Predictably the family courts too are over burdened with cases of marital discords on the rise. Worse still even those who sit to pass judgement on the disputes now have become insensitive to the plaintiffs given the status quo that both parties maintain not allowing any decisions to be made on their pleas.
The result: usually long drawn dates that are handed out time and again stretching the duration of the case for years. This not only fractures chances of a compromise between husband and wife but also ruins the opportunity of settling down again with another partner in case couples decide to part ways.
Keeping this in view an enterprising effort has now been mooted by the honorable judges of no less stature than the High Court Lucknow UP, who have come together to start a counseling centre at the family courts to address these issues.
Being touted as a long awaited respite for those facing marital discord and even for those hearing the cases, the counseling centre is now functioning as a mediation unit which will try and work out the problems between the husband and wife to reach a amicable solution.
Explains Justice YK Tripathi, Allahabad Bench of the Lucknow High Court "In my experience marital discords usually are blown out of proportion. The reason behind the problems when assessed are not that serious as it is made out to be. A bit of counseling and reasoning with the couples usually can help resolve the issue. But in the absence of such a provision they are compelled to continue to battle it out in the courts for years together. This is what we want to avoid if there is way to settle disputes the judges who will be sitting in these counseling centre everyday will help find it. If not then an amicable way of parting of ways will be worked upon. "
A heartening proposition indeed what with five judges already been inducted at the counseling centre plans are to encourage many more to get involved and help solve the cases here. Among those who will be counseling the couples are Jusctices YK Tripathi, NB Asthana, MP Singh, ON Khandelwal, OP Srivastava all who are highly respected and experienced in their field.
Informs Sudhir Saxena, Member Secretary Uttar Pradesh State Legal Services Authority, "Justice Alam , Chairman, UPSLSA has taken the initiative to ensure that justice is done at the family courts where fate of not only the husband and wife but also innocent children are at stake. In fact the entire procedure is based on the concept of setting up of Legal Aid Cum Literacy Clinics to provide free legal aid to the poor and needy and members of the weaker sections of the society. The clinics which have been set up in every district of UP are manned by students of law colleges, retd and serving Judges and advocates. At these clinics one can get instant advice and information on legal aspects and procedures, they also assist poor litigants in drafting, typing and presentation of miscellaneous applications free of cost. In addition to that the legal aid clinics will also help the litigants to make oral queries from the offices of the court with the assistance of Secretary DLSA."-
So how does the counseling centre set up at the family courts fit in?
Avers Saxena, "Since the need was felt to introduce mediation efforts at the family court which is based on disputes related to the institution of marriage and family, veterans who have a rich experience of handling such disputes were requested to be associated with the counseling centre that has been set up. The move to do this has been taken under the Legal Aid Cum Literacy Clinics, the judges here are all experienced both in legal procedures and in counseling which is a huge asset for the family court litigants."-
A fact that is seconded by Ghazala Farooqui, Counselor, Legal Cell, Family Courts Lucknow who feels this was a much needed move, "-Though we have been counseling couples here at the existing Legal Cell the impact would be much more positive with such senior judges sparing their time to hear out and solve marital disputes. The results will be very good now a focused approach will be there to ensure that problems are ironed out and amicable solution is reached between couples."-
While the effort of the newly constituted counseling centre will be to prevent a break up in the family the judges feel that the intervention is crucial seeing the breakdown of the family structure in our society.
Says Justice OP Srivastava, "Today young people are losing faith in the institution of marriage, the liberal society we are now living in eroding the very fabric of the Indian society and an effort will be made to stop it. As we all have a moral responsibility to protect the institution of marriage and stop it from going out of fashion, but we are also aware that some times differences cannot be avoided in all the cases in such situations the merit of the case will seen and a way will be worked out for the husband and wife to end their marriage with least animosity."-
And with the Principal Judge, Family Court Lucknow Shyam Lal, welcoming the counseling centre he terms it as an opportunity to settle a larger number of cases as early as possible. "Since counseling is mandatory in marital litigation the huge burden of cases was preventing the counselors from helping to settle cases quickly. But now with High Court Judges having taken the initiative to give us support I feel a lot many litigants will benefit from their intervention. But the best part is that it will cut down the number of pending cases as solutions to the problems can be reached upon without waiting for years."-
Will that be possible? We will just have to wait and see!
(The author is a Special Correspondent to Citizen News Service (CNS) and also the Director of Saaksham Foundation. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org)