Tag Archives: Parties can seek exemption from apperance

Parties can be represented thru lawyer at family court ! Raj HC

Family courts are expected to attempt at reconciliation, shorten the length of trial etc, and so take a radically different “party in person approach” . However in specific cases, considering the situation of the parties, their difficulties to travel and reach the courts, the need for a counsel (with legal knowledge) etc., parties may be permitted to be represented thru a lawyer. Reasonable opportunity to defend considered as an essential part of principles of natural justice.
In this classic case, the Hon court summarises that “….(iv) in case the conciliation fails and both or either of the parties submits an application of leave to be represented through a Lawyer, it should normally be granted more particularly in a case where the parties are to travel from outside the place of sitting of Court….”

***********************

Rajasthan High Court

Laxmi Kanwar vs Laxman Singh on 19 May, 2004

Equivalent citations: I (2005) DMC 745

Author: N Mathur

Bench: N Mathur, K Acharya

JUDGMENT N.N. Mathur, J.

  1. This miscellaneous appeal filed under Section 19 of the Family Courts Act, is directed against the order of the Judge, Family Court, Jodhpur dated 1.4.2003 dismissing the appellant’s application filed under Section 13 of the Family Courts Act, 1984, hereinafter referred to as “the Act of 1984” read with Rule 22 of the Rajasthan High Court Family Court Rules, 1990, hereinafter referred to as “the Rules of 1990” seeking leave to be represented through a Counsel.
  2. This respondent-husband filed a petition in the Court of Judge, Family Court, Jodhpur against the appellant-wife under Section 13 of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, hereinafter referred to as “the Act of 1955” for divorce. The notice of the petition was served on the appellant-wife at her Kapadganj address in the State of Gujarat, where she is residing with her parents. She used to travel from Kapadganj to Jodhpur for attending the Family Court on dates of hearing, escorted by her parents. On account of illness, she could not appear on 17.5.2001, which led to ex parte proceedings against her. However, the ex parte proceedings were recalled by order dated 19.7.2001. It was a great harassment to her parents and herself to travel from Kapadganj to Jodhpur on every date of hearing. In these circumstances, leave was sought to be represented through Counsel. The application was opposed by the respondent-husband on the ground that the appellant-wife being an educated lady holding the qualification of M.A., B.Ed. and also a student of LL.B. final, could travel alone and defend her case. The respondent-husband placed reliance on a decision of the learned Single Judge of this Court in Smt. Kailash Bhansali v. Surendra Kumar, reported in 2000 (3) WLC (Raj.) 543. In the said case, the Judge, Family Court, Udaipur granted leave to the party to be represented through a Counsel. On appeal, the learned Single Judge of this Court set aside the said order with a cost of Rs. 10,000/-. The said judgment has been set aside by the Division Bench in special appeal being D.B. Special Appeal No. 550/2000 decided on 15.12.2000. However, the Judge, Family Court preferred to rely on the judgment of the learned Single Judge in utter disregard to the Division Bench judgment. In the opinion of the learned Family Judge, the difficulty of visiting Jodhpur for attending the Family Court on dates of hearing, could be redressed by directing respondent-husband to pay the actual expenses incurred. It was further observed that she is not only M.A., B.Ed. but also student of LL.B. The learned Judge, Family Court made a personal remark against the appellant-wife that she can defend her own case much more effectively than a Lawyer. Thus, the learned Judge, Family Court made a personal remark against the appellant-wife that she can defend her own case much more effectively than a Lawyer. Thus, the learned Judge by the impugned order dated 1.4.2003 rejected the application filed by the appellant under Section 13 of the Family Courts Act.
  3. The core question which arises for consideration in the instant appeal is that in the facts of the case as to whether the appellant-wife is entitled to appear through Counsel? In this connection, it would be apt to read Section 13 of the Act of 1984 as follows;
    • “Section 13. Right to legal representation-
    • -Notwithstanding anything contained in any law, no party to a suit or proceeding before a Family Court shall be entitled, as of right, to be represented by a legal practitioner: Provided that if the Family Court considers it necessary in the interest of justice, it may seek the assistance of a legal expert as amicus curiae.” http://evinayak.tumblr.com/ ; https://vinayak.wordpress.com/ ; http://fromvinayak.blogspot.com
  4. It would be further relevant to refer to Rule 22 of the Rules of 1994, which is extracted as follows:
    • “Permission for representation by a Lawyer-
    • -The Presiding Officer of a Family Court, in his discretion, may permit a lawyer/Advocate to appear in the Court wherever he feels that it is necessary in the interest of justice.”
  5. The object of the Family Courts Act appears to be to establish such Counts with a view to promote conciliations and to secure speedy settlement of disputes relating to marriage and other family affairs and all other matters indicated therein. Thus, the Family Courts are supposed to adopt a radically different approach than what is adopted in ordinary civil proceedings. Section 9 of the Act of 1984 imposes a duty on a Family Court to assist and persuade the party to arrive at a settlement in respect of the subject matter of the suit or proceedings. Section 10 provides that subject to the other provisions of this Act and the Rules, the provisions of the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 and of any other law for the time being to force shall apply to the proceedings before the Family Court and the Family Court shall be deemed to be a Civil Court for the purpose of the Code and shall have all powers of such Court. However, Section 13 prohibits appearance of a lawyer in the proceedings as of right. It is significant to notice that while in all other civil proceedings as provided under Sub-rule (2) of Rule 1 of Order 5, C.P.C., the defendant may appear in person or by a pleader duly instructed and able to answer all material questions relating to suit but such a liberty is not available to a defendant in proceedings civil in nature in Family Court. It is further significant to notice that Order 5 Rule 4, C.P.C. provides that no party shall be ordered to appear in person unless he resides within the local limits of the Court’s ordinary jurisdiction or at a place less than fifty miles distance from the Court-house where there is an established public conveyance for one-sixths of the distance between the place where he resides and the place where the Court is situated or less than two hundred miles distance from the Court-house. Order 3 Rule 1 provides that any appearance, application or act in or to any Court, required or authorised by law to be made or done by a party in such Court, may, except where otherwise expressly provided by any laws for the time being in force, be made or done by the party in person, or by his recognized agent, or by a pleader appearing applying or acting, as the case may be, on his behalf : provided that any such appearance shall, if the Court so directs, be made by the party in person. Thus, a reasonable opportunity to defend has always been considered as an essential part of principles of natural justice. Unfortunately, there is a class of people, without having first hand experience of the working of Mufassil Courts, blames Lawyers for the delay in Court proceedings. In our opinion, far from delaying the proceedings, the presence of Lawyer makes it more smooth to expedite because of his knowledge of law and procedure and his training. The experience shows that in the matter of reconciliation in the matrimonial matters, the Lawyers have played a significant role. It is difficult to conceive a Court without a Lawyer. A Lawyer is gifted with natural quality, ability and experience not only to persuade the Judges on a point of fact or law, but also the parties to settle their dispute.
  6. Lord Denning in a leading case Pett v. Grayhound Racing Association Ltd., reported in (1968) 2 All England Reporter 545, observed thus: “I should have thought, therefore, that when a man’s reputation or livelihood is at stake, he not only has a right to speak by his own mouth, he has also a right to speak by Counsel or solicitors.”
  7. The Apex Court in Board of Trustees, Port of Bombay v. Dilip Kumar, reported in AIR 1983 SC 109, after referring to its earlier decisions in Kalindi v. Tata Locomotive, reported in AIR 1960 SC 914; Brooke Bond (India) Ltd. v. Subba Raman, reported in 1961 (2) LLJ 417; Dunlop Rubber Company v. Workman, reported in AIR 1965 SC 1392; and C.L. Subramaniam v. Collector of Customs, reported in AIR 1972 SC 2178, took a forward march to fair play in action and held that refusing to grant request defended by a Lawyer would amount to denial of reasonable opportunity to defend himself and the principle of natural justice would be violated.
  8. A learned Single Judge of the Gujarat High Court (Mathur, J.) in Mitesh Manubhai Sheth v. Secretary, Govt. of India, reported in AIR 1998 Gujarat 60, while considering the validity of the proviso to Regulation 28(5) of the Securities and Exchange Board of India Act, 1992, which provided complete embargo on inquiry officer even to consider request of stock broker to permit him to be defended through Lawyer, struck down the provision having found it to be violative of Articles 19 and 21 of the Constitution of India. It was held that the statutory provisions are required to be in consonance with the principles of natural justice inasmuch as the rights of a person having serious civil and pecuniary consequences, are not deprived except by a fair procedure. A bare reading of Section 13 of the Act of 1984 shows that a Lawyer has no absolute right to appear on behalf of the party before the Family Court but it is in the discretion of the Family Court to permit the Lawyer to appear. The use of words “as of right” in Section 13 is of significance. If the intention of the Parliament was to debar the Advocates absolutely from appearing in the proceedings of the Family Courts, the words “as of right” would not have been there. It has been left to the discretion of the Family Court.
  9. The Bombay High Court in Leela Mahadeo v. De Mahadeo Sitaram Joshi, reported in II (1991) DMC 125 (SC)=AIR 1991 SC 105, has taken the view that the Family Court should permit representation by Lawyers where complicated questions of law and facts are involved. However, the Allahabad High Court in Prabhat Narain Tickoo v. Mamta Tickoo, reported in II (1998) DMC 333, observed that such an approach will lead to unnecessary wrangles in almost every case on the question whether complicated question of law and fact are involved or not, and this will take a lot of time, and parties will very often go upto the Higher Court on this preliminary issue, causing great delay. In the opinion of the Allahabad High Court, whether complicated questions are involved or not will differ from Judge to Judge and hence a simpler, clearer, and more objective guideline is required to be adopted. It will be relevant to extract para 7 from the said judgment:
    • “7. In our opinion, the correct approach should be that the Family Court should not permit lawyers to appear before it when it is trying to seek reconciliation between the parties under Section 9 of the Family Courts Act. It may be mentioned that it is the first duty of the Court hearing matrimonial cases to try to reconcile the parties as envisaged by Section 9 of the Act. At this stage, Lawyers are not at all necessary, and it is for the Court to try to persuade the husband and wife to get reconciled. Lawyers may also not be allowed to appear on cases under Section 13B of the Hindu Marriage Act (divorce by mutual consent). However, if the reconciliation attempt fails, and the matter has to be adjudicated, in our opinion, the Court should ordinarily allow Lawyers to appear in behalf of the parties. This is necessary because Divorce Law and other Family Law has now become a complicated branch of law, and an ordinary layman cannot be expected to know this law. It may be mentioned that there is a catena of decisions both in England and India on this branch of law, and without a knowledge of the same, a party cannot represent himself/herself in the case, and only a trained Lawyer can do so. For example, Section 13(1)(ib) of the Hindu Marriage Act provides that separation for two years is a ground for divorce. A layman would probably think that proof of two years of physical separation alone is required for divorce on this ground, but the case law on this point is that mere physical separation for 2 years is not sufficient and the petitioner has also to prove animus diserendi i.e., intention to bring cohabitation permanently to an end. Similarly, cruelty is a ground for divorce, and the layman would ordinarily regard cruelty to mean physical cruelty, but by judicial decisions it has been interpreted to mean mental cruelty also. There is a catena of case law on this subject, and no layman can be expected to know this case law as it takes years to study and understand it. Moreover, a layman would be ignorant of procedural rules also. Hence it is obvious that a layman cannot ordinarily represent himself properly in such cases. Representation by Lawyers will not only be of great assistance to the parties, it will also be of great assistance to the Court to do justice expeditiously. Some people say that Lawyers will cause delay in the proceedings. In our opinion, far from delaying the proceedings, a Lawyer will greatly expedite it because by his knowledge of law and procedure and this training he can quickly come to the relevant points. Moreover, lawyers know the art of the cross-examination, and the rules of procedure, which a layman does not. Hence we are of the opinion that the discretion in granting/refusing representation by Lawyers must be exercised in the manner aforementioned, namely that at the stage when the Court is trying to reconcile the parties or when divorce is sought by mutual consent no Lawyer should ordinarily be permitted but otherwise when the matter is being adjudicated Lawyers should ordinarily be allowed to represent the parties.” http://evinayak.tumblr.com/ ; https://vinayak.wordpress.com/ ; http://fromvinayak.blogspot.com
  10. The Karnataka High Court in the case of Komal S. Padukone v. Principal Judge, Family Court reported in AIR 1999 Karnataka 427, observed that the Family Courts should adopt a practical and humane approach and arrange its work suitably having regard to the workload, in such a manner that the parties before it are not put to unnecessary inconvenience. The Court provided guidelines for the Family Court as follows:
    • “13. A combined reading of the Act and the rules with relevant provisions of C.P.C. make the following evident:
    • (i) A petition to the Family Court may be presented by a petitioner either in person or through an authorised agent. The petition may be presented even by an Advocate as an authorised agent. But, if the petitioner wants ‘representation’ by a legal practitioner, he/she should seek and obtain the permission of the Family Court.
    • (ii) A respondent, who is served with notice of the proceedings, may either appear in person or enter appearance through an authorised agent (including a legal practitioner). But, if the respondent wants to be represented by a legal Practitioner in the proceedings, he/she should seek and obtain the permission of the Family Court.
    • (iii) In regard to proceedings before the Family Court, ‘entering appearance’ in response to a notice/summons through an authorised agent (including a Legal Practitioner), is different from being represented in the proceedings by a legal practitioner.
    • (iv) While representation through Legal Practitioner without permission is barred, entering appearance in a case, in response to a notice/summons, through a Legal Practitioner is not barred, if a Legal Practitioner, having entered appearance, wants to represent party in the proceedings, permission of the Family Court should be obtained for such representation.
    • (v) When one party has been permitted to be represented by a Legal Practitioner, such permission cannot under any circumstances, be denied to the other party.
    • (vi) The authorised agent (or the Legal Practitioner permitted to represent a party) can prosecute or defend the proceedings and represent the party unless and until the Family Court makes a specific order to the parties to appear in person, either on a specified date or on further hearing dates, depending on the facts of the case and stage of the case. Once an order for personal appearance has been specifically made, a party will have to seek exemption from appearance, if he/ she is not able to appear in the matter.
    • (vii) Where a Family Court has a large backlog of cases, and there is no possibility of taking up all cases, listed on a day, it may restrict the requirement of personal appearance of parties to specified stages like conciliation and evidence.
    • (viii) Where it is possible to do so, consistent with the nature and circumstances of the case, the Family Court, either directly or through Counsellors, in the first instance, assist and persuade the parties in arriving at a settlement in respect of the subject-matter of the proceedings.”
  11. The experience of Family Courts in the State of Rajasthan in absence of the Lawyers has been painful. It has become torturous for the parties, their parents and Presiding Judges as well. A Division Bench of this Court in Smt. Nandana v. Pradeep Bhandari, reported in I (1996) DMC 285=(1996) 2 WLC (Raj.) 234, has observed to the extent that the remedy has proved more harmful than the disease itself. It was desired that the Legislature should take a second look at the provisions of Section 13 contained in the Family Courts Act. We can do no better than extract the feelings of the Hon’ble Judges as contained in para 18 of the said judgment:
    • “18. Before parting with the case we feel it necessary to record that the way in which this litigation is being conducted by the parties leaves us sad. The purpose of keeping the Lawyers away from such litigation seems to be completely defeated in this case. Parties have to take upon themselves the task of pleading their respective cases as Lawyers have not been allowed. The decorum and dignity with which cases are normally conducted before the Civil Court with the aid of professionals steeped in the age-old traditions of the Bar are totally lost and unrestricted and relentless acrimony has taken their place. It cannot be believed that parties to such litigation prosecute it without the aid of Lawyers. If that is so, no useful purpose can be served by keeping the Lawyers out of the Court. When the Lawyers appeal before the Court as proxy to their clients, they are expected to have a subtle, studied sense of detachment from the cause of their respective clients and they are expected not to personally involve themselves in the cause. They have a responsibility towards the Court also. When the roles are reversed and the Lawyer is only expected to act behind the scenes, the litigant willy-nilly may become a proxy and the battle may be fought between the two Lawyers using the litigants as puppets or cat’s paw. The result is fierce no-holds-barred battle between two hapless persons estranged from each of the party. The purpose of keeping the Lawyers out of the Court is defeated and a litigant who finds himself unequipped and unable to plead his own case and who has in any case to depend on Lawyer for advice is deprived of the services in Court of a competent and responsible professional. It appears to be a case where the remedy has proved more harmful than the disease itself. It is high time, the Legislature takes a second look at the provision contained in Section 13 of the Family Courts Act, 1984.”
  12. We fully associate with the feeling expressed by the learned Judges in Smt. Nandana’s case (supra).
  13. Thus, on a combined reading of the provisions of the Act of 1984 and the Rules of 1990 with relevant provisions of the Code of Civil Procedure, it emerges that–
    • (i) a petition may be presented before the Family Court by a petitioner either in person or through an authorized agent;
    • (ii) a respondent, who is served with notice of the proceedings, may either appear in person or enter appearance through an authorized agent;
    • (iii) on appearance of the defendant, the Judge of the Family Court should proceed to hear the plaintiff and the defendant without looking into their pleadings with a view to understand their problem and persuade the parties to arrive at a settlement in respect of the subject matter of the suit or proceedings;
    • (iv) in case the conciliation fails and both or either of the parties submits an application of leave to be represented through a Lawyer, it should normally be granted more particularly in a case where the parties are to travel from outside the place of sitting of Court. In such an event, it is desirable that both the parties are allowed to be represented through Lawyers. If one of the parties is not inclined to engage a Lawyer, that should not be a ground to refuse the other party to be represented through a Lawyer;
    • (v) depending upon the facts and stage of the case, a specific order should be passed on which the parties in person are required to remain present. There should not be unnecessary insistence for the presence of the parties on each date of hearing; and
    • (vi) during trial, further attempt should be made for conciliation between the parties either directly or through the Counsellor or the Lawyers.
  14. In the instant case, the appellant wife is staying in Gujarat. It is torturous for her and her parents to travel to Jodhpur on each date of hearing. The convenience cannot be compensated in terms of money. Thus, there is no reason to deny her to services of a Lawyer. She may not have a claim to be represented through a Lawyer as of right but if the convenience so required, it is obligatory on the Court to extend such facility. The proviso to Section 13 casts a duty on the Court to consider if in the interest of justice, the assistance of a legal expert as amicus curiae is necessary. The learned Judge of the Family Court in the facts of the case has committed an error in refusing the appellant to be represented through a legal practitioner.
  15. Consequently, the miscellaneous appeal is allowed. The order of the Judge, Family Court dated 1.4.2003 is set aside. The application filed by the appellant Smt. Laxmi Kanwar under Section 13 of the Act of 1984 is granted. She is allowed to be represented through a legal practitioner. Learned Judge, Family Court will pass an appropriate order with respect to her presence in the Court on the date of hearing.

 

*****************************disclaimer**********************************
This judgment and other similar judgments posted on this blog was / were collected from Judis nic in website and / or other websites of Govt. of India or other internet web sites like worldlii or indiankanoon or High court websites. Some notes are made by Vinayak. Should you find the dictum in this judgment or the judgment itself repealed or amended or would like to make improvements or comments, please post a comment on the comment section of the blog and if you are reading this on tumblr please post responses as comments at vinayak.wordpress.com . Vinayak is NOT a lawyer and nothing in this blog and/or site and/or file should be considered as legal advise.


CASE FROM JUDIS / INDIAN KANOON WEB SITE with necessary Emphasis, Re formatting
*******************************************************************************

 

Advertisements

Seek Xemption from persnl aperanc @ famlycourt. IF oneside represnt by counsel otherside 2 b allowed.KarHC

In this case  The husband sought leave of the Family Court to be represented through a Counsel. Accordingly, the Court permitted the husband to be represented by Counsel from the inception of the case. Wife who was at Mumbai gets a job and goes to USA. So she seeks both permission to be represented by counsel and exemption from personal appearance. Family court disallows both. Karnataka HC appreciates the facts and decrees.

“10. There is nothing in Act or rules which prohibits a petition being filed by an authorised agent, or requires a petition should be presented by the petitioner in person. Therefore, there is no bar to a petition being presented to the Court by an agent (attorney holder). Even a Legal Practitioner who holds a power of attorney to present the petition, may ‘present’ a petition, but may not be able to ‘represent’ the petitioner in the proceedings unless permitted by the Family Court. Similarly, there is nothing in the Act or rules requiring the Family Court to refuse to recognise or accept the appearance of a respondent, through an authorised agent on the date fixed for appearance. A respondent can enter appearance through an authorised agent (who can also be a Legal Practitioner) with an application seeking permission to be represented by a Legal Practitioner…” and

11. A party may choose to appear through and be represented by an authorised agent other than a Legal Practitioner, in which event permis-sion under Section 13 is not necessary. A Family Court, having regard to the facts and circumstances, may of course make a specific order for the personal appearance of a party. Only if such an order is made, the party has to make an application for exemption from personal appearance if he/she is not in a position to appear in the matter. Even if the Family Court refuses permission to the parties to be represented by a Legal Practitioner, the parties may be represented by authorised agents other than a Legal Practitioner. But, if one side has been permitted to be represented by a Legal Practitioner, the Family Court should not refuse permission to the other side to be represented by a Legal Practitioner. To do so would be in violation of principles of natural justice….”
Since this procedure is gender neutral, Husbands should be able to use this to their benefit !!


Karnataka High Court

Mrs. Komal S. Padukone vs Principal Judge, Family Court, … on 19 February, 1999

Equivalent citations: II (1999) DMC 301, ILR 1999 KAR 2811, 1999 (5) KarLJ 667

Bench: R Raveendran

ORDER

  1. The second respondent is the husband and the petitioner is the wife. The husband filed MC No. 401 of 1998, on the file of the Principal Judge, Family Court, Bangalore, against the wife, under Section 13 of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 for divorce, on the ground of desertion and cruelty. The husband sought leave of the Family Court to be represented through a Counsel. Accordingly, the Court permitted the husband to be represented by Counsel from the inception of the case.
  2. At the time when the divorce petition was filed, the wife was staying at Mumbai, with her parents. The Family Court issued a notice to her to her Mumbai address, calling upon her to appear before the Court on 3-8-1998. By then the wife obtained a job in USA and left the country in July 1998 itself. The notice of the proceedings was served on the wife’s father.
  3. The wife made two applications before the Family Court on 12-11-1998 – IA II under Section 13 of the Family Courts Act, 1984 (for short, ‘the Act’), seeking leave of the Court to engage an Advocate; and IA III under Section 151 of the CPC, read with Section 13 of the Act, for dispensation of her personal presence in the matter till July 1999. The husband resisted both the applications.
  4. The Family Court by a common order dated 24-11-1998, dismissed both the applications and ordered that the case be listed on 19-12-1998 for the appearance of the wife (respondent before the Family Court). The Family Court held that in a proceedings before it, the respondent will have to appear in person and then obtain leave of the Court to engage a Counsel; and without appearing in person, a respondent in a divorce petition can neither seek permission to engage, nor engage the services of a Legal Practitioner. In regard to IA III, it held that it is necessary to attempt reconciliation before the matter is proceeded with and unless the party appears, reconciliation is not possible; and therefore there is no justification for seeking exemption from personal appearance till July 1999.
  5. As a consequence of rejection of the two applications, the matter will be proceeded ex parte, as the wife will not be able to appear in person on the next date of hearing fixed for her appearance. Feeling aggrieved, the petitioner herein (wife) has filed this petition and sought quashing of the order dated 24-11-1998, rejecting IAs II and III.
  6. A preliminary objection is raised by the learned Counsel for the second respondent (husband) on the ground that a writ petition is not maintainable against an order on an interlocutory application, passed by a Family Court. Normally, this Court will not entertain writ petitions against interim orders of the Family Courts. But, a writ petition may be entertained when the order is made without jurisdiction or in violation of principles of natural justice or specific provisions of a statute, or is arbitrary and unreasonable leading to failure of justice. Having regard to the questions involved, it cannot be said that the petition is maintainable.
    • 6.1. The following questions arise for consideration:
    • (a) Whether a party cannot seek exemption from personal appearance and permission to engage Counsel, unless he/she appears in person before the Family Court.
    • (b) Whether a respondent who is unable to appear personally or who does not appear personally, has no right to contest a proceedings before Family Court.
    • (c) Whether the Family Court having granted permission to the petitioner before it, to engage a Legal Practitioner, deny such permission to the respondent in the same proceedings.
  7. Section 10 of the Act, provides that subject to other provisions of the Act and the rules, the provisions of Civil Procedure Code, 1908 and of any other law for the time being in force, shall apply to the proceedings before a Family Court and the Family Court shall be deemed to be a Civil Court for the purposes of the Code and shall have all the powers of such Court. Section 13 of the Act provides that notwithstanding anything contained in any law, no party to a suit or proceeding before a Family Court, shall be entitled, as of right, to be represented by a Legal Practitioner. 7.1 Section 9 of the Act requires the Family Court to endeavour in the first instance, where it is possible to do so consistent with the nature and circumstances of the case, to assist and persuade the parties in arriving at a settlement in respect of the subject-matter of the proceedings and for that purpose the Family Court may, subject to any rules made by the High Court, follow such procedure as it may deem fit. Rule 7 of the Karnataka Family Courts (Procedure Rules), 1987, provides that the Family Court shall make such effort for bringing about a reconciliation or settlement between the patties in the first instance, where it is possible to do so consistent with the nature and circumstances of the case in such a manner as it deems fit, with the help of counsellors nominated by the Court. 7.2 Sub-rule (2) of Rule 1 of Order V of the CPC, provides that a defendant to whom summons has been issued under sub-rule (1) may appear in person or by a pleader duly instructed and able to answer all material questions relating to the suit, or by pleader accompanied by some other person able to answer all such questions. Order V, Rule 4 provides that no party shall be ordered to appear in person unless he resides within the local limits, of the Court’s ordinary original jurisdiction; or at a place less than fifty miles from the Court-house; or where there is an established public conveyance for five-sixths of the distance between the place where he resides and the place where the Court is situate, less than two hundred miles distance from the Court-house; Order III, Rule 1 provides that any appearance, application or act in or to any Court, required or authorised by law to be made or done by a party in such suit, may, except where otherwise expressly provided by any law for the time being in force, be made or done by the party in person, or by his recognised Agent, or by a pleader appearing, applying or acting, as the case may be, on his behalf; provided that any such appearance shall, if the Court so directs, be made by the party in person.
  8. A reasonable opportunity to defend oneself, is an essential part of the principles of natural justice. Where one side is represented by a legally trained mind, refusal of permission to the other side to be represented by a legally trained mind has always been held to be in violation of the principles of natural justice.
    • 8.1 In Board of Trustees of the Port of Bombay v Dilip Kumar Raghavendranath Nadkarni and Others, the Supreme Court while dealing with the right of an delinquent employee to claim representation by a Counsel in a domestic enquiry observed thus: “Where in an enquiry before a domestic Tribunal the delinquent officer is pitted against a legally trained mind, if he seeks permission to appear through a Legal Practitioner, the refusal to grant this request would amount to denial of a reasonable request to defend himself and the essential principles of natural justice”.
    • 8.2 In J.K. Aggarwal v Haryana Seeds Development Corporation Limited, the Supreme Court held that while the right to be represented by a lawyer may not in all cases be held to be a part of natural justice, where the presenting officer is a Legal Practitioner, refusal of services of a Legal Practitioner to the delinquent employee would amount to denial of natural justice. The Supreme Court held that when a person who is not legally trained is required to defend a proceedings where the other side is represented by a legally trained mind, then the combat would be unequal entailing miscarriage or failure of justice and denial of a real and reasonable opportunity for defence.
    • 8.3 If the petitioner in a proceedings has already been permitted to be represented by a Legal Practitioner, refusal of permission to respondent to be represented by Counsel, will therefore be violative of principles of natural justice and the provisions of the Act.
  9. The provisions of Code of Civil Procedure apply to proceedings before the Family Court, except where there are provisions to the contrary in the Act or the rules. A Family Court is a Civil Court having all powers of a Civil Court, except when dealing with a proceeding under Chapter IX of Code of Criminal Procedure. The procedure to be adopted by Family Courts in dealing with and deciding cases before it will be the same as applicable to summary proceedings under Code of Civil Procedure, subject to the following modifications:
    • (a) The Family Court shall endeavour in the first instance, to assist and persuade the parties in arriving at a settlement in respect of the subject-matter of the proceeding, where it is possible to do so consistent with the nature and circumstances of the case -[Section 9(1)];
    • (b) In addition to the general power to adjourn the proceedings, the Family Court may adjourn the proceedings for such period as it thinks fit to enable attempts to be made to effect a settlement, if it appears to the Family Court that there is a reasonable possibility of a settlement – [Section 9(2)];
    • (c) A Family Court may lay down its own procedure with a view to arrive at a settlement in respect of the subject-matter of tbe proceedings or at the truth of the facts alleged by one party and denied by the other – [Section 10(3)];
    • (d) The proceedings may be held in camera, if the Family Court so desires and shall be so held if either party so desires – (Section 11);
    • (e) A Family Court may secure the services of Medical Experts and Welfare Experts to assist in discharging its functions under the Act – (Section 12);
    • (f) The parties are not entitled, as of right, to be represented by a Legal Practitioner – (Section 13).
    • (g) A Family Court may seek the assistance of a legal expert as amicus curiae – (Section 13);
    • (h) A Family Court may receive as evidence, any report, statement, document, information or other matter, that may, in its opinion, assist it to deal effectively with a dispute, whether or not the same would be otherwise relevant or admissible under the Indian Evidence Act, 1872 – (Section 14);
    • (i) Recording of oral evidence may be summary in nature (Section 15). The Family Court may receive evidence of formal character, by way of affidavit (Section 16). It is not obligatory to frame issues. The judgment shall contain a concise statement of the case, the point for determination, the decision thereon and the reasons for such decision – (Section 17).
  10. There is nothing in Act or rules which prohibits a petition being filed by an authorised agent, or requires a petition should be presented by the petitioner in person. Therefore, there is no bar to a petition being presented to the Court by an agent (attorney holder). Even a Legal Practitioner who holds a power of attorney to present the petition, may ‘present’ a petition, but may not be able to ‘represent’ the petitioner in the proceedings unless permitted by the Family Court. Similarly, there is nothing in the Act or rules requiring the Family Court to refuse to recognise or accept the appearance of a respondent, through an authorised agent on the date fixed for appearance. A respondent can enter appearance through an authorised agent (who can also be a Legal Practitioner) with an application seeking permission to be represented by a Legal Practitioner.
  11. A party may choose to appear through and be represented by an authorised agent other than a Legal Practitioner, in which event permis-sion under Section 13 is not necessary. A Family Court, having regard to the facts and circumstances, may of course make a specific order for the personal appearance of a party. Only if such an order is made, the party has to make an application for exemption from personal appearance if he/she is not in a position to appear in the matter. Even if the Family Court refuses permission to the parties to be represented by a Legal Practitioner, the parties may be represented by authorised agents other than a Legal Practitioner. But, if one side has been permitted to be represented by a Legal Practitioner, the Family Court should not refuse permission to the other side to be represented by a Legal Practitioner. To do so would be in violation of principles of natural justice.
  12. The ideal situation under the general scheme of the Family Courts Act would be where proceedings are initiated by a husband or wife by presenting a petition in person; notice is issued to the other side; other side appears in person; neither party is represented by any lawyer, unless permitted by the Court; the Family Court at the first instance endeavours to bring about a settlement either by itself or with the assistance of welfare experts/Counsellors; When such endeavour fails, the respondent is given an opportunity to file objections and then evidence is recorded and decision is rendered; and the entire process takes only about 3 to 6 months. But an ideal situation is different from normal practical situation. For example in a place like Bangalore, each Family Court has a huge pendency. Every day, a large number of cases are listed and called for preliminary hearing, for conciliation, hearing on interlocutory matters, evidence and final arguments. Very few of them can be taken up for evidence or hearing. It is practically impossible to take up for evidence, all cases listed. The cases drag on for several years for one reason or the other. Each case undergoes thirty to forty hearing dates, in some, many more. Many of the parties are illiterate or working somewhere. Many of women litigants require the assistance of others, even to come to Court. In such circumstances, to require all parties to be personally present on every date of hearing, would add to the misery and hardship of litigants. The Family Court should therefore adopt a practical and humane approach and arrange its work suitably having regard to the workload, in such a manner that the parties before it are not put to unnecessary inconvenience.
  13. A combined reading of the Act and the rules with relevant provisions of the CPC make the following evident:
    • (i) A petition to the Family Court may be presented by a petitioner either in person or through an authorised agent. The petition may be presented even by an Advocate as an Authorised Agent. But, if the petitioner wants ‘representation’ by a Legal Practitioner, he/she should seek and obtain the permission of the Family Court.
    • (ii) A respondent, who is served with notice of the proceedings, may either appear in person or enter appearance through an authorised agent (including a Legal Practitioner). But, if the respondent wants to be represented by a Legal Practitioner in the proceedings, he/she should seek and obtain the permission of the Family Court.
    • (iii) In regard to proceedings before the Family Court, ‘entering appearance’ in response to a notice/summons through an authorised agent (including a Legal Practitioner), is different from being represented in the proceedings by a Legal Practitioner.
    • (iv) While representation through Legal Practitioner without permission is barred, entering appearance in a case, in response to a notice/summons, through a Legal Practitioner is not barred. If a Legal Practitioner, having entered appearance, wants to represent party in the proceedings, permission of the Family Court should be obtained for such representation.
    • (v) When one party has been permitted to be represented by a Legal Practitioner, such permission cannot under any circumstances, be denied to the other party. (vi) The authorised agent (or the Legal Practitioner permitted to represent a party) can prosecute or defend the proceedings and represent the party unless and until the Family Court makes a specific order to the parties to appear in person, either on a specified date or on further hearing dates, depending on the facts of the case and stage of the case. Once an order for personal appearance has been specifically made, a party will have to seek exemption from appearance, if he/she is not able to appear in the matter.
    • (vii) Where a Family Court has a large backlog of cases, and there is no possibility of taking up all cases, listed on a day, it may restrict the requirement of personal appearance of parties to specified stages like conciliation and evidence.
    • (viii) Where it is possible to do so, consistent with the nature and circumstances of the case, the Family Court, either directly or through counsellors, in the first instance, assist and persuade the parties in arriving at a settlement in respect of the subject-matter of the proceedings.
  14. In this case the wife is staying in United States. She left India before the notice was served. She has stated that it will be difficult for her to come over to India before July 1999. She therefore sought permission to engage a Counsel and exemption from personal appearance till July 1999. There is nothing unreasonable about either of the requests. As a result of rejection of her applications, she has been placed ex parte. If the order is allowed to stand, it would cause irreparable injury to her.
  15. The Court had permitted the husband (petitioner in the divorce petition) to be represented by a Legal Practitioner. It is a fundamental principle of natural justice that where one of the parties to the lis is permitted to be represented by a Counsel, the other party should also be permitted to be represented by a Counsel. Having permitted the petitioner-husband in the divorce petition to be represented by a Counsel, the rejection of the application of the respondent-wife for engaging a Counsel is a improper exercise of jurisdiction opposed to principles of natural justice. Neither Section 13 of the Act nor any other provisions enables the Court to permit one party to be represented by a Counsel while refusing such permission to other party. The order on IA II is therefore liable to be set aside.
  16. Learned Counsel for the second respondent submitted that the proviso to Rule 1 of Order III of the CPC enabled the Court to direct the appearance of a party in person and therefore the respondent before the Family Court was bound to appear in person. But, the said provision is a special provision, under which the Court can, by a specific order, on the facts and circumstances of the case, require the appearance of a party. There is no such special order in this case. The Family Court has proceeded on the assumption that in all proceedings before it, the respondents should appear in person and then file an application to engage the Counsel. The Family Court has inferred from Section 9, which requires the Court to attempt settlement in the first instance, and Section 13 which denies representation by a Legal Practitioner unless permitted, that there is an obligation on the parties to appear in person in response to the notice and then continue to appear in person on every hearing date. As noticed above there is no basis for such inference or assumption. Section 9 makes it clear that the duty of Family Court to make efforts for settlement in the first instance is “where it is possible to do, consistent with the nature and circumstances of the case”. Where one of the parties is abroad or is disabled, it may not be possible to attempt settlement in the first instance. But, that does not mean that the party who is unable to appear, should be denied the right to prosecute or defend the proceedings. All that it means is that the effort to make settlement, gets postponed to a later date when parties are able to appear. In some cases, it may not be possible to attempt settlement at all due to the peculiar fact and circumstances. The statutory duty cast on the part of the Family Court to attempt settlement cannot be converted by the Court into a penalising weapon to deny representation or right to contest, merely on the ground that a party has by his or her absence, has come in the way of the attempt for settlement. If the reasons are bona fide, the Family Court should permit representation through Legal Practitioner or authorised agent. In this case, as the petitioner is abroad and has stated that she will not be able to come till July 1999, the Court ought to have allowed IA III.
  17. Therefore, this petition is allowed and the order dated 24-11-1998, passed on IAs II and III in MC No. 401 of 1998, on the file of the Principal Judge, Family Court, Bangalore, is set aside. The said interlocutory applications stand allowed. Any consequential order passed by the Family Court placing petitioner herein (wife) ex parte or deciding the matter ex parte cannot stand and shall be withdrawn. The Family Court shall fix a date for filing objections by the petitioner herein. Thereafter, Family Court shall proceed with the matter in accordance with law.