Consulting a psychotherapist does not mean a person is mentally unsound. It is a common practice in today’s stressful life.
This was the observation of the Delhi High Court which refused to keep a woman away from her one-year-old daughter merely because she was a psychiatric patient.
A bench of Justices Vipin Sanghi and P S Teji made the observation while disposing of a habeas corpus writ petition filed by the mother seeking a direction to her husband to bring before the court her minor daughter, who was allegedly forcibly taken away from her by her in-laws.
The bench, while granting interim custody of the child to her mother, also dismissed the husband’s argument that the woman was not naturally attached to the child who was born out of surrogacy, and observed that the mother would not have any less love and affection merely because of this factor.
“The child in question is a one-year old baby girl. Though she was born out of surrogacy, since the petitioner suffered two earlier miscarriages, she is nevertheless the biological mother of the petitioner child, and respondent No.4 (husband) is the biological father of the child.
“We cannot accept the submission of respondent No.4 that the petitioner, though being the biological mother of the minor child, would have any less love or affection for her since the minor child was born out of surrogacy,” it said.
Regarding the woman’s mental health, the court said there could be numerous reasons and stress originating from different aspects of life because of which she was taking the treatment but that does not mean she does not possess mental equilibrium.
“Our interaction with the petitioner (mother) does not give us the impression that she is mentally or psychiatrically unstable to look after the minor child at this stage. It is not uncommon for people to resort to counseling when they have matrimonial disputes. In today’s time, when one is faced with stress originating from different aspects of life, one may seek professional help from a trained counselor to resolve dilemmas and reduce his or her stress.
“It is no longer a taboo in our society to consult a psychotherapist or a psychiatrist or counselor, as it was in the earlier days. Merely because a person may go for such like therapy and consultation, it does not follow that the person does not possess mental equilibrium or is mentally unsound,” the bench said, while considering that the woman had two miscarriages in the past.
The bench also observed that the professional and social obligations of a woman does not necessarily fail her as a mother.
“In our view, the professional and social obligations and activities of the mother need not necessarily have an adverse impact on the upbringing and safety of the minor child. In today’s age, women are actively pursuing their professions and avocations. They are also socialising as their peers, friends, family and colleagues.
“That does not mean that they are necessarily failing in performance of their maternal obligations. In fact, working women, by and large, have to put in extra time and effort to keep both ends up, and they are doing it successfully. The child is an infant. At this age, the child has little understanding of the actions and conduct of the parents, particularly those acts and conduct which take place outside the child’s environment,” the bench said.
It said the submission of the husband “devalues the great qualities of love and bonding that are experienced not only by human beings, but all animal species.”
The woman, in her petition filed on February this year, alleged that her daughter was taken to Thailand and Dubai by her father-in-law with her consent in December 2017. She said she had planned to join them in Dubai and take her daughter further to the USA for holidays but her in-laws did not let her meet the child when she reached Dubai.
The family even refused to hand over the child’s passport to her, it said, adding that a quarrel broke out between the woman and her husband and she was asked to leave their house. She returned to Delhi and filed a habeas corpus writ petition seeking that her daughter be brought to her.
The girl was brought to Delhi but remained with her paternal grandparents. A custody battle is pending between the couple in a family court here.
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