October 11, 2017:
SC expounded that,“What 1 party can communicate with other, if they are left alone for sometime, isn’t possible in video conferencing. Expression of desire by wife or husband is whittled down & smothered if Court directs that proceedings shall be conducted through video conferencing”.
In a historic verdict, a 3 judge Bench of the Apex Court with a 2:1 majority, overruled its earlier orders to conduct matrimonial disputes cases through video conferencing expounding that it’s doubtful whether the emotional bond can be established in a virtual meeting during video conferencing & it may even create a dent in the process of settlement.
On Monday, CJI Dipak Misra & Justice A.M. Khanwilkar agreed that the matrimonial disputes should be conducted in camera in the spirit of Section 11 of the Family Courts Act,1984 & video conferencing would destroy the privacy of the proceedings & probably defeat the cause of justice.
Describing the matrimonial proceedings as “Sanguinely Private”, the majority judgment said that chances of “reconciliation requires presence of both the parties at the same place & same time so as to be effectively conducted.”
The majority judgment set aside a decision by a 2 Judge Bench of the SC led by Justice AK Goel on 9th March, directing all HCs to issue administrative instructions to family courts across the country to open video conferencing facilities and use the technology to conduct marital disputes whenever 1 of the parties – husband or wife – requests for it. The Court had said this’d spare the parties the drudgery of appearing in person for the proceedings.
In his dissenting judgment, Justice DY Chandrachud, the 3rd Judge on Chief Justice Misra’s Bench, differed with the opinions expressed in the majority verdict, saying modern technology like video conferencing is “above all a facilitator, enabler and leveler.”
“Appropriate deployment of technology facilitates access to justice,” Justice D.Y. Chandrachud wrote.
However, the majority judgment said that video conferencing of marital disputes proceedings can be held if attempts at settlement fail & both the husband and wife mutually agree to it.
The Court points out that an estranged husband may file petitions to transfer the marital case from the place of residence of the wife to a place inconvenient for her.
“The statutory right of a woman can”t be nullified by taking route to technological advancement & destroying her right under a law; more so, when it relates to family matters. In our considered opinion, dignity of women is sustained & put on a higher pedestal if her choice is respected,” the Court held.
Justice Chandrachud said it’s a “fallacy” that an “in camera trial is inconsistent with usage of video conferencing techniques.”
He argued that video conferencing can come to the aid of spouses who face genuine difficulties arising from the personal/employment compulsions to attend Court. “There may also be situations where the parties (or 1 of the spouses) don’t want to be in the same room as the other due to a history of marital abuse or misbehavior of a psychiatric nature or substance abuse,” he observed.
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