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Divorce hearings through video? SC says sure

The SC found that the odds are usually stacked against the estranged husband when the wife prefers a transfer of the matrimonial proceedings to a court in her vicinity.

The SC found that the odds are usually stacked against the estranged husband when the wife prefers a transfer of the matrimonial proceedings to a court in her vicinity.   | Photo Credit: M. Srinath

The SC said video conferencing would be spare couples the drudgery of coming to courts in person, waiting for hours, probably days, to testify.

Divorce cases may be fought on video in future rather than in crowded courtrooms amidst strangers.

The Supreme Court said, in modern times, couples lead hectic work and personal lives with hardly any child care or family support. So, a Bench of Justices A.K. Goel and U.U. Lalit has, in a recent judgment, asked State High Courts to pass administrative directions to district and lower courts to open up their video conferencing facilities so that couples engaged in matrimonial cases need not travel distances, probably even to other States, to personally attend their divorce hearings.

The Supreme Court said video conferencing would be spare couples the drudgery of coming to courts in person, waiting for hours, probably days, to testify.

The court noted that a divorce case is usually filed in a court within which jurisdiction the husband lives or the wife lives or where the couple had their matrimonial home. In most cases, estranged couples may very well go their separate ways, probably to other States.

The Supreme Court found that the odds are usually stacked against the estranged husband when the wife prefers a transfer of the matrimonial proceedings to a court in her vicinity. When such a transfer application comes up, the courts either order the husband to foot the wife's travel and accommodation expenses or mechanically allow her plea.

The judiciary justifies that this empathy towards women are based on three factors — the constitutional scheme to provide women equal access to justice, the power of the State to make special provisions for women and children and duty to uphold the dignity of women.

However, this judgment does not fully agree with the idea of courts “mechanically” transferring cases to the wife's place of abode.

Justice Goel, who wrote the verdict for the Bench, said it is time courts also consider a man's genuine difficulties. The Bench said a technological medium like video conferencing does away with the need of transferring a matrimonial case to the wife's neighbourhood.

“The husband may find it difficult to contest proceedings at a place which is convenient to the wife. Thus, transfer is not always a solution acceptable to both the parties. It may be appropriate that available technology of video conferencing is used where both the parties have equal difficulty and there is no place which is convenient to both the parties,” Justice Goel wrote.

“We understand that in every district in the country video conferencing is now available. In any case, wherever such facility is available, it ought to be fully utilised and all the High Courts ought to issue appropriate administrative instructions to regulate the use of video conferencing for certain category of cases. Matrimonial cases where one of the parties resides outside court’s jurisdiction is one of such categories,” the judgment observed.

The court said that video conferencing should be resorted to when one of the contesting parties — husband or wife — makes a request for the facility. This would “obviate the need of the party to appear in person.

The judgment is significant as it takes a different view from what the Supreme Court had in the 2006 judgment in Anindita Das versus Srijit Das. In that case, the Supreme Court had insisted that transfer of the matrimonial case to the wife's place is a must when she does not have “any male member to accompany her to the matrimonial proceedings”.

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Printable version | Mar 31, 2020 2:57:50 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/divorce-hearings-through-video-sc-says-sure/article17515739.ece

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