Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Video conferencing cannot be directed in transfer petitions, Krishna Veni Nigam overruled by 2:1

A 3-judge Bench of the Supreme Court today held that video conferencing cannot be mandated in transfer petitions. In the process, it overruled its decision in Krishna Veni Nigam, which was passed earlier this year.
While Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justice AM Khanwilkar ruled that video conferencing can be used only after settlement between parties fails, Justice DY Chandrachud dissented and strongly urged the use of technology in such proceedings. The majority judgment by CJI Dipak Misra and Justice Khanwilkar held the following:
(i) In view of the scheme of the 1984 Act and in particular Section 11, the hearing of matrimonial disputes may have to be conducted in camera.
(ii) After the settlement fails and when a joint application is filed or both the parties file their respective consent memorandum for hearing of the case through videoconferencing before the concerned Family Court, it may exercise the discretion to allow the said prayer.
(iii) After the settlement fails, if the Family Court feels it appropriate having regard to the facts and circumstances of the case that videoconferencing will sub-serve the cause of justice, it may so direct.
(iv) In a transfer petition, video conferencing cannot be directed.
(v) Our directions shall apply prospectively.
(vi) The decision in Krishna Veni Nagam (supra) is overruled to the aforesaid extent.
The case has its genesis in an order passed by Justices AK Goel and UU Lalit mandating the use of video conferencing facilities in matrimonial disputes before filing transfer petitions etc. Based on the said order, the Supreme Court had been disposing of transfer petitions without going into the merits of such petitions.
Subsequently, another Bench of Justices Kurian Joseph and R Banumathi disagreed with the said order, stating that the earlier Bench was not fully informed while passing the said order.
“Having due regard to the nature of family disputes sought to be addressed by the Parliament, we are afraid, the Court in Krishna Veni Nagam (supra) has not been furnished with the required information, before passing the order.”
It observed that confidence and confidentiality may not be protected in video conferencing during such counselling sessions.
They opined that the matter requires consideration by a larger Bench and directed that it be placed before the Chief Justice for the constitution of an appropriate bench.
Pursuant to that, the matter came up for hearing before the 3-judge Bench.
Amicus Curiae Ajit Kumar Sinha had submitted before the 3-judge Bench that the order passed by Justices Goel and Lalit is wrong. He had placed heavy reliance on Justice DY Chandrachud’s judgment in the privacy case stating that matrimonial proceedings should get the protection of privacy and video conferencing impinges on the same.
Santhini Versus Vijaya Venketesh -October 09, 2017

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