Mumbai: Couples who reconciled after counselling felicitated by family courts

Feb 15, 2018, 12:00 IST | Snigdha Hasan

In a move to drive home the message that marriage can emerge triumphant from the brink of failure, family courts in Mumbai felicitate couples who have reconciled after counselling

A couple exchanges sweet nothings over a bar of chocolate at the Bandra family court. Pics/Sayyed Sameer Abedi
A couple exchanges sweet nothings over a bar of chocolate at the Bandra family court. Pics/Sayyed Sameer Abedi

A couple exchanging coy glances as a sketch artist captures the moment on canvas. A man feeding his wife chocolate as she cracks another piece from the bar to return the love. Such scenes are not too difficult to stumble on during Valentine's Day, except that the setting was not a mall or the seafront, but a divorce court.

Art students sketch the happy couples
Art students sketch the happy couples

Return to courtship
On Wednesday afternoon, the children's complex at the Bandra family court, which is usually where separated parents meet their wards when custodial matters are sub judice, turned into a venue to celebrate couples who have reconciled, thanks to the alternative dispute resolution methods built into the legal system, starting with pre-litigation counselling, mediation and arbitration.

Sajan Oommen (in blue), former president of the Family Court Bar Association, felicitates one of the participants at the event
Sajan Oommen (in blue), former president of the Family Court Bar Association, felicitates one of the participants at the event

For close to a month, judges, lawyers, marriage counsellors, managers and other staff members at the court had been busy putting together the event, which they called Nate Judale Manashi Manate (relationships that bind hearts).
Of more than 200 couples who decided to start afresh after filing for separation last year, 25-odd couples made it to the felicitation. "People often think that this is a court of divorce. But the fact that couples also reconcile here wasn't getting out to people," said Veena Athavale, principal marriage counsellor.

Etching new memories
While the felicitation ceremony has been taking place for a few years now, court manager PC Mathapati decided to give it a special touch by inviting students of the LS Raheja School of Art to sketch portraits of the couples, which were presented to the participants along with a box of chocolates. "We don't celebrate Valentine's Day in the family court, but this was a way of spreading a positive message among litigants about the possibility of a peaceful and amicable settlement," said Mathapati, adding that apart from the couples who attended the event, those who had a court hearing on the day were encouraged to join in, too.

That was not all. While couples shared their experience of overcoming their differences through trust, patience, acceptance and giving each other space, they had other examples to look up to, too. Sajan Oommen, former president of the Family Court Bar Association, was present with his wife Naynu to talk about how their inter-faith marriage has lasted 26 years; as were Mumtaz Shaikh and Rahul Gaware of the Chembur-based NGO, Committee of Resource Organisations for Literacy.

Mathapati informed mid-day that the court plans to play a recording of yesterday's programme in its premises on a regular basis, as a way of inspiring other litigants to reconsider their decision. A similar programme has also been organised at the family court in Thane this afternoon.

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