Manipur High Court

In a recent historic decision, the Manipur High Court upheld a family court’s authority to designate a woman as a “single unmarried mother” in light of the evidence presented to it. Acting Chief Justice MV Muralidaran and Justice A Guneshwar Sharma, who made up the division bench, gave the decision, underlining the significance of maintaining the authority of specialised courts and tribunals.

Background of the Case

The 61-year-old woman at the centre of the dispute had first asked the family court to declare her to be a “single unmarried mother.” The family court determined that her suit was not viable, nonetheless. The woman’s attorney contested this ruling, claiming that the Family Courts Act should apply to her single status and that the case should be properly heard in family court.

In its decision, the Manipur High Court referenced Explanation (b) to Section 7(1) of the Family Courts Act, which specifies that family courts shall have jurisdiction over lawsuits or procedures about the legality of marriage and married status. As a result, the court determined that, under Section 7 of the Family Courts Act, the appellant’s complaint could be maintained in family court.

Additionally, the High Court highlighted that the woman’s petition is within the “exclusive jurisdiction” of the family court because Section 8 of the Family Courts Act prohibits civil courts from handling subjects covered by Section 7.

Distinguishing a Previous Precedent

The woman’s complaint was denied by the family court earlier, which had cited the Renubala Moharana v. Mina Mohanty case. The High Court did note, however, that the appellant’s motion, which concerned her marital status, was completely unrelated to the remedy sought in the Renubala case, which concerned the illegitimacy of a child.

The woman had worked for the state medical department her entire career and had been living in close quarters with a physician for an extended period. 1984 saw the birth of a girl, and 1994 saw the birth of a son. Authorities sought a joint photo of her and her spouse for pension processing when she retired in 2022. Instead, since she didn’t have a husband, she sent in a picture of herself with her kids. She was told that her statement was “absurd” and was rejected.

The woman responded by suing the family court in 2022 to get a ruling stating she is an unmarried, single woman. Given that there was no marital link between her and her former partner, the family court dismissed the lawsuit.

Recognition of Single-Parent Families

The ruling by the High Court underscores the rights and acceptance of single-parent households in India, irrespective of the conditions that gave rise to them. The woman’s children were crucial in this situation because they proved that their father—who was already married and had a child—could not have wed their mother. To protect their rights and recognise the complexity of their genesis, single-parent families must be acknowledged.

The High Court ordered the family court to overturn its previous decision and remand the case to it with instructions to proceed with the suit under the law.

Adv. Khanak Sharma

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