Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: The bench of UU Lalit, Indu Malhotra and Hemant Gupta, JJ, explaining the concept of a mirror order, has said,

“The mirror order is passed to ensure that the courts of the country where the child is being shifted are aware of the arrangements which were made in the country where he had ordinarily been residing. Such an order would also safeguard the interest of the parent who is losing custody, so that the rights of visitation and temporary custody are not impaired.”

Mirror orders are passed to safeguard the interest of the child who is in transit from one jurisdiction to another. The primary jurisdiction is exercised by the court where the child has been ordinarily residing for a substantial period of time and has conducted an elaborate enquiry on the issue of custody. The court may direct the parties to obtain a “mirror order” from the court where the custody of the child is being shifted. Such an order is ancillary or auxiliary in character, and supportive of the order passed by the court which has exercised primary jurisdiction over the custody of the child.In international family law, it is necessary that jurisdiction is exercised by only one court at a time. These orders are passed keeping in mind the principle of comity of courts and public policy.

The judgment of the court which had exercised primary jurisdiction of the custody of the minor child is however not a matter of binding obligation to be followed by the court where the child is being transferred, which has passed the mirror order. The judgment of the court exercising primary jurisdiction would however have great persuasive value.

The said explanation came in a 2:1 verdict, where Indu Malhotra, J, writing the majority judgment for herself and UU Lalit, J, transferred the custody of an 11-year-old child to his father, an Indian-origin business tycoon living in Kenya, from his mother with whom he has been living since birth.

The decision was taken based on an overall consideration of the holistic growth of the child determined on the basis of his preferences as mandated by Section 17(3), the best educational opportunities which would be available to him, adaptation to the culture of the country of which he is a national, and where he is likely to spend his adult life, learning the local language of that country, exposure to other cultures which would be beneficial for him in his future life. However, to safeguard the rights and interest of the mother, the Court directed the father to obtain a mirror order from the concerned court in Nairobi, which would reflect the directions contained in this Judgment.

Disagreeing with Justice Malhotra’s opinion, Justice Gupta held that the child should be given liberty to choose his destination after he comes out of age.

[Smriti Madan Kansagra v. Perry Kansagra,  2020 SCC OnLine SC 887, decided on 28.10.2020]


Read the full report on why the custody of the child was transferred to his father and why Justice Gupta disagreed with the majority opinion here.

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: The bench of UU Lalit, Indu Malhotra and Hemant Gupta, JJ has, in a 2:1 verdict, has transferred the custody of an 11-year-old child to his father, an Indian-origin business tycoon living in Kenya, from his mother with whom he has been living since birth.

The decision was taken based on an overall consideration of the holistic growth of the child determined on the basis of his preferences as mandated by Section 17(3), the best educational opportunities which would be available to him, adaptation to the culture of the country of which he is a national, and where he is likely to spend his adult life, learning the local language of that country, exposure to other cultures which would be beneficial for him in his future life.

However, to safeguard the rights and interest of the mother, the Court directed the father to obtain a mirror order from the concerned court in Nairobi, which would reflect the directions contained in this Judgment.

What is a mirror order?

Mirror orders are passed to safeguard the interest of the child who is in transit from one jurisdiction to another. The primary jurisdiction is exercised by the court where the child has been ordinarily residing for a substantial period of time and has conducted an elaborate enquiry on the issue of custody. The court may direct the parties to obtain a “mirror order” from the court where the custody of the child is being shifted. Such an order is ancillary or auxiliary in character, and supportive of the order passed by the court which has exercised primary jurisdiction over the custody of the child.In international family law, it is necessary that jurisdiction is exercised by only one court at a time. These orders are passed keeping in mind the principle of comity of courts and public policy.

“The mirror order is passed to ensure that the courts of the country where the child is being shifted are aware of the arrangements which were made in the country where he had ordinarily been residing. Such an order would also safeguard the interest of the parent who is losing custody, so that the rights of visitation and temporary custody are not impaired.”

The judgment of the court which had exercised primary jurisdiction of the custody of the minor child is however not a matter of binding obligation to be followed by the court where the child is being transferred, which has passed the mirror order. The judgment of the court exercising primary jurisdiction would however have great persuasive value.


Indu Malhotra, J (for herself and UU Lalit, J)


As per Section 17(3), the preferences and inclinations of the child are of vital importance for determining the issue of custody of the minor child. Section 17(5) further provides that the court shall not appoint or declare any person to be a guardian against his will.

Hence, in view of the various personal interactions which the courts have had at different stages of the proceedings, from the age of 6 years, till the present when he is now almost 11 years old, the Court arrived at the conclusion that it would be in his best interest to transfer the custody to his father.

The Court found the child to be bright and articulate for his age, who was quite confident, and expressed with clarity about his inclinations and aspirations. The child was deeply attached to his mother and maternal grandmother, with whom he lives, and at the same time exhibited a strong and deep bond with his father, which had evidently grown by the regular visitations of his father and grand-parents every month during the past 8 years. He expressed a strong interest for going to Kenya for his education, and for higher studies to the U.K. He expressed a keen interest to travel overseas, for which he had got no opportunity so far. The Court, hence, noticed,

“If his preferences are not given due regard to, it could have an adverse psychological impact on the child.”

The court also noticed that the child is the heir apparent of a vast family business established by the paternal family in Kenya and U.K. Since the businesses of the paternal family are primarily established in Kenya and the U.K., it would be necessary for the child to imbibe and assimilate the culture and traditions of the country where he would live as an adult, learn the local and adapt himself to the living conditions and surroundings of the country.

“Since the child is still in his formative years of growth, it would be much easier for him to imbibe and get acclimatized to the new environment.”

The Court, hence, held that the minor child has been in the exclusive custody of his mother from birth till adolescence, which is the most crucial formative period in a person’s life and having completed almost 11 years in her exclusive custody, he is now entitled to enjoy the protection and care of his father, for his holistic growth and development. However, mother’s continued participation in the growth and development of the child would be crucial.


Hemant Gupta, J (Dissenting)


Disagreeing with Justice Malhotra’s opinion, Justice Gupta held that the child should be given liberty to choose his destination after he comes out of age.

He noticed that the question of where the welfare of the child lies narrows down to the mother who has stopped practicing law to nurture child as against the father who travels quite substantially every month.

“In the absence of the father, the child will be in the custody of nannies, maids and servants. The grandparents would not be able to take care of the growing needs of a young child. All things being equal, the presence of grandparents can tilt in balance but where a mother who is available 24/7 for guiding, caring and nurturing a growing child as against a father who needs to travel outside his normal place of stay frequently, I find that the mother is more suitable in whose hands the welfare of the child is secured.”

In his judgment, Justice Gupta also highlighted the aspect that the conduct of the father and his parents was inclined towards pampering the child inasmuch as an iPhone was given to the child when he was of six years of age. They have pampered the child by giving him 4-5 iPads. The mother had also deposed that child had once broken one newly purchased iPad but the father bought another iPad for the child immediately without any counselling to value the things purchased.

“These are instances which suggests pampering the child. From the controlled and supervised household of the mother, if the custody is given to the father, the sudden exposure to the materialistic things have the potency to derail the studies and wellbeing of the growing child.”

He, hence, held that that considering that the child has grown up in India in the last 11 years, the child would be exposed to physical and psychological harm, if he is shifted to Kenya amongst fellow students and teachers but without any friends. He would be taken care of by nannies, maids with pampering by the grandparents and the father. Hence, the child should remain with the mother.

[Smriti Madan Kansagra v. Perry Kansagra,  2020 SCC OnLine SC 887, decided on 28.10.2020]

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: In a case dealing with the custody of a 7-year-old, the 3-judge bench of Dr. DY Chandrachud, Indu Malhotra and Indira Banerjee, JJ has said that mere fact that a mother is looking after the child with the assistance of her parents, does not detract from her role and responsibility as a mother.

In the present case, ever since the appellant and the respondent started living apart in 2016, the child has been in the care and custody of the appellant, his mother who was living in Bengaluru. The appellant, upon being temporarily transferred to Singapore by her employer, she sought for the child’s passport which was in possession of the respondent, the father. This is when the respondent filed an application for restraining the appellant from taking the child out of Bengaluru.

The respondent contended that the child is in the custody of the parents of the appellant in Bengaluru and should remain with them. Alternatively, he submitted that he would take charge of the child.

On this the Court noticed that while the parents of the appellant may have volunteered at least temporarily to relocate from NOIDA to Bengaluru to help the appellant in looking after the child, the respondent cannot be heard to assert that the child must continue to remain in Bengaluru with the maternal grand-parents.

“For the respondent to insist that the court should direct the continued presence of the child under the care of the maternal grand-parents who have come to Bengaluru and stay in a rented accommodation obtained by the appellant, does not appear to be fair.”

The Court was of the opinion that the fact that the parents of the appellant have moved to Bengaluru to help their daughter, does not transfer the custody of the child, either as a matter of law or fact, from the appellant to the maternal grand-parents.

It also said that there was no sufficient material to indicate that the respondent was in a position to look after the child on his own, by disturbing a position which has held the field since 2016. When the spouses were together, the child lived and grew up in the care of both the parents. Since 2016, the appellant has taken the responsibility for the welfare of the child.

Further, during the course of the interaction on the video-conferencing platform, the child indicated his desire to reside with his mother in Singapore. The Court, hence, noticed

“While the child is attached to the respondent, he has indicated, in no uncertain terms, his desire to live with his mother. The appellant is gainfully employed in Singapore and her desire that she should be allowed to take the child with her is not an artifice. The appellant, as the mother of the child, has been continuously with the child since his birth, despite the demands of her employment.”

Noticing that the interests of the child are best subserved by ensuring that both the parents have a presence in his upbringing, the Court said that the respondent, as the father, is entitled to have adequate rights of access and visitation as a balance has to be drawn so as to ensure that in a situation where the parents are in a conflict, the child has a sense of security.

[Ritika Sharan v. Sujoy Ghosh,  2020 SCC OnLine SC 878, decided on 28.10.2020]

Case BriefsForeign Courts

Lord Campbell, CJ., while deciding the custody of child allowed the Writ of Habeas Corpus, marking significant observations on ‘guardian of nurture’ in light of settled precedents.

Brief Facts

The present case is concerned with the custody of a ten-year-old girl, named, Alicia Race. A writ of habeas corpus is filed by the girl’s mother, who is also the guardian for nurture, the father being dead and there being no testamentary guardian. It is to be noted that the deceased father was a Protestant and the mother is a Roman Catholic by faith, practice and belief. No directions by the deceased father were given by testament as to the manner in which the children may be brought up. Further, the child whose custody is sought reads at a Catholic school in Hampstead.

After the father of the girl martyred in the service of the nation, the family was selected as objects of the Royal Patriotic Fund, wherein allowances were given for necessities including education. During his lifetime, the children were sent to Protestant school, visited their churches with all concurrence of the mother. However, in 1856, she sought to take away the children for the purpose of having them educated at Roman Catholics. The Commissioners of the Royal Patriotic Fund, upon consideration of the application called in the children to know their wishes. While the boy agreed and returned to his mother, the girl expressed great reluctance stating that, as much as she loves her mother, she would not go to a school where idolatrous worship is preached. Subsequently, the Commissioners and Miss Clarke, the school mistress, refused to give the girl to her mother. Hence, the present writ is moved. 

Arguments

For the school mistress and the Commissioners, it was argued by O’Malley and Lush, that the wish of the infant must be acknowledged and even if it is assumed that the mother was guardian for nurture, the custody sought was for an improper, inconsistent object of bringing up the child in a faith different from that of the deceased parent.

Issue

Whether the writ of habeas corpus maintainable against the school mistress and the Commissioners?

Whether rights of guardian in the nurture of higher importance than the wishes of the child?

Decision

Allowing the writ petition, the Court granted the custody of the minor child to her mother and further cited, “if a guardian, by reason of nurture, delivers the infant to another for instruction, he may afterwards, retake the infant.” It also suggested the child continue the school at Hampstead which in the Court’s opinion was admirably conducted but left the sole discretion on the mother to decide. Apropos, the wishes of child as put forth by the counsel for respondents, the Court making a comparison between wishes of child and rights of a guardian by nurture remarked that if such contention is to be accepted, “the Court must in each case ascertain whether there was sufficient intelligence by personal examination of the child”

Relied/Referred Precedents and Legislation

  • Radcliff’s case, 3 Rep. 37 a. 38 b., guardianship for nurture continues till the child attains the age of fourteen. As per the general rule, if a child within the age of seven is brought before the Court in a case of custody to guardian, it is bound to deliver the child, at once but if the age vary between seven to fourteen, the Court may examine and ascertain whether the child is competent to make a choice in a given situation, more clearly the ‘mental capacity’ of the child.
  • Serjeant Talfourd’s Act, 2&3 Vict. C. 54, s.1, where infant under the age of seven and in the sole custody or control of father, the Lord Chancellor or the Master of the Rolls may make an order that such infant be delivered to and remain in the custody of the mother until they attain the age of seven years. Calling it a peculiar age of nurture, the Court recognized it as entirely different from the guardianship for nurture which belongs to the father in his lifetime, even from the birth of the child.
  • Rex v. De Manneville, 5 East, 221, a writ of habeas corpus is an appropriate remedy in the cases where the child is below the age of seven.
  • Rex v. Johnson, 1 Str. 579, custody of a nine year old girl was given to her guardian (mother) from her testamentary guardian (nurse).
  • Rex v. Smith, 2 Str. 982, overruled, the previous case by allowing a boy of few months lesser than fourteen to reside with his aunt against the habeas corpus petition brought by his father.
  • Rex v. Greenhill, & E. 624, marks the settling of issue on a general rule wherein if a person within the age of twenty one years is brought before the Court, and possess the ability to exercise his choice, the Court shall leave on the individual to decide where he wishes to go but where he is incapable by any reason of making such choice, custody shall be decided by the Court.
  • In re Lloyd, mother of an illegitimate child was denied custody of a child between eleven and twelve years by relying on Rex v. Hopkins, wherein it was held, “Only while an illegitimate child is under seven that the Courts will interfere to protect the custody of the mother”
  • The instant Court also referred to several other decisions wherein despite a Parsee man adopted Christianity, the custody of the child was given to him, who was detained by the Parsee family. Moreover, in another case, the Court ordered a Hindu boy of twelve years, who professed to have embraced Christianity to be delivered to his father, who adhered to the Hindu religion.
  • In Villareal v. Mellish, 2 Swanet. 533 and Talbot v. The Earl of Shrewsbury, 4 Myl. & Cr. 672, the Court observed that it finds no distinction between different religions and will not interfere with the discretion of guardians as to the faith in which they educate their wards. In re Arabella Frances North, 11 Jurist 7, the Court held that the ward must invariably be educated in the religion of the father.

 [Queen v. Clarke, 119 ER 1217 : (1857) 7 EL & BL 186]

Interesting the Supreme Court of India followed the dictum laid down in this judgment to grant custody of a minor illegitimate child to her mother in Gohar Begam v. Suggi, AIR 1960 SC 93 : 1960 Cri LJ 164

 

Case BriefsSupreme Court

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,

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: In the issue relating to custody of a child where the question was as to whether the Counsellor’s report furnished in the course of mediation proceedings or the Mediator’s report in case of mediation, when the process fails, can be used by either of the parties during trial, the bench of Abhay Manohar Sapre and UU Lalit, JJ held:

“Complete adherence to confidentiality would absolutely be correct in normal matters where the role of the court is purely of an adjudicator. But such an approach may not essentially be conducive when the court is called upon and expected to discharge its role in the capacity as parens patriae and is concerned with the welfare of a child.”

On general rule of confidentiality in Mediation:

It is true that the process of mediation is founded on the element of confidentiality. In the process, the parties may make statements which they otherwise they would not have made while the matter was pending adjudication before a court of law. Such statements which are essentially made in order to see if there could be a settlement, ought not to be used against the maker of such statements in case at a later point the attempts at mediation completely fail. If the statements are allowed to be used at subsequent stages, the element of confidence which is essential for healthy mediation/conciliation would be completely lost.

On exception in issue relating to custody of a child:

The Court said that in order to reach correct conclusion, the court may interview the child or may depend upon the analysis of an expert who may spend some more time with the child and gauge the upbringing, personality, desires or mental frame of the child and render assistance to the court. It is precisely for this reason that the element of confidentiality which is otherwise the basic foundation of mediation/conciliation, to a certain extent, is departed from in Sub-Rule (viii) of Rule 8 of the Family Court Rules.

Statements made by the parents during the course of mediation may not be relied upon on the ground of confidentiality but natural responses and statements made by the minor to the Counsellor would certainly afford a chance to decide what is in the best interest of the child as a child may respond naturally and spontaneously in its interactions with the Counsellor, who is professionally trained to make the child feel comfortable. Stating that record of such interaction may afford valuable inputs to the Court in discharge of its duties in parens patriae jurisdiction, the Court said:

“The intention is clear that the normal principle of confidentiality will not apply in matters concerning custody or guardianship issues and the Court, in the best interest of the child, must be equipped with all the material touching upon relevant issues in order to render complete justice.”

[Perry Kansagra v. Smriti Madan Kansagra, 2019 SCC OnLine SC 211, decided on 15.02.2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Calcutta High Court: A Single Judge Bench comprising of Sahidullah Munshi, J. allowed an application under Section 24 CPC for transfer of a child custody case arising out of Section 7, 8 and 25 of the Guardians and Wards Act, 1890.

The application was filed by the mother of the child for transfer of the case from the Court of District Judge, Alipore to the Court of District Judge, Paschim Medinipur. The petitioner was married to the respondent. In 2016, she filed a complaint against the petitioner under Section 498-A IPC and Sections 3 and 4 of Dowry Prohibition Act. The respondent filed an application for custody of the child born from the wedlock under Sections 7, 8, and 25 of the Guardians and Wards Act. Subsequently, the petitioner filed the present petition.

The High Court perused Section 9 of the Act of 1890 and observed that territorial jurisdiction of the court in matters of guardianship applications lie where the child ordinarily resides. In the present case, based on the facts, it was clear that the child ordinarily resided with the mother at Paschim Medinipur. The Court was of the view that the child could not be expected to travel 100 km to Alipore on every date of hearing. In such circumstances and in view of Section 9, the Court held that it would be appropriate to transfer the proceedings from the Court of District Judge, Alipore to the Court of District Judge, Paschim Medinipur. Orders were made accordingly. The petition was, thus, allowed. [Ruhi Sahina v. Syed Masidur Rahman, 2018 SCC OnLine Cal 5758, dated 28-08-2018]

Case BriefsDistrict Court

Tis Hazari Court, Delhi (Family Court): The Bench of Reema Singh Nag, Additional Principal Judge dismissed a custody petition filed by a mother of 2 minor children against their father living in the United States of America.

As per the factual matrix of the case, the petitioner (mother) and the respondent (father) are both citizens of USA. They married in the year 2006 in New York as per US Civil Laws. The matrimonial home of the couple is in Connecticut. Both are dentists and have their joint dental practice in Stamford, Connecticut. Two children were born to the couple from the wedlock, both of whom are US citizens. There was a matrimonial discord between the couple. The petitioner alleged various counts of mental and physical harassment against the respondent; while the respondent denied the same and contra-alleged that the petitioner suffered from borderline personality disorder. The couple visited India in January 2016 to attend a wedding; they were scheduled to return in March 2016 but the petitioner refused to return. Subsequently, the respondent obtained a custody order from the US courts for both the kids and also filed a writ of habeas corpus before the Delhi High Court which was allowed. The habeas corpus order was challenged by the petitioner in the Supreme Court which matter is pending awaiting the decision on the instant petition.

The Family Court on detailed appreciation of the evidence and the law on the subject decided the issues in favour of the respondent and dismissed the petition. While so adjudicating, the Court discussed and made observations on various issues. The observations so made (inter alia) are delineated,  hereinafter:

  • Simply by taking oath of allegiance to the Constitution of India and applying for Indian citizenship, the petitioner could not invoke jurisdiction of the instant Court.
  • Court could not assist in breach of immigration law by the petitioner, the Court lacked jurisdiction under Section 9 of Guardian and Wards Act, 1956.
  • It was for the petitioner to prove that the respondent was an unfit person for custody of the children, she failed to do so.
  • The parties need to go for periodical expert counselling to learn to behave in presence of kids, for their healthy and natural growth.
  • The civil marriage under US law had its legal consequence and cannot be dissolved under Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 unless approved by the USA through judicial verdict.
  • K.S. Puttaswamy v. Union of India, (2017) 10 SCC 1  does not deal with the guardianship issue. It cannot be extended to imply that a parent subsumes autonomy of the child in the form of guardianship.
  • Every child fits in the definition of best interest of the child as stipulated under Section 2(9) of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015 since any decision in derogation of this definition would be harmful for the child.
  • Convention on Rights of Child requires that best interest of the child has to be primary consideration in all actions concerning him (Article 3); State is to ensure that no child is separated from parents accept under law (Article 9); and hearing is to be given to the child for weighing his wish according to his age and maturity (Article 12).
  • It is imperative that a child is exposed to nurture by both mother and father equally for his holistic development.
  • Personal development during cognitive ages of a child is sustained upon the bedrock of strong unit of sustained co-operative parenthood.

In the facts and circumstances of the case, the Court was of the view that the paramount welfare of the kids lies in shared parenting in the United States of America. It was held that the petitioner was not entitled to permanent and sole custody of the children. In view of the above, the custody petition was dismissed by the Court. [Jasmeet Kaur v. Navtej Singh,2018 SCC OnLine Fam Ct (Del) 1, dated 20-08-2018]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Delhi High Court: A Division Bench comprising of G.S. Sistani and Sangita Dhingra Sehgal, JJ. dismissed an appeal filed against the order of the Family Court whereby interim custody of a minor child was refused to his father.

The appellants were the father and paternal grandparents of the minor child, aged 8 years, concerned in this matter.  The appellant was married to the deceased. A son was born to them within the wedlock. The deceased committed suicide by hanging and an FIR was registered against the appellants. In a petition filed by the respondent – maternal grandparents of the child, interim custody of the minor child was handed over to them. Further, the Family Court, vide the order impugned, declined the interim custody of the child to the appellants. The present appeal was filed under Section 19 of the Family Courts Act.

The High Court carefully examined the order impugned and found no infirmity in it. The Court took into account the fact recorded by the Family Court that the child was not comfortable with the appellants and had refused to meet or talk to them. He even started to weep after seeing his father. The Family Court further recorded that respondents were looking properly after the child and providing him good education. Furthermore, the Family Court recognized that if the child continues to meet with his father under the supervision of family counsellor, it would remove bad feelings in mind of the child against his father. The High Court was of the view that the Family Court made all efforts so that the child may become comfortable with his father before a final review in the matter is taken up. Accordingly, the appeal filed was held to be sans merit and it was, thus, dismissed. [Vijay Kumar Jha v. Shailender Kumar Jha, 2018 SCC OnLine Del 10721, dated 31-07-2018]

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: Setting aside the Delhi High Court order where a father was directed to hand over the custody of his 5-year-old son to his mother, the bench of Dipak Misra, CJ and Amitava Roy, J held that unless, the continuance of the child in the country to which it has been removed, is unquestionably harmful, when judged on the touchstone of overall perspectives, perceptions and practicabilities, it ought not to be dislodged and extricated from the environment and setting to which it had got adjusted for its well-being.

Considering the facts of the case where the child was barely 2½ years old when he came over to India and had stayed with his father since then, the Court said that since he has stayed in US in his infant years, the duration is too little for the required integration of his with the social, physical, psychological, cultural and academic environment of US to get totally upturned by his transition to this country, so much so that unless he is immediately repatriated, his inherent potentials and faculties would suffer an immeasurable set back.

Hence, the verdict that was penned by Roy, J said:

“a child of tender years, with malleable and impressionable mind and delicate and vulnerable physique would suffer serious set-back if subjected to frequent and unnecessary translocation in its formative years.”

The Court also took note of the fact that no material was brought on record, persuasive and convincing enough, to take a view that immediate restoration of the custody of the child to the mother in the native country is obligatorily called for in its interest and welfare.

The Court noticed that the child is growing in a congenial environment in the loving company of his grand-parents and other relatives and has been admitted to a reputed school and contrary to the nuclear family environment in US, he is exposed to a natural process of grooming in the association of his elders, friends, peers and playmates, which is irrefutably indispensable for comprehensive and conducive development of his mental and physical faculties.

The Court, hence, directed that the child, till he attains majority, ought to continue in the custody, charge and care of his father. [Prateek Gupta v. Shilpi Gupta, 2017 SCC OnLine SC 1421, decided on 06.12.2017]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Chhattigarh High Court: A Division Bench of the High Court recently decided a case filed under Section 47 of the Guardians and Wards Act, 1890 read with Section 19(1) of the Family Courts Act, 1984 against the order of the Family Court allowing the respondent wife’s application for custody of minor girl child of both the parties.

The parties married 7 years ago and 2 girls, Ashtha and Sakshi were born during the wedlock and on account of giving birth to two girls, wife was being harassed by her in-laws and one day, was kicked out of her matrimonial home with only Ashtha and Sakshi was left with the husband. The husband denied giving the custody of Sakshi to wife alleging that if the child stays with her mother, she too would become characterless like her. However, no such allegation could be proved in the Family Court.

The respondent contended that her father had enough money to teach both her daughters and the elder daughter was being brought up quite well. During this course, the Family Court interacted with the younger daughter and found out that the young girl was intelligent and communicative and further observed that a child should not suffer for the fault of parents as she is not an inanimate object who can be handed over from one parent to another and said a child must not suffer when parents are fighting. The lower court ordered that child would be able to meet the mother occasionally to which as the wife states, the husband did not comply and later on, the the custody was handed over to mother i.e. respondent.

It was informed to the Court that he had already filed a divorce petition and wife apprehended that he might remarry after divorce and the, the minor girl would be left at the mercy of step-mother. The Supreme Court observed that in dispute pertaining to custody of minor, Courts should keep in mind the paramount interest of the minor and referred to a recent judgment of Apex Court in Purvi Mukesh Gada v. Mukesh Popatlal Gada, (2017) 8 SCC 819 stating that the High Court must ascertain about the welfare of the child before passing the order regarding custody of a child.

The Bench comprising Prashant Kumar Mishra and Arvind Singh Chandel, JJ. noted that it is important to bear in mind a very germane biological aspect of the matter concerning puberty, privacy and care needed to a girl child at age between 10 to 15 years and at this stage of life, a girl child would need her natural mother the most. Finally, the Court held that the appeal is liable to be dismissed the trial court is fully justified in directing handing over custody of the girl child to mother. [Balram v. Sushma, 2017 SCC OnLine Chh 1247, decided on 08.11.2017]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Bombay High Court: While deciding a matter concerning the custody of minor girl where it was contended by the petitioner father that he should be given custody of the child as her mother was not financially sound enough to raise the child,  the Divisional Bench of Anuja Prabha Desai and A.S. Oka, JJ. held that there was no evidence that the mother neglected the child or deprived her of necessities and physical comforts in absence of which only on the basis of strong financial position the father cannot get the custody of the child.

In the said case it was also contended by the petitioner that the mother’s home was not conducive for child’s upbringing, as the conduct of child`s mother who had taken divorce twice was unsuitable for minor child. The Court did not find this issue as a detrimental factor in deciding the issue of entrustment of child.

The Court also observed that there was no elderly female member in the house of petitioner father or other children in the age group of the child to take care of the child or to provide her company, under such circumstances disturbing custody of child would cause mental stress and psychological trauma to child. [Shrirang Purushottam Deshmukh v. Radhika Shrirang Deshmukh, 2016 SCC OnLine Bom 10582, decided on 14-12-2016]