The Indore bench of the Madhya Pradesh high court held a hearing in open court in a child custody case and overruled a lower court’s verdict granting custody of a three-year-old to the father after seeing the boy’s fondness for the mother.
This comes at the times when most courts in the country are holding virtual hearings because of social distancing norms put in place for the Covid-19 pandemic.
The mother, a resident of Ujjain district, filed a petition before the Indore bench of the high court on January 14 against the Mandsaur district family court’s order on January 6, handing custody of the child to his father under The Hindu Minority & Guardianship Act, 1956.
Because of the lockdown imposed for the Covid-19 pandemic, a hearing on the petition couldn’t be held. The matter was taken up through a video conference on June 25 and the court directed the father to ensure the presence of the child in the court on the next date of hearing.
In its judgment dated July 1, the single-judge bench of justice SC Sharma said: “The order dated January 6, 2020 passed by the learned principal judge reveals that for the last six months, the child was residing with his father, grandfather and grandmother and after discussing various judgments of the Hon’ble Supreme Court, the presiding officer has observed that at this stage if the child is separated from his father, it might adversely affect the mental status of the child.”
Justice Sharma said that at the open court hearing, the child was permitted to go to the mother and “he started playing with her.”
“He was very happy with her and this court really fails to understand as to how an observation has been made that in case the child goes with mother, it will affect the child emotionally and mentally.”
The bench said, “It is true that welfare of the child is of paramount importance keeping in view section 17 (2) of the Guardian & Ward Act, 1890, however, the Court is bound to take a decision after taking into account the age, sex, religion and other factors also.”
Disposing of the petition, the court said the woman was from a well-off family and “it is nobody’s case that the wife doesn’t have income to look after the child.”
Granting the custody of the child to his mother, the court ordered that she would allow the father of the child to meet him every alternative Saturday of the month in Mandsaur and the trial court shall be free to pass a final order without being influenced by its own order dated January 6 and also the high court order.
RR Bhatnagar, the counsel for the woman, said: “It’s a really unique case when the court decided to hear the petition in an open court, a departure from the usual practice of hearing through a video conferencing these days due to the Covid situation. We were all wearing face masks on the day of hearing. The moment the woman removed her mask the child rushed to her and went into her lap. However, a final decision on the custody of the child will be taken by the family court which is hearing the divorce suit filed by the child’s father.”