Legal Article

Section 7 of the Family Courts Act, 1984: Jurisdiction Expounded

Shivendra Pratap Singh

Advocate

High Court Lucknow

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Published on: 31 Jul, 2023

The establishment of Family Courts in India was a transformative step towards streamlining the process of dispute resolution in family matters. These courts, given their exclusive focus on family issues, were anticipated to be more sensitive, humane, and efficient. The Family Courts Act, 1984 lays down the framework for the functioning of these courts. In today’s post, we delve into one of the pivotal sections of the Act – Section 7, which deals with the jurisdiction of Family Courts.

Section 7 of the Family Courts Act

Section 7 of the Family Courts Act, 1984 outlines the jurisdictional scope of Family Courts. Essentially, it stipulates the types of suits and proceedings that a Family Court is competent to deal with.

Broad Categories Covered Under Section 7

  1. Marriage and Divorce: This includes all matters pertaining to the validation of marriages, divorce proceedings, and judicial separation.
  2. Property of Spouses: Any disputes arising out of the property that spouses share, either jointly or separately, come under the purview of Family Courts.
  3. Child Custody: Matters related to the custody, maintenance, and education of minor children, especially in the aftermath of divorce or separation, are addressed in Family Courts.
  4. Adoption and Guardianship: Disputes or claims related to adoption or the appointment of guardians fall under this jurisdiction.
  5. Maintenance: This pertains to claims for alimony and maintenance, whether during ongoing matrimonial disputes or post-divorce.

Exclusivity of Jurisdiction

Where a Family Court has been established, no district court or any other civil court can exercise any jurisdiction in respect of any suit or proceeding of the nature referred to in Section 7. Additionally, no injunction concerning any action taken or to be taken under the Act can be granted by any civil court or other authority.

Critical Insights

  1. Holistic Approach: By concentrating a variety of family-related disputes under the umbrella of the Family Court, Section 7 promotes a comprehensive approach. A single court hearing related disputes offers consistency and potentially faster resolution.
  2. Potential Overlap with Personal Laws: Given the diverse personal laws in India, there’s potential for overlap between the jurisdiction of Family Courts and religious adjudicatory bodies. For instance, while the Family Court can adjudicate a Muslim divorce, the principles of the Muslim personal law would still guide the verdict.
  3. Exclusivity Might Pose Issues: The exclusivity clause ensures that family disputes are streamlined into a dedicated system. However, there might be scenarios where interlinked civil disputes (e.g., complex property matters not necessarily rooted in marital discord) could necessitate parallel proceedings in different courts, posing logistical challenges.
  4. Limited Relief from Overburdened Courts: Despite the establishment of Family Courts, the sheer volume of cases means that delays are not uncommon, making one question if the primary goal of swift resolutions is always met.

Conclusion

Section 7 of the Family Courts Act, 1984 is undeniably pivotal in shaping the landscape of family dispute resolution in India. By demarcating clear jurisdictions and emphasizing the exclusivity of Family Courts, the Act seeks to ensure that family disputes receive the specialized attention they deserve. However, like all legal provisions, the effectiveness of Section 7 is as much about its practical implementation as its theoretical underpinnings. As Family Courts continue to evolve, it remains to be seen how this cornerstone section adapts to the changing socio-legal landscape of India.