Madras High Court: S.M. Subramaniam, J., held that
Protraction and prolongation of litigations affecting women can never be encouraged by the Courts.
Husband and wife used to live in Singapore and when a misunderstanding arose between the two, the husband stated that the respondent/wife deserted him in the year 2018. Hence, the husband sought the relief of Restitution of Conjugal Rights by filing a petition in the Family Court, Chennai.
Wife had filed a Domestic Violence Complaint against the husband and further filed the maintenance seeking maintenance.
Under the above-stated circumstances, an instant transfer petition was filed to transfer the Domestic Violence Act case.
Questions of Legal Importance
Whether the High Court in the exercise of power of superintendence under Article 227 of the Constitution of India transfer the criminal proceedings from the Criminal Court to the Family Court, when the powers of transfers of cases are already conferred on the High Court under the provisions of the Criminal Procedure Code and Civil Procedure Code?
Presuming, the powers under Article 227 of the Constitution of India is exercised, in order to transfer a criminal case to a Civil Court or Family Court, what would be the consequences and the provisions governing such transfers and the Constitution of Special Courts under the Special enactments?
Whether the decision of this Court in Mohana Seshathri v. E. Anuja, 2020 SCC OnLine Mad 28053, can be followed as a precedent in the present matter?
The above case cited by the petitioners need not be relied upon for the purpose of entertaining a transfer petition under Article 227 of the Constitution of India. In the present petition, this Court has to consider the provisions of the Special Acts namely the Domestic Violence Act, Family Courts Act and also the Code of Criminal Procedure for the purpose of forming an opinion.
Domestic Violence Act
Provisions of the ‘DV Act’ are unambiguous that an application is entertainable before the Judicial Magistrate Class I or the Metropolitan Magistrate as the case may be for seeking one or more reliefs under the Act.
Proceedings under the ‘DV Act’ are regulated under the Code of Criminal Procedure as contemplated under Section 28 of the ‘DV Act’. Thus, a complaint registered under Section 12 of the DV Act is criminal proceedings on the criminal side of the judiciary and accordingly the said proceedings are to be regulated under the Criminal Procedure Code.
Generalia Specialibus non derogant (when there is a conflict, general and special provision, the later will prevail)
It is to be held that Special Act will prevail over the General Laws.
Therefore, when a Special enactment is in force to deal with certain specific offences, in the present context, Domestic Violence Act, then the other general laws cannot have any application and all such Domestic Violence’s are to be tried by following the procedures as contemplated under the Special Enactment and this being the legal principles, the application under
Section 12 of the Domestic Violence Act cannot be construed as a civil natured proceeding.
Family Courts Act, 1984
Applications which are all filed seeking maintenance for wife, children and parents alone shall be tried by exercising the powers conferred under Section 7(2)(a) of the Family Courts Act, 1984. Hence, with regard to the jurisdiction as contemplated under the DV Act, the Family Courts/Civil Courts are not having jurisdiction to deal with certain offences defined under the provisions of the DV Act.
Criminal Procedure Code
Section 407 of the Criminal Procedure Code provides Power of High Court to transfer cases and appeals.
Hence, the High Court is empowered to transfer the case from one Court to another Court as the case may be as contemplated under the provisions of Section 407 of the CrPC.
Civil Procedure Code
Under Section 24 of CPC, Civil Proceedings can be transferred from one Civil Court to another Civil Court.
However, Criminal Proceedings cannot be transferred from one Criminal Court to a Civil Court/Family Court.
Article 227 of the Constitution of India
In the Supreme Court decision of Shalini Shyam Shetty v. Rajendra Shankar Patil, (2010) 8 SCC 329, there was an elaborate consideration of High Court’s Power of Superintendence under Article 227 of the Constitution.
Power of High Court
High Court’s power under Article 227 to be plenary and unfettered but at the same time, the High Court should be cautious in its exercise.
“…in cases, where the High Court exercise its jurisdiction under Article 227, such exercise is entirely discretionary and no person can claiming it as as a matter of right.”
Jurisdiction of superintendence under Article 227 is for both administrative and judicial superintendence. Therefore, the powers conferred under Articles 226 and 227 are separate and distinct and operate in different fields. Jurisdiction under Article 227 is exercised by the High Court for the vindication of its position as the highest judicial authority in the State
Scope of the power under Article 227 of the Constitution cannot be exercised overriding the provisions of the Special Enactments, wherein the specific reliefs are provided for redressal.
Thus, the proceedings instituted under the Family Courts Act before the Family Courts are to be regulated in accordance with the provisions as contemplated.
Equally, an application filed under Section 12 of the Domestic Violence Act is to be regulated under the provisions of the ‘DV Act’ and the application registered under Section 12 of the Domestic Violence Act is a criminal proceedings and the entire provisions of the ‘DV Act’ unambiguously portrays that the nature of proceedings are under criminal law. The procedures as contemplated under the Criminal Procedure Code is to be followed for trial of the cases under the ‘DV Act’.
Thus, there is no reason to form an opinion that application filed under the ‘DV Act’ is a “Civil natured proceeding”.
Bench added that when the scope of Article 227 does not permit the High Court to entertain a transfer petition to transfer a criminal case to a Civil Court or a Civil case to a Criminal Court, then conversion of such power under Article 227 for transfer of cases is certainly beyond the scope of the principles settled by Supreme Court decisions.
Transfer not Traceable
The power of transfer conferred under the Code of Criminal Procedure and the Code of Civil Procedure are expected to be exercised by the High Courts and such power of transfer is not traceable under Article 227 of the Constitution of India.
Multiple options are provided under the special enactments, facilitating the aggrieved women to redress their grievances which are to be dealt in accordance with the provisions of such enactments and speedy disposal being the paramount importance, Courts are bound to ensure all such cases, affecting women must be disposed of at the earliest possible.
Proceedings under the Domestic Violence Act
Further, the Court added to its elaborative analysis that the initiation of proceedings under the Domestic Violence Act with reference to the bodily injuries contemplated under the provisions of the Act, are Criminal acts and therefore, the Domestic Violence proceedings are criminal in nature and to be tried by the competent Judicial Magistrate.
Offences/Bodily Injuries as contemplated under the DV Act are against the society at large and therefore, the proceedings are criminal and competent criminal Court of Law is empowered to try those cases.
In view of the above discussion, Court concluded that criminal proceedings instituted under the Domestic Violence Act cannot be converted as Civil proceedings nor construed as proceedings of civil nature, so as to transfer such criminal proceedings before the Civil Court or Family Court by exercising the supervisory powers under Article 227 of the Constitution of India.
Therefore, any transfer petition, if at all filed to transfer a case registered under the Domestic Violence Act must be entertained only under the Code of Criminal Procedure and certainly not by invoking power under Article 227.
On transferring the DV Act proceedings to Family Court, the appropriate reliefs are depraved.
Hence, the objections regarding the maintainability of the transfer petition raised by the Registry, High Court of Madras, is perfectly in consonance with provisions of law and said objections stands confirmed. [P. Arun Prakash v. S. Sudhamary, 2021 SCC OnLine Mad 1954, decided on 01-04-2021]