Family Court has the authority to appoint a guardian for the minor: Ernakulam High Court: Ernakulam High Court

There is a distinction between jurisdiction of district courts and family courts when it comes to appointment of a guardian for the minor’s property or the minor. Only the Family Court has the authority to appoint a guardian for the minor, the district courts have no authority to do so but they can appoint a guardian for minor’s property. This distinction has been highlighted by Justice A. Mohamed Mustaque and Justice Sophy Thomas in the case of K.S. NARAYANA ELAYATHU V. SANDHYA [MFA NO. 150 OF 2021].

Facts of the case are the mother and father of the minor were living separately as a result of a strained marital relationship while the minor was staying with mother. Sandhya filed an application under Guardian and Wards Act that declared her as the guardian of the person and property of the minor Nivedya which was challenged by the respondent husband as he contended that the district court has no jurisdiction to entertain the petition because this power has been taken by the Family court as per section 7 of family Courts Act. Here the District court stated that when it is the property that is also involved then in such cases the power to adjudicate upon the matter lies with the District Court and this was the order that had been challenged.

The question of law settled in the present case was whether the district court has the authority to entertain a petition for appointment of a guardian for the property of the minor and the minor? Here the court drawing comparisons and elaborations upon Family Courts Act section 7(1) explanation (g) said that the authority of the district court in matters related to guardianship, custody the jurisdiction has been given to the Family Court but the High Court highlighted that property is not one of the subjects given under section 7 of Family Courts Act and hence the jurisdiction of settling disputes regarding property related matters of a minor cannot be taken away by the family courts and it shall vest with the district court. The matters regarding guardianship of the minors have been dealt under Family Courts Act section 7 explanation (g) hence their jurisdiction has been taken away by section 8 of the act.

District court often overstep their jurisdiction in deciding the matters however we must keep it in mind the object for establishment of family court or any other tribunal. In order to deal with family related issues a distinction has to be made based on the nature of the family dispute, if the dispute is of such nature that it requires the better interest of the family, then the jurisdiction has to be given to the family court and if the family dispute is more of civil nature, then the matters can be adjudicated upon by the civil court and this distinction is not a blurry line but it has been highlighted in the section 7 of the Family Courts Act.  Interest of the well being of the family and long-term stability are subject matters of prime importance and these issues have to be handled in a diplomatic manner because of which we have family courts. Vesting such powers to district courts not only defeats the purpose of establishing the family courts but is also detrimental to the family and society a whole.

In the present case the power given to the district court regarding the power of adjudicating upon property related issues can very well come under the ambit of civil disputes not requiring a diplomatic approach while a diplomatic approach is needed in guardianship related affairs so it is valid to say the authority related to adjudicate upon guardianship affairs shall only vest with family court and the district court may adjudicate upon property related affairs.
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Judgment reviewed by Meenakshi Jena

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