Breakdown of marriage is not an end of parental responsibilities: SC

Supreme Court: Showing dismay over a case where two minors were forced to stay in a Boarding School due to an ongoing marital dispute between their parents, the bench of AM Khanwilkar and Ajay Rastogi, JJ has said,

“the rights of the child need to be respected as he/she is entitled to the love of both the parents. Even if there is a breakdown of marriage, it does not signify the end of parental responsibility. It is the child who suffers the most in a matrimonial dispute.”

The Court as hearing a custody battle involving 2 children wherein the Court was asked to decide if custody should be given the father and paternal grandparents of the children, the Court noticed that  because of a warpath of the couple, both the paternal grandparents died during pendency of the proceedings. Urging the litigating parties to introspect and take stock of their deeds and to find out a reasonable amicable solution of the on­going matrimonial discord to secure peace and of their better future, the Court said,

“It is an ideal situation where the grandparents remain in the company of their children and also of their grandchildren, but very few are fortunate to have this pleasure in the fag end of their life. In the instant case, the grandparents were not only deprived of love and affection of their children but also of their grandchildren and because of this matrimonial tussle between the parties, they have lost their lives.”

In the present case, the High Court of Delhi, in the first instance, made effort after holding a separate and joint session with the parents along with the children but nothing fruitful came forward and when the litigation came to the Supreme Court, tireless efforts were made by it keeping in view the paramount interest of the children. However, the efforts made by this Court could not bring any congeniality between the spouse and the Court was constrained to pass an Order keeping in view the paramount interest of the children to place both the children in boarding school as it was not in their best interest to continue with either parent. On the 2017 order, the Court said that,

“it would always remain in the interest of the parties to resolve these disputes amicably sitting across the table but unfortunately the ego of the warring parents come forward and the sufferings of the children are shadowed over it.”

The father of the children submitted before the Court that the guardianship of both the minor children be handed over to him as they are living separately from both the parents for quite some time and if he is unable to persuade this Court in taking the custody of the minor children, liberty may be granted to him to file a separate guardianship petition before the competent authority and the interim arrangement made by this Court may remain subject to the outcome of the stated petition, if any, being filed by either party regarding custody of the minor children.

The mother, on the other hand, argued that both the paternal grandparents of the children have recently passed away and there is no one who may have a positive influence on the children and who may contribute and ensure their well­being and cultural growth.Further, there is no female member in the house to look after the growing daughter at present and at least she may be permitted by the school administration to have a glimpse of her beloved children to which she is entitled for under the law as their mother.

After taking note of all the submissions and the facts of the case, the Court held that the interim arrangement which has been made by this Court vide its Order dated 7th September, 2017 and orders passed thereafter shall continue with a liberty to the parties to file independent proceedings for the custody or guardianship of the minor children before the competent Court of jurisdiction which, if instituted, may be decided independently in accordance with law and that alone would be in the best interest of the children.

The Court, further, clarified that

“if such an application is filed by either of the party, that may be decided by the Court independently without being influenced/inhibited by the observations made in   the instant proceedings expeditiously in accordance with law.”

[Saumitra Kumar Nahar v. Parul Nahar, CIVIL APPEAL NO(S).1670 OF 2020,

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