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The relief of monetary claims under Section 20 of the Domestic Violence Act is ancillary relief: Kerala High Court

If no right of the parties is decided conclusively in the proceedings, then outcome, if any, of such proceedings cannot be treated as an outcome of adjudication. This was said in the case of Mahin Kutty v. Anshida [Mat.Appeal.No.739 OF 2014] by Mr.Justice A.Muhamed Mustaque And Dr.Justice Kauser Edappagath in the High Court of Kerala at Ernakulam.

The facts of the case are that the wife- respondents filed a recovery suit under Section 20 of the Domestic Violence Act, 2005 before the Judicial First Class Magistrate Court but it was rejected. Hence, she filed second petition for the same relief before the Family Court. The appellants raised a preliminary objection as to the maintainability of the second petition on the ground that it is barred by the principle of res judicata. The Family Court overruled the objection. Assailing the order of the Family Court, the appellants moved the High Court.

The appellants] contended that the proceedings under the Act are of a civil nature, that the order passed in proceedings initiated under the Act has to be treated as an outcome of civil proceedings and the conclusive nature of the proceedings determining the rights and obligations of the parties cannot be reopened by filing another petition for the same relief before the Family Court.

The respondents contended that the order of the Magistrate can only be treated as an order of a criminal Court in a criminal proceeding that the order passed in proceedings under the Act could, at best, be taken as a relevant piece of evidence before the Family Court and the Family Court is not bound by the orders under the Act.

The Court observed that “The Magistrate, while exercising the powers under the Act, is actually not deciding any dispute in like manner as involved in adversarial system, but only taking measures to protect the aggrieved person/women. The monetary reliefs mentioned under Section 20 is more in the nature of restoration of what have been deprived to the women. That means, as a result of domestic violence, if women is deprived, the Magistrate is competent to grant such reliefs as referable under Section 20.”

After analyzing the facts of the case and the settled position of law on the subject, the Court opined that “The substantial issue in a proceedings under Section 20 must be domestic violence. The relief of monetary claims under Section 20 is an ancillary relief. Therefore, the outcome in ancillary proceedings, that too in the proceedings in the nature of inquiry itself will not bar the Family Court or any other competent court having power to adjudicate such dispute”.

The Court before pronouncing the judgment referred to the case of Satish Chander Ahuja v. Sheha Ahuja [AIR (2020) SC 5397] and opined that the order passed by the magistrate under the Domestic Violence Act is relevant evidence for the Family Court as contemplated under Sections 40 to 43 of the Evidence Act. Hence, the appeal was dismissed.

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