Chandigarh, April 25
The Punjab and Haryana High Court has ruled that a father, accused of driving his wife to suicide, could not be handed over the child’s custody. Justice Harnaresh Singh Gill of the High Court further ruled that such a course of action could not be of the child’s paramount welfare.
The ruling by Justice Gill came on a habeas corpus petition filed by a man against the State of Haryana and other respondents. He was seeking his three-year-old daughter’s custody after alleging that respondent-maternal grandparents and a maternal uncle had illegally taken her away. As such, she was in their “illegal custody”.
Justice Gill asserted that child custody issue was “very sensitive” and was required to be dealt with after taking into consideration the child’s paramount welfare. The petitioner, accused of driving his wife to commit suicide, could not be granted any “equitable relief” when it came to handing over the minor child’s custody.
“Rather, the culpability of the crime he is accused of will not only emotionally devastate the growing years of the minor, but will completely compromise her overall mental growth,” Justice Gill asserted.
In his detailed order, Justice Gill observed that the child was, even otherwise, in the custody of her maternal grandparents and maternal uncle. They could not be termed as foreigners to the child’s custody. They were, in fact, the best people to take care of the child in the given facts and circumstances.
Going into the background of the matter, Justice Gill observed that the petitioner was accused in an FIR registered in December 2021 for subjecting a married woman to cruelty and dowry death under Sections 498-A and 304-B of the IPC at the Dhamapur police station in Jabalpur.
Justice Gill observed that the petitioner’s wife committed suicide barely within four years of their marriage. The police, prima-facie, found the death to have occurred not under normal circumstances, following which the FIR was been registered under Sections 498-A and 304-B of the IPC.
Justice Gill said the petitioner’s counsel, when confronted with the factual position, stated that he must be considered innocent until proven guilty and could not be denied the child’s custody on this ground. He was, otherwise also, legally entitled to the child’s custody. “However, the said plea suffers from fallacy,” Justice Gill added.
He also referred to a Supreme Court judgment. Among other things, it was held that the pendency of a criminal case, wherein the father had been charged of causing the death of the minor’s mother, was a relevant factor required to be considered before an appropriate order could be passed.
Culpability of crime will devastate minor
The culpability of the crime the father is accused of will emotionally devastate the growing years of the minor and will completely compromise her overall mental growth. — Justice Harnaresh Singh Gill, HC
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