High Court Rules Family Court Jurisdiction in Property Dispute

Court’s Decision Upholds Family Court’s Authority

In a recent ruling, the High Court of Kerala at Ernakulam upheld the jurisdiction of the Family Court in a complex property dispute arising out of a marital relationship. The judgment, delivered by Honourable Mrs. Justice Anu Sivaraman and Honourable Mr. Justice C. Pratheep Kumar, addressed the maintainability of the original petition (O.P. No. 1544 of 2017) filed by the petitioner against her husband and several other respondents regarding property transactions.

Background of the Case

The petitioner, the wife, filed the original petition seeking the return of her patrimony amounting to Rs. 5 Lakhs and 75 sovereigns of gold ornaments. Additionally, she sought to set aside multiple sale deeds (Exts. P3 to P15), which she alleged were fraudulently executed by her husband and other respondents. According to her, the properties were taken from her through misrepresentation and impersonation, resulting in a criminal case against her husband.

Family Court’s Jurisdiction

The core issue was whether the Family Court had the jurisdiction to entertain the original petition involving property disputes with respondents who were not parties to the marriage. The Family Court, in its order dated 20th September 2023, asserted its jurisdiction, which was then challenged by the respondents.

High Court’s Analysis and Judgment

The High Court analyzed the provisions under Section 7(1) of the Family Courts Act, particularly explanations (c) and (d), which pertain to suits and proceedings related to property disputes between parties to a marriage and circumstances arising out of a marital relationship. The court found that the petitioner’s claims, including those against respondents who were not her husband, were interconnected with the marital relationship and, therefore, within the jurisdiction of the Family Court.

The court highlighted that the reliefs sought regarding the sale deeds executed by the petitioner and her husband were so intertwined that a separate civil court could not efficiently adjudicate them without impacting the Family Court’s proceedings. Moreover, the court acknowledged that the reliefs related to the fraudulent transactions by the husband fell squarely within the ambit of the Family Court’s jurisdiction.

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