A division bench of the Bombay High Court last week dismissed two appeals filed against a single judges decision,granting the custody of a three-year-old child of a Christian father and Hindu mother,to her maternal grandfather.
The father,convicted for harassing and stabbing his wife to death on May 25 in their Andheri (West) flat,has been in jail since. The girl has been staying with her maternal grandparents. The court was hearing guardianship petitions filed by the father,his sister and the girls maternal grandfather.
The father and aunt had contended before the single judge that the maternal grandparents will not be able to initiate the girl into Christianity. Even if the aspect of religion is borne in mind,it is evident that the child was born in a family where the father professes Christianity and the mother was a Hindu. Evidently,in such a situation,it would be most inappropriate to assign to the religion of one parent such an overwhelming importance as to override the balance of other factors which bear on the welfare of the child, Justices D Y Chandrachud and S C Gupte observed.
The court also said that until the age of three,the child had not been baptised. The mother had not converted to Christianity. This is certainly a matter of relevance and would also have a bearing on the wishes of the deceased parent. The wishes of a deceased parent in a situation such as the present where the mother has met an unnatural end at an early age becomes a fairly subjective if not hypothetical exercise, the court said.
The court also said that the child had been living with her maternal grandparents and was familiar with them. The beautician aunt,who has two children,had filed a guardianship petition only after the maternal grandfather moved court for the girls guardianship,which was served to her father in prison.
She has evidently not had any experience of living with the child. Moreover,the averments in her petition would indicate that she had no personal desire to be guardian of her own accord,since the filing of her guardianship petition was on the instructions of her brother, the court said and upheld the decision of the single judge,handing over the custody of the girl to her grandfather.