It would be only between the parties to a marriage to seek for such declaration for their benefit against the person who claims or contends not to be a party to the marriage.’
The Gauhati High Court has held that a third party questioning the marriage of any other party would not be entitled to maintain proceedings before the family court.
In this case, Ram (names changed) had approached the family court seeking a declaration that Nita is not the legally married wife of Laksh and, therefore, she is not entitled to make any claim as his legal heir in respect of the properties left by him. The family court had held that the relief sought would fall under Section 7(b) of the Family Court Act, 1984 and that the petition is maintainable.
Nita filed an appeal before the high court contending that the jurisdiction of the family court as provided under Section 7 of the Act is to be exercised only when such a dispute arises between the parties to the marriage. On the other hand, Ram placed reliance on a Supreme Court judgment and contended that the expression “parties to a marriage” is conspicuously absent in sub-Section (b) of Section 7 and a petition seeking a declaration relating to the validity of marriage, would be maintainable.
In Balram Yadav vs. Fulamaniya Yada, the Supreme Court had held that a suit or a proceeding for a declaration as to the validity of both marriage and matrimonial status of a person is within the exclusive jurisdiction of the family court.
Distinguishing this judgment, the bench comprising Chief Justice AS Bopanna and Justice Arup Kumar Goswami observed that, in the said case, the party who instituted the suit was seeking a declaration to the effect that the respondent is not his legally married wife.
The bench observed: “The question that would arise is as to whether in such circumstance the case would fall under Section 7(b) of the Act. In that regard, though in Section 7(b) of the Act the expression “parties to a marriage” does not occur, keeping in view the nature of relief that is provided before the Family Court, it would be only between the parties to a marriage to seek for such declaration for their benefit against the person who claims or contends not to be a party to the marriage. If that aspect of the matter is kept in view, a third party questioning the marriage of any other party would not be entitled to maintain proceedings before the Family Court. In any event, if such a party has any grievance, the remedy is available before the ordinary civil court by filing a suit therein.”
Setting aside the order, the court directed the family court to return the plaint to the plaintiff enabling him to present the same before the appropriate civil court, having jurisdiction, within 30 (thirty) days from the date of return of the plaint.