Minor's welfare priority in granting custody: Supreme Court

Rightful place of the child has been recognised in many international forums, which are adopted in this country as well.

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Friday held that the welfare of minor child is the paramount consideration while granting custody of the child either to father or mother, separated after divorce.

A bench of Justices A.K. Sikri and R.K. Agrawal gave this ruling while entrusting custody of a 15-year-old girl to the father, ignoring the claims of the mother who chose to live in the United Kingdom.

The bench said in the appointment or declaration of any person as guardian of a Hindu minor by a court, the welfare of the minor shall be the paramount consideration.

The best interest of the child has been placed at the vanguard of family/custody disputes according the optimal growth and development of the child primacy over other considerations.

Writing the judgement Justice Sikri said the effect of separation of spouses, on children, psychologically, emotionally and even to some extent physically, spans from negligible to serious, which could be insignificant to noticeably critical. Rightful place of the child has been recognised in many international forums, which are adopted in this country as well.

Child-centric human rights jurisprudence that has been evolved over a period of time is founded on the principle that public good demands proper growth of the child, who are the future of the nation.

Allowing appeal filed by father Jitender Arora, the bench pointed out that in this case the child Vaishali is a mature girl of 15 years of age. At this age, she can fully understand what is in her best interest.

She is competent to take a decision for herself. There has been interaction with her by different Benches of this Court from time to time. She has unequivocally and without any reservations expressed her desire to be with her father. More importantly, she has very categorically said that she does not want to go to U.K.

The Bench said an opportunity was given to the mother Sukriti Arora in May 2013 by allowing her the access of Vaishali for significant period, whereafter the child was restored back to her father, since the respondent had decided to go back to U.K.

It is unfortunate that even during this period, she was not able to influence the thought process of Vaishali who is determined to remain with her father. She wants Vaishali to come to U.K. and live with her. Vaishali does not want to go to U.K. at all.

This Court cannot take the risk of sending Vaishali to a foreign country, against the wishes of a mature girl like Vaishali, as it may prove to be a turbulent and tormenting experience for her. That would not be in her interest.

( Source : Deccan Chronicle. )
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