also remain pending. The whole idea is to let everything pile up in list of pending main petitions and interim applications on top of those main petition. Let the couple who are parties to the case tire out themselves running around the courts for several years, and eventually one of both of them will get the sense that the only way out of family courts is to agree on a mutual consent divorce.
Fact 3: Family courts carry on admirably the tradition of all courts in India (barring perhaps consumer courts), to give adjournments on every excuse possible, and sometimes I have seen that the judge wants to adjourn on the excuse of sending the case to Lok Adalath when none of the parties want that to happen anyway!
Pointing out that notices served to the husband had been returned with a note, ‘addressee not present’, Justice Vimala said it was clear that the intention was to delay the proceedings endlessly. She then directed the family court concerned to dispose of the petition relating to non-payment of alimony within a week, and pass final orders on the main matrimonial case itself thereafter.
Secret: Family courts usually get into serious disposal mode only after the case is 5 years old, presumably because the high courts monitor number of pending old cases, and 5 years seems to be that line when judges start showing discomfort when an old case is called up. So the simple thing for high courts would to reduce that 5 year threshold to 2 years and see how quickly the family courts might just spruce up their act!
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