The Bandra Family Court’s recently-appointed Principal Judge Dr Laxmi Rao urged her superior Chief Justice Mohit S Shah to arrange for more courtrooms and space for family court and mediation proceedings. The Judges had gathered on Saturday to felicitate 111 couples on the verge of divorce, who reconciled thanks to timely intervention by the court and its counsellors.
Principal Judge Dr Rao said, “I have only spent three weeks here and I can already tell you the work done by our judges cannot be matched. Presently, we have seven judges and 14 marriage counsellors, but we need thrice the number of courts, and much more space. We need at least 25 more judges. It is not possible for us to devote more time to the problems of litigants.”
Rao told the audience, “I first climed the steps of this court as a litigant, and then I did law. I have come full circle. I want this to be known as a reunion court, and not a divorce court.” The Chief Justice readily agreed to her request when he stepped up to the dais, saying, “It is difficult in Mumbai since property prices are high. But we have suggested to the State Government, and they have accepted the idea of paying rent to set up more Family Courts. So the Government has agreed to pay the rent required.”
Judges draw on personal experience
Also present at the felicitation was Justice Dr. DY Chandrachud, who drew on his personal experiences with family to elaborate on why the institution is so important. “My wife has told me that in court I may be referred to as ‘My Lord’ or ‘My Lordship’, but at home, this is irrelevant.
We have Article 14 in our house (Article 14 of the Indian Constitution deals with equality). When I come home from court, I like wearing shorts and a T-Shirt, but when my mother-in-law visits, my wife insists I wear kurta-pyjamas.” Justice Chandrachud also discussed his first wife’s death from breast cancer and his subsequent remarriage. “My sister told me I could not stay alone,” he said.
Sporting a cream-coloured suit, Justice Mohit Shah told the audience of reconciled couples, “I am wearing the same clothes as I do for weddings, for your reconciliation. Home tensions are the most difficult to handle. When they’re old, people don’t say I wish I’d spent more time in office; they always say, ‘I wish I’d spent more time with family’. We don’t want a khap panchayat system where we force couples to reconcile. In certain cases, it is better to let them part ways gracefully.”
Happy couples reunite
among the reunited couples were Amardeep and Harshal Sarwaiya, both 32. Amardeep said, “We used to have minor fights, and there was no one to make us understand. We are here today after a year of counselling. Though we are both visually handicapped, we are still together.” Also among the couples were Digambar and Pranali Shetye, who had disagreements as Pranali continued working after marriage. Pranali said, “I made up my mind to never have to go to a court. But after coming here I realised that everyone from the peons to the judges and lawyers are there to help. After being separated for two years, I realised I wanted to reconcile.” Pranali eventually gave up her job and became a housewife.