Read Order: Gopal Dutt and another v. Anju Sharma @ Anju Jamdagni and others 

Vivek Gupta

Chandigarh, July 21, 2021: Taking a humanitarian ground, the Punjab and Haryana High Court has handed over the custody of a nine-year-old girl to her grandparents. She was currently staying in a shelter home after both her parents refused to take her custody.

The High Court held that the trial court, while denying the child’s custody to her grandparents, had not mentioned any reasons for the same. The High Court also said that the report of the shelter home, where the girl was staying, had specifically said that she was not happy there and desired to live with her family.

The girl’s grandparents had challenged the order dated May 18, 2021 passed by the Principal Judge, Family Court, Gurugram whereby the application for interim custody of their minor granddaughter was dismissed and it was ordered that she be kept in a shelter home.

Counsel for the grandparents submitted before the High Court that they have a permanent residence, and that they have a cloth shop as a source of income. Their counsel also submitted that While denying the interim custody to the petitioners, the trial court did not give any specific reason as to why the custody of the girl could not be given to them.

The counsel submitted that keeping the minor girl child in a shelter home would divert her from the normal course of her development. He also referred to the report of the shelter home wherein the observations have been included to the effect that the girl is not comfortable in the shelter home. Hence, it was prayed that her custody be handed over to the petitioner grandparents.

Deciding the matter, the bench of Justice Rajbir Sehrawat said the order passed by the trial court does not give any specific reason as to why the interim custody of the minor girl child could not have been handed over to the petitioners, particularly, when the parents of the girl child have not shown any interest in taking her custody.

“Only this much has been recorded that at an earlier occasion, the petitioners had an opportunity to come forward seeking custody, however, they did not come forward to take custody. However, in view of this Court, this is hardly a ground to deny the interim custody of the girl child to the petitioners,” stated the bench.

The HC added that needless to say the trial court has not recorded anywhere how giving the interim custody of the girl to the petitioners is not in the interest of welfare of the child. “So far as the custody of the girl child with the shelter home is concerned, obviously, it could be only a temporary resort,” the High Court held.

According to the HC, after some time, no child can be comfortable at a shelter home if he/she otherwise has a family. The High Court observed this is reflected from the report of the shelter home as well, which stated that it seemed as though the child had learnt a script and all she could say was, she wants to go home. She isn’t comfortable staying at a shelter and doesn’t mingle with kids. The child wants to become a doctor and is good at science.

“The above said report of the shelter home categorically shows that the girl child is not comfortable at the shelter home. Such undesired custody within the shelter home can cause a devastating psychological effect upon the girl child. Hence, it would not be in the interest of justice to keep her at the shelter home, at this stage. When the grand-parents are very much available and they are praying for the custody, then it would be, prima facie, in the interest of the welfare of the girl child to hand over the custody to her grand-parents; instead of sending her to the shelter home,” held the high court.

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