Issue of guardianship and custody of a minor child has never failed to attract controversial points of view, which at times result in shifting of households for the minor child. Various situations give birth to varying decisions creating a grudge in the heart of, the minor child as well as the kin and kith of the child. From imprisonment of parents to the death of parents, the aspect of custody of the minor child can take various turns. However, the proceedings pertaining to the issue of custody of a minor can be lengthy at times, causing emotional and physical hardship to the child alongside his/her possible guardians.
One such case has been recently decided in the High Court of Punjab and Haryana, in furtherance of deciding the deserving custodian of a minor child.
CAPACITY TO PROVIDE COMFORT, NOT THE SOLE CRITERION TO CLAIM CUSTODY: PUNJAB AND HARYANA HIGH COURT
Facts of the Case
- Gagandeep Kaur, daughter of Amarjit Kaur, got married to Avtar Singh on September 27, 2009. A girl named Avdeep Kaur was born out of the wedlock in April, 2011.
- The mother of the minor child, that is, Gagandeep Kaur was allegedly killed by her husband (Avtar Singh) and other members of his family. Criminal charges were registered under various Sections of the Indian Penal Code against all the accused persons.
- Now the question of custody of Avdeep Kaur arose, since her father was imprisoned attributable to the killing of her mother.
- Maternal grandmother (Amarjit Kaur) of the minor child approached the court and pleaded for her custody stating, that she’s the nearest relative of the girl since her father was incarcerated and her paternal grandparents along with her paternal aunt and uncle were kept under judicial custody pertaining to the murder of minor child’s mother.
- The trial court approved Amarjit’s guardianship plea and passed an order on July 21, 2019 making her the sole guardian of Avdeep Kaur.
- The granduncle and grandaunt of the child filed an appeal in the Punjab and Haryana High Court regarding the custody of the minor child.
- In due course of appellate proceedings, Amarjit claimed that Avdeep was forcibly removed from her custody and was being kept in the custody of the appellants. Responding to this claim, the appellants contended that, the custody of the minor child was handed over to them by her father, being her natural guardian. In addition, they claimed that her educational as well as other expenses were being covered by them and that the minor girl was happy and comfortable residing with them. Further, they stated that, they secured the girl’s financial future through insurance policy and as opposed to this; the grandmother of the minor child couldn’t fund her educational and other expenses. Hence, failing to provide her any kind of comfort.
Quorum: Rajan Gupta, J. and Manjari Nehru Kaul, J.
The division bench of the Punjab and Haryana High Court, comprising of Justice Rajan Gupta and Justice Manjari Nehru Kaul gave their final verdict on September 21, 2019. The court held that the custody of minor child cannot be handed over to the appellants when the maternal grandmother of the child was alive and willing to take absolute care, regarding health and education of the child. In addition, the court observed that capacity of relatives to provide all types of comfort to a minor cannot be considered the sole criterion regarding custody of the child. Furthermore, the presence of maternal grandmother is expedient for the welfare and development of the child especially during her teenage years.