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Citations: AIR 2006 SC 2360

Date of the judgment: 12/05/2006

Bench: S.B. Sinha and P.K. Balasubramanyan

Petitioner name: M.P. Gangadharan and Anr

Respondent name: State of Kerala and Ors.


Family courts play a crucial role in dealing with personal affairs of the people of a country. These are specialized courts that aim to resolve family issues within the legal framework. In order to ensure speedy and inexpensive relief in the matters concerning marital and family disputes, the Family Courts Act was introduced in 1984. In the case of M. P. Gangadharan vs State of Kerala, the Supreme Court held that it is the duty of the State Governments to establish Family courts to provide an intimate plan of action for resolving the family disputes.


1. The District headquarters of the State Kerala are situated in the district Malappuram. However, the District courts are located at a distance of 12 kms in Manjeri.

Concerning the same, a large number of problems were faced by the Court staff and concerned public in attending the court.

2. In order to seek the shifting of the said Family court from Manjeri to Malappuram, the bar association of Malappuram submitted a representation against the presiding officer of the family court and the District judge. The representative pointed out deficiencies and various infrastructural problems at Manjeri.

3. It was included in the appeal that the presiding officer, the court staff as well as the litigants have to use only one Staircase. It was inadequate to accommodate women, children, advocates and court staff. Moreover, the court could not function in the absence of electricity. These conditions made it difficult for the family court to function properly

4. When a meeting was held for the same, the bar association was asked to find a building for shifting the family court. Consequently, a government building near civil station premises was found at Malappuram.

Issue Raised: Whether the State has the required authority to direct the shifting of family court from a place to another?

Acts concerned

1. Section 3(1) (a) of the Family Court Act provides for the state to establish a family court for every area including a city or a town with its population exceeding one Million. There is discretion of the state to establish the family court in the areas falling outside the above clause (a).

Moreover, under Section 21(2) (b), High courts can make rules about the sittings of family courts at places other than the usual places of their sitting.

2. As per the section 21 of the General Clauses Act, 1897, state has the power to amend, change or rescind notifications and orders. Thus, extending the jurisdiction of the state to abolish a family court as well as to establish one.

3. The High court has a supervisory Jurisdiction over the courts subordinate to it as conferred by the article 235 of the Indian Constitution.

4. The Kerala Civil Courts Act, 1957, governs the establishment of courts in the State of Kerala. The section 2 of act provides for the qualification of civil courts by the state.


1. The Appellants contended to shift the family court that has a jurisdiction over an area consisting more than one town or village. So the emphasis should be given on every area rather than a town having a city with a population more than one million.

2. They argued about the authority of the State to shift the said court to another place lying within the same area by issuing notification.

3. Further they claimed that although the provisions like administration of justice, constitution as well as organization of courts, all come under Concurrent list, but the state has jurisdiction over the court. This provision is not in conflict with State Acts.

4. The counsel from appellants contended that since the High Court can make recommendations regarding its control over the subordinate courts, the doctrine of proportionality should apply to this instant case.


1. In order to constitute the decision, a plenty of judgments were referred to. In the State of Bombay vs Narottamdas Jethabhai and another[1], it was held that the jurisdiction of courts in respect to particular matters under Entry 1 of list II was open to both the Central and Provincial Legislatures.

2. In Mulchand Kundanmal vs Raman Hiralal[2]The Provincial Legislatures were given the competence for establishing the courts and also to hear all causes of a civil nature as per Item 1 of List II.

3. The Supreme Court ruled in the favor of the decision given by the High Court. The High Court emphasized the need of shifting the Court building keeping in view the interest of the litigant Public. In addition to it, the appellant association was given an opportunity to view the details of the other buildings available at Manjeri itself.

4. It further considered the report of the District judge with regard to the traveling facilities for the litigant public to both the places. As per the records received, there was absence of even the bare necessities to run the court properly.

5. The problem of lack of space also included the availability of only a single staircase. The advocates and the litigants had to wait on the staircase when their cases were called. Moreover, the building lacked adequate ventilation. There was a little privacy for Lady Lawyers as well as other advocates.

It was held that the principle of proportionality must be applied as the Family Courts follow different procedures than other courts and the Malappuram was more geographically suitable. So the state Government would provide for an appropriate site for the working of the concerned Court. The court was dismissed.

-- [1] AIR 1951 SC 69 [2] 51 Bom. L.R. 86/ 005

This article is written by Ishita Gupta of Panjab University chandigarh.

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