Law Minister suggests weekend family courts to help techies and working people who cannot attend courts on weekdays; if implemented, it would be a first in the country


S Shyam Prasad


Posted On Friday, August 06, 2010 at 04:06:19 AM

With the hearing on divorce petitions getting adjourned frequently due to the non-attendance of parties, Law Minister S Suresh Kumar has come up with a solution: Weekend family courts.
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“A lot of matrimony cases are pending due to frequent adjournments. Software professionals, who are among the top group of people who file for divorce, find it hard to attend the hearings on weekdays. Weekend courts will help them and other professionals,” said Kumar.

Weekend courts are part of the proposal that includes starting of morning and evening courts for petty cases. “The idea came about during the conference of chief justices in Chennai recently. There are already evening courts functioning there. Shortly, I will be visiting Chennai along with Karnataka State Bar Council and Bar Association representatives on how the evening courts are functioning there,” he said.

“New Delhi and Gujarat also have evening courts. If we have weekend courts, it would be the first in India,” says K N Phaneendra, District Judge and director of the Bangalore Mediation Centre, where a large number of divorce cases are referred to by the four family courts functioning in the city.

But there are no statistics on how many techies file for divorce before the courts. “The Law Department is working on it and we will know the exact number in a couple of days. But it need not be seen as a special treatment for software professionals. Everyone will benefit,” says Kumar.

In the last two years, nearly 4,000 divorce petitions have come up before the courts each year. This, from a low of 1,240 cases in 2004 and 1,860 in 2005. In 2008, the number of cases filed was 3,340. Court officials say there are approximately 10,000 cases pending before the four family courts in Bangalore. But all these are not just divorce cases. They include maintenance, child custody and other cases. The average number of cases filed before the family courts are 28 each working day.

“In the recent years, the inflow has been very high. Around 40 per cent of these cases are referred to the Mediation Centre. A total of 5,094 divorce cases were referred to us by the courts since January 2007 till August 4, 2010. Of these 3,624 cases were settled. The settlement rate of 80.73 per cent is the highest for any kind of case coming to us,” says Phaneendra. However, there is no record of how many of these cases involved techies.

“Working people have to take a full day leave just to come and take note of the next day of hearing. We should immediately adopt the Chennai model. Family court cases have accumulated to nearly 15,000 cases,” says Kumar Jahgirdar of Children’s Rights Initiative for Shared Parenting (CRISP) foundation.

The proposal for evening courts is also under consideration. “Such courts are functioning in some states. We will have to study their pros and cons. If it is convenient for all concerned and if cases can be speedily disposed of, there is no wrong in establishing them,” said Advocates’ Association Bangalore president K N Putte Gowda.

“There is some sort of resistance from advocates for morning and evening courts. If such courts function say from 6 pm to 8 pm, they say it will be inconvenient as they need to be in their chambers to prepare for the following day’s cases. But if only petty cases like traffic violations and others are heard here, even junior advocates can appear,” says Kumar.

He said the large number of pending cases is burdening the judiciary. Three more family courts have been sanctioned for Bangalore.

Karnataka High Court: 1,72,302 (till
December 2009)
Metropolitan Courts: 1,83,000
District and lower courts: 11,39,691 (including Metropolitan Courts)
Family Courts: 4
Pending cases: 10,000
New cases: 28 per day

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