District court can only appoint guardian for minor's 'property', not 'person'

District court can only appoint guardian for minor's 'property', not 'person'

K S Narayana Elayathu Vs Sandhya

Kerala HC

22/12/2021

MFA NO. 150 OF 2021

About/from the judgment:

The High Court recently ruled that while District Courts are empowered to appoint a guardian for a minor's property, only Family Court can appoint a guardian for the person of a minor.

While partly allowing an appeal, the court set aside the proceedings of the District Court to the extent of appointing a guardian for the person of the minor.

"As far as the impugned proceedings of the District Court is concerned, with respect to the jurisdiction to entertain the petition for appointing guardian for the property of the minor, there is no illegality or impropriety which warrants our interference. But, with respect to the appointment of guardian of the person of the minor, the District Court has no jurisdiction, as it is a dispute squarely coming under explanation (g) to Section 7(1) of the Family Courts Act."

The appellant herein moved the Court challenging the proceedings of an Additional District Judge. The said proceedings were initiated by the respondent herein, who is the mother of minor girl Nivedya against the appellant (minor's father).

Due to strained marital relationship, the appellant and respondent were living separately and the minor child was staying with her mother. Plaint schedule property was owned by the minor's maternal grandmother, and it was settled in her favour as per a settlement deed.

The wife filed an O.P for declaring her as the guardian of the person and property of the minor. The District Court, after hearing the rival contentions raised by the parties, found that, when custody of the property of a minor is involved, the jurisdiction is with the District Court.

The husband challenged the jurisdiction of the Court in entertaining that petition. He contended that the District Court lacks jurisdiction, as the entire right of the District Court, by virtue of the Guardian & Wards Act, has been taken over by the Family Court as per Section 7 (1) explanation (g) of the Family Courts Act, 1984.

Therefore, the question before the High Court was whether the District Court has the jurisdiction to entertain a petition for the appointment of a guardian for the person and property of a minor.

The appellant contended that prior to the dissolution of his matrimonial relationship, his mother had executed a settlement deed in favour of his minor child reserving life interest for the appellant in the property and the house situated therein.

He added that he had filed another petition before the Family Court, Muvattupuzha, for getting custody of the minor child which is still pending.

The Court observed that there is no doubt with regard to the fact that, in a suit or proceeding in relation to the guardianship of the person or the custody of, or access to, any minor, the jurisdiction of the District Court is taken away by the Family Courts Act as per Section 7(1) explanation (g) of the Family Courts Act, 1984. But, when the question involved relates to the appointment of a guardian in respect of the property of a minor, the Family Court has no jurisdiction, as that dispute is not coming under explanation (g) to Section 7(1).

It was noted that since the question regarding guardianship of the person of the minor between the parents of the minor is to be decided by a Family Court, the District Court cannot decide on that issue, especially when the proceedings initiated by the appellant for getting guardianship and custody of the minor child is pending consideration before a Family Court.

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