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Daughter can approach Family Court on behalf of her father to challenge the validity of his marriage: Bombay High Court

The decision that a daughter can approach the Family Court on behalf of her father to challenge the validity of his marriage was upheld by the Bombay High Court through the Division Bench of Justices R.D Dhanuka and V.G. Bisht in the case of Nayana M. Ramani v. Fizzah Navnitlal Shah (FAMILY COURT APPEAL NO.179 OF 2019)

FACTS OF THE CASE:

The appellant is the married daughter of Late Navnitlal R. Shah, whom the respondent claims she married after the death of her mother. The appellant’s father and the respondent were married in front of the Marriage Officer.

Appellant’s father was a wealthy businessman with a variety of assets and properties. Appellant claimed that the respondent was previously married to someone and that she purposefully disguised and suppressed this fact from the appellant’s father and fraudulently posed herself as a divorcee when she was not.

The appellant was suddenly confronted with the reality that she was not divorced. Furthermore, the appellant claimed that the respondent took advantage of her father’s mental illnesses, sicknesses, and unsoundness of mind, and used undue influence, coercion, and pressure to syphon off his whole estate. Respondent had several documents executed, including his Will and multiple Gift Deeds of different valued immovable assets, depriving the real legal heirs of their rights.

Respondent even seized custody of the appellant’s mother’s jewelry, “Stridhan.” Under Section 7(1) Explanation (b) and (d) of the Family Courts Act, the appellant sought a declaration that the marriage between her father and respondent was null and void and that the respondent’s status as of today remained as the wife of the said Mansoor Hatimbhai Chherwala. The appellant had relinquished, according to the Family Court Judge. Given up half of the claim related to the declaration of the respondent’s marital status, the bar under Order II Rule 2 of the Code shall apply. The current appeal was filed in response to the impugned order.

JUDGEMENT:

According to the High Court, the Family Court is intended to have exclusive jurisdiction over matters relating to matrimonial relief such as nullity of marriage, judicial separation, divorce, restitution of conjugal rights or declaration as to the validity of a marriage or as to the matrimonial status of any person, the property of the spouses or either of them, declaration as to the legitimacy of any person, guardianship of a person or the custody of any minor, maintenance of marriage.

The bench further confirmed that the appellant had every right to call into question her father’s marriage to the respondent, as well as the respondent’s status.

The Family Court overlooked the fact that Original Suit No.1018 of 2015 was instituted in 2015, whereas Notice of Motion No.1622 was filed in 2016 after the appellant discovered the fraud alleged to have been played by the respondent, as evidenced by documents dated 10th and 12th February 2016 obtained through a Right to Information Application. As a result, additional facts were revealed and discovered, resulting in a new cause of action. The Family Court erred in determining that the provisions of Order 2 Rule 2 were invoked without first analysing the cause of action in the appellant’s prior plaints.

It was determined that when the High Court exercises its usual original civil jurisdiction over proceedings under the Act, it is acting as a District Court as defined by the Act. As a result, it would lose its jurisdiction.

As a result, in the aforesaid perspective, the Family Court’s finding and reasoning cannot be upheld, and the aforementioned decision is set aside to the degree that the petition was precluded by Order 2 Rule 2 of the Code.

JUDGEMENT REVIEWED BY REETI SHETTY

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