The High Court of Punjab and Haryana has dismissed the plea of a father whose child was with his in-laws after the death of his wife.
“Uprooting a child from a family atmosphere where he has been living for more than one year, at a tender age, will not be in his best interest. This is despite the fact that the petitioner is the father and natural guardian of the child after death of the mother,” the bench of Justice Suvir Sehgal observed while dismissing a habeas corpus plea of the father.
The Court was dealing with the petition filed by a Sonepat resident, who had approached Court in Feb 2021 seeking his 4-year-old son’s custody. After differences between the couple, the woman had shifted to her parent's home in Rohtak in July 2020 with her son. She died in Dec 2020 due to cardiac arrest.
The Court stated that “Welfare of the child is of paramount consideration and it is the bounden duty of the court to ensure that the child lives in a healthy and congenial atmosphere".
“Petitioner (father) has failed to bring any material on record to show as to how he intends to take care of the child, who by now is more than four years old and is school-going. On the other hand, the private respondents are living in a joint family setup,” the Court said, taking note of submissions from family of the minor’s mother that the child’s grandparents are looking after him.
The child’s grandfather is a retired Govt servant and on pension. It was also stated that unmarried aunt and maternal uncles of the child are also there to take care of him.
It came to light that the woman’s family is seeking lawful guardianship and permanent custody of the child under the Guardian and Wards Act, 1890, in family Court.
The woman’s parents had told the court that their daughter, a teacher in Ambala, was harassed by the family of her husband.
In Oct 2019, she had begun living separately and in July 2020, she moved in with them along with her son. The husband never visited his wife and son. In fact, his attitude towards them was that of “aloofness and he did not show any inclination to keep the child with him”. After death of the woman, he didn't even perform the last rites, they said.