6. We shall first of all refer to explanation (c) to Section 7(1) of the Family Courts Act. It reads as follows:
Section 7: Jurisdiction:-(1) Subject to the other provisions of this Act, a Family Court shall-(a) Have and exercise all the jurisdiction exercisable by any district court or any subordinate civil court under any law for the time being in force in respect of suits and proceedings of the nature referred to in the explanation; and(b) ..............................Explanation: The suits and proceedings referred to in this sub-section are suits and proceedings of the following nature, namely:a) .................................b) ....................................c) A suit or proceeding between the parties to a marriage with respect to the property of the parties or of either of them."
7. This is a proceedings between parties to marriage and the bone of contention is the property of one of them. We are in complete agreement with the learned counsel for the respondent that going by the plain language employed by the legislature, this dispute between the spouses regarding property of the husband (claimed by the wife under the document dated 08.02.2007 executed by her in favour of herself as the power of attorney holder of the husband after alleged cancellation/revocation of the instrument of power of attorney) would squarely come within clause (c).
8. It will be quite apposite in this context to refer to the decision of the Supreme Court in Abdul Jaleel v. Sahida [2003 (2) KLT 403(SC)] as to how the law relating to jurisdiction of a Court, created specially for resolution of disputes of a specified nature should be construed. In para.14, it is clearly stated that "it is now a well settled principle of law that the jurisdiction of a court created specially for resolution of disputes of certain kinds should be construed liberally".
9. Even without pressing into service this cannon relating to liberal interpretation, a plain understanding of the language in the light of the semantics employed in explanation (c) clearly brings the case within the sweep of the said clause.
10. The learned counsel for the appellant submits that not mere language but the legislative objects, reasons and intention will have to be understood. We have gone through the statement of objects and reasons of Act 66 of the Family Courts Act, 1984. We do not think it necessary to extract the same. It is true that the purpose, objects and reasons is to constitute a court for settlement of family disputes. But as to what family disputes are one has to go by the language of Sec.7. Subjective concepts of what a family dispute is are not to be imported and in Sec.7 where jurisdiction of a Family Court is defined and powers conferred, it is clearly revealed as to what sort of disputes are to be comprehended by the Family Courts true to the objects and reasons which prompted the legislature to enact this piece of legislation.
11. The learned counsel for the appellant heavily relies on the decision of a Division Bench of this Court in Abdul Jaleel v. Sahida [1997(1) KLT 734]. The counsel contends that a reading of para-7 of the decision in Abdul Jaleel v. Sahida [1997(1) KLT 734] must convey to the court that the instant one cannot be reckoned as a family dispute as to clothe the Family Courts with jurisdiction to deal with the same. Since heavy reliance is placed on para-7, we extract the same in extenso below:
"7. Section 7 of the Family Court Act gives the various types of proceedings over which the Family Court has jurisdiction to try.
S.7(1) ) is one such proceedings which reads as follows:
"A suit or proceeding between the parties to a marriage with respect to the property of the parties or either of them".
We are unable to accept the contention of the appellant that the parties to a marriage referred to therein shall only confine to the parties to the subsisting marriage. The object of the Family Courts Act is to settle the family disputes. The disputes relating to family may be there even after the dissolution of the marriage. In the instant case, the allegation of the respondent is that the property for which she seeks declaration and partition was purchased by the appellant using the money belonged to her. Such a dispute arose between the parties consequent on the dissolution of the marriage. This dispute between them is closely connected with family dispute. If the declaration or partition was sought in respect of an item of property independently acquired by one of the parties after the dissolution of the marriage, certainly the Family Court may not have the jurisdiction. If the dispute relating to the properties which were jointly acquired at the time when they were husband and wife, any dispute relating to such properties could be decided only a forum like the Family Court. The expression `parties to a marriage' used under S.7(1)c) of the Family Courts Act is to be construed having due regard to the Objects and Reasons of the Family Courts Act.
12. The learned counsel relies on the decision in Abdul Jaleel v. Shahida [2003 (2) KLT 403 (SC)] also to drive home his contention that the dispute in order to be a cognizable by the Family Court must be a family dispute. Reliance is placed on paras-10 to 13 of the said decision. We have been taken through these passages in detail. We do not think it necessary to extract the said passages.
13. We note that both these decisions were cases where the question that arose for consideration was the play of the expression "between the parties to a marriage". The question that the courts were called upon to decide was whether the expression "parties to the marriage" would include parties to a dissolved marriage or would apply only to a subsisting marriage. It is interpreted that Clause (c) would apply not merely to disputes between the parties to a subsisting marriage; but also to dispute between parties to a dissolved marriage - a marriage which does not subsist.
14. The learned counsel contends that though the question that arose in both those cases were not exactly identical, certain observations in the decision in Abdul Jaleel v. Sahida [1997(1) KLT 734] must suggest to this court that even disputes between the parties to a marriage regarding properties owned by one of them would not fall within the sweep of Explanation (c) if the properties were acquired without any reference to their marital status. The counsel particularly relies on the observations in para-7 extracted and emphasized above and contends that the mere fact that the parties to a marriage happen to be spouses, is not crucially relevant. The question is whether the dispute in its core is a family dispute. The counsel places heavy reliance on the following statement of law in paragraph 7 of Abdul Jaleel v. Sahida [1997(1) KLT 734].
"It has been observed in the book `Craies on Statute Law" 7th Edition at Page 102 that: `a court of justice will take into consideration the spirit and meaning of the act apart from the words; in other words, there is still, as Jessel M.R. said, in Re Bethlem Hospital, such a thing as construing an Act according to its intent, though not according to its words'."
In short the counsel argues that even a dispute which going by the mere language may fall within explanation (c) to Sec.7(1) may not be cognisable by the Family Court if the same is not a family dispute, as commonly understood.
15. The question is whether the instant dispute which falls within the language of explanation (c) goes out of the sweep of the same for the alleged reason that it is not a family dispute. For this purpose we have scanned through the pleadings.
16. A careful reading of the plaint clearly shows that the spouses while the matrimony was in subsistence had initially great trust and faith in each other. The wife who was more educated, competent and qualified was assisting the husband in the management of his properties. It is to facilitate such management by her that the husband placing absolute matrimonial trust and implicit faith executed the Power-of-Attorney document. It is the alleged abuse of the position and status as a spouse (on whom complete matrimonial trust and faith was placed and in whose favour the Power-of-Attorney document was executed to facilitate her to act on behalf of the other spouse) which is the foundation of the cause of action in this case. Even accepting any standards we find it impossible to construe that the dispute in the instant case is unrelated to the marital status of the parties or that it has to be reckoned as a non-family dispute.
17. To summarise, the dispute is between the spouses. It relates to an item of property of the husband. The dispute is whether the document executed by the wife in her capacity as a Power-of-Attorney Holder after the revocation of the instrument of Power-of-Attorney is valid or not. But the underlying substratum of the case is that the matrimonial trust and faith reposed had been abused. We are unable to accept the argument that the dispute is not a family dispute or that for that alleged reason it would go out of the sweep of Explanation (c) to Sec.7(1).
18. The observation in para.7 of the Abdul Jaleel v. Sahida [1997(1) KLT 734] that " If the declaration or partition was sought in respect of an item of property independently acquired by one of the parties after the dissolution of the marriage, certainly the Family Court may not have the jurisdiction" cannot be understood artificially or out of context. While interpretationally expanding the expression "parties to a marriage" to include "parties to a marriage which was not subsisting on the date of the suit" caution was administered that such interpretational expansion cannot cover all subsequent disputes between such parties independent of and unrelated to their marital status as spouses. That observation can have no effect/impact on disputes between spouses to a subsisting marriage. A dispute between parties to a subsisting marriage which answers clause (c) of explanation to Sec.7(1) cannot ever go out of the sweep of the explanation, or be out of bounds for the Family Court on the strength of that observation.