The Supreme Court has asked lower courts to use video-conferencing facility in divorce, custody and other matrimonial cases when the estranged couple live in different cities, an order aimed at speedy disposal of such disputes.
Disagreement between a husband and a wife over the place of hearing is one of the biggest reasons for delays in matrimonial cases.
Typically, the woman’s choice is given a priority and the case moved to the place where she lives.
But transfers can only be ordered by the Supreme Court, which is flooded with such petitions that can take years to be resolved.
“... the litigants have to travel to this court and spend on litigation. Question is whether this can be avoided,” said a bench of justice AK Goel and justice UU Lalit in the order issued last week, adding technology ought to be utilised to avoid delays in such cases.
It was not possible to ignore the problems a husband faced in contesting a case at a place convenient to the wife, the court said.
“We are thus of the view that it is necessary to issue certain directions which may provide alternatives to seeking transfer of proceedings on account of inability of a party to contest proceedings at a place away from their ordinary residence on the ground that if proceedings are not transferred, it will result in denial of justice,” it said.
Trial courts should use video-conference calls for recording evidence instead of insisting on personal appearances during hearings.
The direction came on a three-year-old transfer plea by a woman who wanted her divorce case to be moved from Jabalpur in Madhya Pradesh to a court in Hyderabad, where she lived with her minor daughter. The two cities are at least 700km apart.
The case was filed in Jabalpur where her estranged husband resided.
The bench directed high courts to issue orders to regulate the use of video conferencing for trial courts.
If any or both sides ask for the facility, proceeding should be conducted through video conferencing, the court said.
Judicial process in India is painfully slow as courts are saddled with a huge backlog. At the last count, around 28 million cases were pending in various court of the country.