FAMILY/MAHILA COURTS IN DELHI
Prevalence of gender biased laws and oppressive social practices over centuries have denied justice and basic human rights to Indian women. The need to establish the Family Courts was first emphasized by the late Smt. Durgabi Deshmukh. After a tour of China in 1953, where she had occasion to study the working of family courts, Smt. Deshmukh discussed the subject with Justice Chagla and Justice Gajendragadkar and then made a proposal to set up Family Courts in India to Prime Minister Pt. Jawahar Lal Nehru.
Even after reformative legislation was enacted, implementation of reformed laws left much to be desired. Though the women of India demanded establishment of Family Courts in 1975, the Government of India took ten years to pass the necessary legislation. It is a matter of regret that, even though the Family Courts Act was passed in 1984, till today i.e. 1998, India's Capital does not have Family Courts. Such courts, however, are functioning in some states such as Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu and Orissa fairly satisfactorily.
Within two months of its establishment, the Delhi Commission for Women supported by 15 NGOs took up the issue of early establishment of Family Courts action on which had been pending for more than two decades. Chairperson of Delhi Commission for Women wrote to the Hon'ble Chief Justice of Delhi High Court requesting that Family Courts be set up at the earliest in the NCT of Delhi. She also recommended that these courts be located in easily accessible residential colonies where aggrieved women, for whose benefit the courts will be created, may go without hesitation. Delhi Commission for Women found that women in social distress, seeking judicial relief were overawed by the intimidating atmosphere of normal law courts.
The main objective in seeking the establishment of Family Courts was to take family and marital disputes away from the overcrowded, intimidating and congested environs of traditional courts of law and bring these to congenial, sympathetic and supportive surroundings. As the Chairperson, DCW stated, the aim of Family Courts was conciliation between estranged family members, not confrontation, hence family courts must be such institutions where women could go without any fear, and with faith and confidence.
Former Chairperson of the Commission, Smt. Kamla Mankekar suggested that these courts, instead of being located in Tis Hazari or Karkardooma Court complexes, could be located in quiet and peaceful residential complexes in 4 or 5 zones of the capital. These were identified as :
|1.||North and East||Civil Lines|
|2.||New Delhi||In and around Gole Market|
|3.||Central||Ashok Road, Rakab Ganj Road, Mahadev Road, etc.|
|4.||South Delhi||Lodhi Colony and residential areas around it.|
|5.||West Delhi||Pusa Road, Rajouri Garden or Patel Nagar|
One of the considerations in selecting these locations was their linkage with local bus and transport system and easy accessibility to most women. Almost all these areas have government housing complexes, flats and bungalows which can be requisitioned to house Family Courts.
Delhi Commission for Women further said that it would be happy to assist in any manner required for the establishment and functioning of Family Courts.
Delhi lawyers had earlier gone on strike to protest against the setting up of Family Courts. Delhi Bar Association later filed a writ petition before the Hon'ble High Court of Delhi questioning the Validity of Family Court Act, 1984. They are opposing Family Courts on two counts:
Provision regarding appearance of lawyers in Family Courts. The Family Courts Act, 1984 states under right to legal representation : Notwithstanding anything contained in any law and party to a suit or proceedings before a Family Court shall not be entitled as of right, to be represented by a legal practitioner.
Location of Family Courts in residential areas.
The lawyers' first objection has been met by a judgement of the Allahabad High Court which states that a lawyer can appear in a Family Court with leave from the Court.
As regards the second objection, the Delhi Commission for Women has reiterated the reasons for establishing these courts outside normal court complexes and in quit residential areas where women can go easily and without doubts or fear.
Delhi Commission for Women and a number of prominent NGOs i.e. Joint Women's Programme, All India Women's Conference (AIWC), Ujjaval Women's Association, Women's Association for Development Alternatives (WADA), Chetna Society, Indraprastha Women's Development Council (IWDC), Centre for Social Research (CSR), Sakshi, Association for Social Health and Rehabilitation (ASHR) and Guild of Services, have expressed their anguish over Delhi lawyers' moves to stall the setting up of Family Courts in residential colonies of the NCT of Delhi.
Chairperson, DCW has written to the Prime Minister, the Home Minister, the Lt. Governor of Delhi, Chief Justice of India, Chief Minister of Delhi and Union Minister for Law & Justice on the urgency of establishing Family Courts in residential localities. She has organized several meetings with NGOs and press conferences for this purpose.
Advocate Mrs. C. M. Chopra, Legal Consultant to DCW appeared on behalf of the Chairperson, DCW, President, AIWC and General Secretary, WADA when the writ petition of Delhi Bar Association came up before the Hon'ble High Court of Delhi. Delhi Commission for Women is urging that this is a social legislation for the alleviation of the misery of the litigant parties and for the protection and preservation of the institution of marriage. It is anxious that the efforts made over the last two decades to provide prompt and easily accessible justice to women in social distress should not be nullified. The primary objective of any law is to provide justice to the needy and not be merely a source of income for any profession. Convenience of the practitioners of law is secondary to prompt dispensation of justice and alleviation of the suffering of those seeking justice. Hence, easy accessibility of courts, speedy justice and fear-free atmosphere in courts should be the primary consideration.
At present 20 Family Courts was established in Delhi. They are as under: -
|1.||Tis Hazari Court||6 + 2 = 8|
|2.||Patiala House Court||6|
|3.||Karkar Dooma Courts||6|