The Rajya Sabha has passed the Family Courts (Amendment) Bill, which seeks to extend statutory cover to family courts set up in Himachal Pradesh & Nagaland.
About the Family Courts (Amendment) Bill –
- The Family Courts (Amendment) Bill was introduced and passed in Lok Sabha in July 2022. The Bill amends the Family Courts Act, 1984.
- The Family Courts Act, 1984 allows state governments to establish Family Courts.
- The Central Government is empowered to notify dates for the Act to come into force in different states.
- The governments of Himachal Pradesh and Nagaland have set up Family Courts in their states under the Act.
- However, the central government had not extended the application of the Act to these states.
Family Courts Act, 1984 –
- According to the 59th Law Commission Report (1974) and the Committee on the Status of Women (1975), it was recommended that family disputes should get handled differently from conventional civil proceedings.
- Subsequently, the Family Courts Act was passed in 1984 to allow state governments to establish family courts to promote conciliation and ensure that disputes related to family affairs and marriage are promptly settled.
- Under the Act, the setting up of family courts and their functioning comes under the purview of the state governments in consultation with their respective high courts.
- As per the Act, it is mandatory for the state government to set up a family court for every city or a town whose population exceeds one million.
- The state government appoints the family court judges with the approval of the high court.
- 716 Family Courts are functional across the country (February 2022).
What was the need for an amendment and why does it only concern two States?
- Notably, the Central government has to notify a date for the Act to come into force in a State where such courts have been set up.
- If there is no government notification, it raises questions about the jurisdiction and statutory powers of these family courts.
- While Himachal Pradesh set up family courts in Shimla, Dharamshala and Mandi, Nagaland established two such courts at Dimapur and Kohima.
- However; these courts were functioning without any legal authority since no central notification was issued in this regard.
- The issue came to light last year after a petition was filed in the Himachal Pradesh High Court (Omkar Sharma vs. State of Himachal Pradesh).
Challenges faced by the Family Courts –
The following are some of the difficulties that family courts face –
- “Family” is not defined under the Act –
- The term “family” is not defined.
- The family court only hears cases involving marriage, child support, and divorce.
- Thus, issues resulting from economic implications that affect the family in numerous ways are not addressed by the family court.
- Lack of proper enforcement of the law –
- The Act gives state governments the authority to create regulations for the operation of family courts in their jurisdictions.
- Still, most state governments have not effectively utilised these powers to create rules and set up family courts.
- Complicated law –
- Because the family court follows the Code of Civil Procedure principles in suits and proceedings, it is difficult for the average person to comprehend the complicated law.
- There are no simple rules in the act that a layperson can understand.