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Family Court Can Take Any Material As Evidence

Family Court Can Take Any Material As Evidence Whether Or Not It Fulfils Requirement Of Indian Evidence Act: Punjab & Haryana High Court. The Punjab & Haryana High Court has made it clear that a Family Court can take any material into evidence for effective adjudication, whether it fulfils the requirement of Indian Evidence Act or not.

A division bench of Justice Sudhir Singh and Justice Sumeet Goel said,

"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."

It further said that Order VIII, Rule 1-A CPC of 1908 is not a mandatory provision and rather it is a directive in nature only especially with respect to the proceedings under Family Court Act, 1984.

As per Order VIII Rule 1A, the documents relied upon by defendant must be produced in Court when the written statement is presented. Sub Rule (3) provides that a document which ought to be produced in Court by the defendant under this rule, but, is not so produced shall not, without the leave of the Court, be received in evidence on his behalf at the hearing of the suit.

High Court said 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, added the Court.

These observations were made while hearing the plea of a husband who had preferred the appeal against the order by Principal Judge, Family Court, Gurugram whereby in a divorce petition the application filed by the husband raising objections to the wife's affidavit of evidence had been rejected.

An affidavit of evidence was submitted on behalf of the wife to which objections were raised by the husband stating the documents had not been produced by wife along with the written statement filed by her. It has been further argued that there was no application filed by wife for grant of leave of Court in terms of Order VIII, Rule 1-A (3) of CPC.

Considering the petition, the Court observed that under Sections 10(1) of the Family Court Act, 1984 (1984 Act) empowers a Family Court to be a Civil Court for the purposes of exercising all powers vested in a Civil Court and the provisions of CPC have been made applicable to the proceedings before the Family Court, but at the same time it has been expressly stipulated in Section 10(1) of the 1984 Act itself that such application of CPC shall be “subject to the other provisions of this Act and the Rules”.

Section 10(3) of the 1984 Act postulates that nothing in Section 10(1) shall prevent the Family Court from laying down its own procedure so as to deal with the matter in issue before it i.e. for arrival at a settlement in respect of the lis of any suit/proceedings before it or to determine the truthfulness of the facts in dispute, it added.

The Court opined that the provisions of Section 10(1) and Section 10(3) of 1984 Act, when juxtaposed, reflect the clear legislative intent to the effect that CPC does not apply compulsorily to proceedings before Family Court.

Reliance was placed upon Chief Justice of A.P. vs. L.V.A. Dikshitulu, (1979) and National Insurance Co. Ltd. vs. Laxmi Narain Dhut, (2007) to underscore that CPC does not mandatorily apply in full force to proceedings under 1984 Act.

Family Court Act Introduced To Wither Away Rigour Of Indian Evidence Act and CPC

Court said a bare perusal of Section 14 of the 1984 Act shows that it was introduced to wither away the rigours of Indian Evidence Act, 1872 & 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.

Reference was made to Bombay High Court's decision in Shivanand Damodar Shanbhag vs. Sujata Shivanand Shanbhag, 2013(16) RCR (Civil) 623 wherein it was held that the Family Court should not go into technicalities of the Evidence Act and should take a broad decision on the material placed before it.

The Court summarised the following principles:

(I) Sub Section (3) to Section 10 read with Section 20 of the Family Court Act, contains non-obstante clause and gives supremacy to the provisions of the Family Court Act, vis-à-vis the provisions of other enactments/Acts.

(II) CPC, 1908 is not applicable with its full rigours to proceedings under the Family Courts Act, 1984. In other words; a Family Court is entitled to lay down its own procedure, as warranted by facts/circumstances of a given case and it is not bound by the procedural rigours of CPC, 1908. However, while devising its such own procedure, the Family Court ought to ensure that such procedure is in consonance with the basic cannons of the jurisprudence such as principles of natural justice, good conscience and equity.

(III) 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.

(IV) Order VIII, Rule 1-A CPC of 1908 is not a mandatory provision and rather it is a directive in nature only especially with respect to the proceedings under Family Court Act, 1984. 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.

Adding that the Family Court has recorded in the impugned order that husband has been provided with copies of all documents and he will be permitted to cross-examine the wife on all aspects, the Court opined that, "no prejudice can be said to have been caused to the husband. We do not find any infirmity in the impugned order calling for interference therein."

In the light of the above, the Court upheld the Family Court's order and dismissed the appeal.

Appearance: Gurinder Singh Dhillon, Advocate for the appellant-wife.

Ashok Kumar Jindal, Advocate for the respondent-husband.

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