Delhi High Court: Upholding the rights of the putative father, V. Kameswar Rao, J., expressed that while determining and granting such rights, more so when the child is of less than 3 years of age, surely his well-being/welfare is of paramount importance.
The petition sought aside, the lower Court’s decision to the extent that the respondent had been granted visitation rights of the minor child for two hours every day.
Trial Court has erred in partially allowing the respondent’s application filed under Section 12 of the Guardian and Wards Act, 1890 read with Sections 6(a) and 6(b) of the Hindu Minority and Guardianship Act, 1956 read with Section 151 Civil Procedure Code, 1908.
Petitioner submitted that the respondent, who was the father of a minor child had admitted himself to be a putative father. The visitation rights were granted on two major grounds i.e., (i) respondent has admitted the paternity of the minor child and; (ii) respondent is residing in the same premises as the minor child and the petitioner albeit on a different floor.
Whether Family Court was justified in allowing the visitation rights of respondent for having access to the minor child for two hours per day?
High Court firstly stated that it cannot be disputed that the respondent being a putative father shall be entitled to visitation rights.
“While determining and granting such rights, more so when the child is of less than three years of age, surely his well-being / welfare is of paramount importance.”
In the present matter, the child was 3 years old.
Ms Geeta Luthra, Senior Advocate submitted that the impugned order disregarded the interest and welfare of the child as it upsets the schedule of the child and the respondent had been taking the child out without following the COVID-19 norms. She added to her submissions that the visitation rights hindered the custodial rights of the petitioner.
Whereas, Ms Revecca M. John, Senior Counsel submitted that the respondent had been taking care of all the needs of the child, h had also taken a sabbatical from work and that the respondent was a primary care giver of the child.
A Coordinate Bench of this Court in the case of Pradeep Santolia v. State WP(Crl.) 3294/2018 held that the child’s ties with father should not be completely and perpetually stopped to ensure a healthy emotional quotient and a robust psychological growth of the child, for which the affection of both the parents would be necessary.
This Court on noting the tender age of the minor child who was less than 3 years old, modified the impugned order and directed as follows:
I. The visitation hours given to the respondent by the Trial Court for 2 hours daily may not be conducive for the child of that tender age. Appropriate shall be instead of daily, the respondent shall have visitation rights on alternate weekdays i.e., Monday, Wednesday and Friday on which days he will collect the child at 6 PM and return the child to the petitioner at 8 PM on the same day.
II. On Sunday, the respondent shall collect the child from the petitioner at 11 AM and return the child at 5 PM on the same day.
III. The above visitation shall be subject to the respondent residing in the same property i.e., C-99, Defence Colony.
IV. The respondent shall ensure the safety and well-being of the child; and ensure that necessary COVID-19 protocols are maintained and the child is not exposed by non-essential outings to public places. This does not preclude the respondent from taking the child to a nearby park.
V. The respondent shall not take the child out of the territorial limits of the Courts in Delhi.
VI. The respondent shall have unsupervised visitation rights to the child, i.e., the respondent would not be supervised by a nanny, Local Commissioner, etc. However, during visitations, liberty is with the respondent to have his family members present.
VII. The respondent shall also be at liberty to speak / interact with the child through video call / audio call once a day on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, in the evenings between 6 PM to 8 PM for not more than 10 minutes.
In view of the above petition was disposed of. [Kinri Dhir v. Veer Singh, 2022 SCC OnLine Del 816, decided on 24-3-2022]
Advocates for the Court:
For the Petitioner:
Ms. Geeta Luthra, Sr. Adv. with Ms. Shivani Luthra Lohiya, Ms. Asmita Narula, Mr. Anubhav Singh and Ms. Priyanka Prasanth, Advs.
For the Respondent:
Ms. Rebecca M. John, Sr. Adv. with Ms. Gauri Rishi, Mr. Manav Gupta, Ms. Srishti Juneja, Ms. Garima Sehgal, Mr. Sahil Garg, Mr. Ankit Gupta, Ms. Praavita Kashyp, Advs.