LE Correspondent

New Delhi, June 10, 2022:  While setting aside the orders of the Family Court, the Delhi High Court has opined that mere adverse orders are not sufficient to invoke the power of transfer and the allegation of bias needs to be evaluated on the premises of reasonable apprehension of bias.

Referring to the conduct of the Judge of sharing his personal number with the parties and meeting one party unilaterally in his chamber which had unnecessarily given a cause of reasonable apprehension of bias, the Bench of Justice Dinesh Kumar Sharma said, “The judges have to remind themselves time and again that each and every conduct is observed and noted by the litigants and therefore, knowingly or unknowingly they may not act in any manner which gives rise to even slightest of doubt in the minds of the litigants and lawyers.”

The present petition was preferred against the impugned order dated December 22, 2021 passed by the Family Court while dealing with a guardianship petition wherein the petitioner was restrained from removing her minor child, namely Anaaya Ahuja from Delhi. A further  prayer was made that the order dated August 8, 2021 shall be quashed and the proceedings be transferred from Family Court of Delhi to any other Court.  A prayer was also made for release of the Canadian passport held by the petitioner and the petitioner’s minor daughter.  While the aforesaid petition was lying sub- judice, the Family Court decided the Guardianship petition through order dated March 4, 2022. 

The petitioner-mother aggrieved by the same, filed the civil miscellaneous petition  assailing the impugned order primarily on the ground that the impugned order dated March 4, 20222 focused solely on the rights of the father and his family ignoring the comforts of the minor child. 

The Court noted that in the instant case, the grievance of the petitioner mother was that the respondent father had met the judge unilaterally in his chamber and the same created an apprehension in the mind of the petitioner-mother. It is a settled proposition that justice must not only be done but must also appear to have been done. The conduct of the judge while conducting the judicial proceedings should be above board, noticed the Bench.

On the plea of transfer of case, the Court was of the view that the divorce petition between the parties was pending before the Family Court, Delhi and the Guardianship petition which was finally decided but the same was also under challenge before this Court. In view of the aforesaid observations, the Court stated that it had no iota of doubt over the integrity, neutrality and judicial independence of the Judge of the Family Court. However, at the same time, it noted that the conduct of the judge for sharing his personal number with the parties and meeting one party unilaterally in his chamber did cast unnecessary apprehension of bias.  

In pursuance of the same, the Court noted that the orders August 21, 2021 and December 22, 2021 were liable to set aside in the interest of justice and for the purpose of restoring faith of both the parties in the judicial system.  With respect to the issue of release of the passport of the petitioner-mother and daughter, the Court remitted the matter back to the file of the Principal Judge, Family Court.  Further directions were issued to the Principal Judge of the Family Court to dispose of the guardianship petition judiciously. 

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