MADURAI: Citing contrary views taken by two single judges of the Madras High Court regarding whether cases filed under Domestic Violence Act, 2005 should be heard by a Civil Court or a Criminal Court, a single judge of the Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court referred the matter to a larger bench.
Justice K Murali Shankar came across the issue when he was hearing civil revision petitions filed by two persons seeking to quash the criminal proceedings pending against them under Domestic Violence Act before magistrate courts in Tirunelveli and Kovilpatti. During the hearing, the counsels appearing for the two petitioners informed Justice Shankar that two contrary judgments have been passed by the Madras High Court in similar matters.
They stated that previously Justice N Anand Venkatesh had taken a view that cases filed under the said Act are civil in nature and hence cannot be heard by magistrate courts as criminal cases. He also issued certain guidelines to be followed while dealing with domestic violence cases. Citing the said judgment, many persons were filing civil revision petitions in the High Court in cases of similar nature and were directed to approach the magistrate court concerned, Justice Shankar noted.
Meanwhile, the counsels also informed the court that another judge, Justice SM Subramaniam, had taken a different view from Justice Venkatesh saying that such cases ought to be treated as criminal cases and should be heard by criminal courts and not civil courts.
Since divergent orders have been passed by two single judges, the issue ought to be referred to a larger bench, Justice Shankar opined. The larger bench has to decide whether proceedings initiated under Domestic Violence Act and are pending before magistrate courts should be treated as civil proceedings or criminal proceedings, the judge pointed out. If the proceedings are found to be civil in nature, whether such cases pending in magistrate courts should then be transferred to Civil Court (or Family Court), also needs to be answered, he added.
He directed the Registry of the court to place the two civil revision petitions before the Chief Justice of Madras High Court to be transferred to a larger bench. Meanwhile, he instructed the magistrate courts concerned not to insist the two petitioners to appear in person.