Advocate Sabiha Sindhi is Family Law expert who has worked in the field of Family Law for 19 years. Her practice area include matters relating to Divorce, Child Custody, visitation, and support, marriage counselling, pre-nuptial and post-marital agreements. She is a regular contributor to the newspapers.
“Divorce isn’t a tragedy, a tragedy is staying in an unhappy marriage, teaching your children the wrong things about love. Nobody ever died of Divorce”
This is a Quote on the Board today of Advocate Sabiha Sindhi, a Family Court lawyer practicing all over India, sharing her experience from her Baroda office with Foreign Policy News.
FPN: Madam Sindhi, please tell us briefly about your journey as a practicing Family Court lawyer. What according to you is the peculiarity of family law in India?
Advocate Sabiha Sindhi (SS): Being a Graduate in Arts and in Law, I got enrolled in Baroda Bar Association. Since then I have been practicing family, it is almost two decades now. I have chosen to focus exclusively on family law and divorce. As I understand the laws, and can guide clients through the divorce process with lot of ease. Being a Divorce lawyer; one need to specialize in family law. Having a basic understanding of the various processes involved in family law proved beneficial for me.
As far as peculiarity of Family law in India is concerned, it is the area which deals with family-related issues and domestic relations including the nature of marriage, civil unions, and domestic partnerships; issues arising during marriage, including spousal abuse, dowry, legitimacy, adoption, surrogacy, child abuse, and child abduction, the termination of the relationship and matters including divorce, annulment, property settlements, alimony and parental responsibility orders. It may, however, be recorded here that though most of these laws have been framed to shield the interests of women, yet in varying degrees the personal laws of different religions subvert women’s right to equality guaranteed under the Constitution of India.
FPN: What type of cases do you handle? What is your advice to the clients who approach for a divorce?
(SS): I have been concentrating on family law. My area of interest is counselling estranged couples and handling highly contested matters. According to me, unlike other lawyers, a family lawyer’s duty is always to give primacy to the interest of the family while protecting the client’s interests. I first understand the issue involved in the marriage and if the same can be resolved just by counselling, I try and counsel couple to give marriage one chance especially in cases where minor children are involved.
FPN: Since you have many clients from outside of India, what is your take on enforcement of judgments and orders of foreign courts in India arising in family and matrimonial matters in overseas jurisdictions?
(SS): There is an increase in the population of Indians migrating and settling in foreign jurisdictions, but they never break the link with their home country. Family ties, connections of property and moveable assets, and numerous other continuing connections with India, often lead to cross border litigation in human relationship matters.The provisions of Section 13 CPC are fully applicable to matrimonial matters decided by foreign courts. There are certain countries which are having treaty with our Country and execution of orders are easy in such Countries. The Indian judiciary is extremely humane and considerate in family matters by implementing the foreign court orders in a practical way rather than a mechanical execution of the Order or judgment of the overseas court.
FPN: The issues related to women are being raised and discussed in various fora, in the recent times. Of these, ‘violence against women’ is gaining more and more support and recognition all over the world. Share your views on the problem of gender-based violence in India.
(SS): With the rise in the level of education and exposure to mass media, women tend to have greater awareness of gender equality, faith in the effectiveness of legal action to protect their rights, and confidence in such institutions as family courts and certain voluntary organizations working for women. Yet there is no sign of abatement in gender related violence. The case of domestic violence, like wife-battering is so personal and delicate that they are seldom reported to the police or law courts. I am sure that the recent legislation of anti-domestic violence act of 2005 would certainly take care of the problem of gender-based violence of the Indian woman to a very large extent.
FPN: What are the changes that have surfaced as far as Indian family and the traditional role of women is concerned?
(SS): The magnitude of changes that the Indian family has experienced over a period of a century appears to be far greater than the expectations. There is a virtual disappearance of traditional joint family from the urban scene. The other evidence to suggest a range of changes in the family system like increase in the incidence of separation and divorce, greater differences between wife and husband, increased freedom of marital choice, greater involvement of females in decision making process, increase in the mean age at marriage of female, rise in the level of female education, decline in total fertility rate etc. These changes have led to many new problems in the present society.
As far as traditional role of women is concerned, people often believe that women inherently tend to have stronger attachments with family and household responsibilities. On the whole, with the rise in education, urbanization and opportunity to proper employment, women are much freer now to come out of their homes with a view to meeting their family expenses. This has led women to steadily move towards greater economic independence in course of time.
FPN: Are there any mechanisms in place to implement the laws?
(SS): Yes indeed there are mechanisms, like in a complaint under the provisions of the protection of women from the Domestic Violence Act, section 8 of the law provides for setting up and function of Protection Officers (PO). These officers, are appointed by state governments, they are under the jurisdiction and control of the court, and responsible to the court for monitoring the cases of domestic abuse. The other mechanism are service providers, as defined by law, service providers are private organizations recognized under the Companies Act/ Societies Registration Act. They will have to register with the state government as a service provider to record the Domestic Incident Report and to get the aggrieved person medically examined. A Service Provider is protected for all actions done in good faith, in the exercise of the powers under this Act, towards the prevention of commission of domestic violence.
FPN: Do you think progressive laws have given equal status to women in India?
(SS):It’s now widely recognized that despite the many progressive laws that have attempted to give women equality of status, the most persistent barrier to their being recognized as equal is not so much non-implementation of the law, as it is due to social attitude, a mindset that refuses to accept the woman as equal.
FPN: Madam great to have a very good conversation on different aspects of law with you, just one last question, is there a hope that the violence against women will be curbed or reduced in near future in India?
(SS): With the participation of the civil society, besides judiciary, police, social workers, non-governmental organization counselling cells, reconciliation agencies and other quasi states actors such as the National Human Right Commission (NHRC), the National and the State Women’s Commission and specialist units such as crime against women cells and family court, there can be a coordinated response to violence against women. We still need to go miles to achieve full women’s empowerment through another round of lobbying – the agenda before are the ‘Women’s Reservation Bill’, which has been eluding enactment for so many years…
FPN: Thank you for your valuable time Madam.