Women approaching courts will not be required to pay the fees for their minor son/s, as the Bombay high court on Thursday allowed a public interest litigation that complained about the family court in Bandra that insisted on a state notification exempting women from paying court fees in matrimonial matters was applicable only for the benefit of women.
“For all practical purposes, it is the woman (mother of the minor son/s) who will have to pay the court fees, as her son obviously cannot pay it,” said the division bench of Chief Justice Manjula Chellur and Justice MS Sonak.
The bench was hearing a public interest litigation filed by Majlis Manch. Its lawyer, Flavia Agnes, pointed out that women are exempted from paying court fees by a notification issued by Maharashtra government in 1994 under the Bombay Court Fees Act.
She said in a recent case, where a woman sought maintenance for her two minor sons, the family court registrar refused to place the matter before the court concerned unless the fees due on the maintenance sought for the sons was paid. Since the woman was unable to pay up, the matter was taken before the principal judge of the family court.
Majlis Manch approached the high court after the principal judge affirmed that the 1994 notification was only for the benefit of women and not for minor males, and therefore court fee was payable if a woman seeks maintenance for her minor son/s. Agnes said the family court could not discriminate between male and female children.
According to the PIL, the stand will not only be unjust to women but will deter those who are unable to pay court fees on the amount claimed as maintenance for their son/s.
Assistant government pleader Neha Bhide opposed the PIL saying that the decision of the principal judge of the family court was in tune with the government’s decision. She said since the exemption was granted for the benefit of women, it could not be extended to male children. Bhide also submitted that it was a source of revenue.
The submission, however, did not weigh with the bench. “There are many other better avenues available for generating revenue,” said the bench, adding, “Even if the existing revenue is collected properly that would be sufficient.”