The Bombay High Court has recently been informed that handing over the custody of a five-year-old girl from her maternal grandparents to her biological father to avoid a “sudden disruption in her life” was being done in a smooth manner. The move came after the court issued a significant directive to appoint a counsellor / child psychologist for the same in August this year.
The man, who got married in February 2015, lived with his wife in Mumbai. The child was born to them in June 2017. The wife left Mumbai with the daughter in August 2018, and later died from an ailment. Following her death, the child stayed with the man’s in-laws. In 2019 itself, the man filed a petition through advocate Vivek V Salunke and approached the Bombay High Court, arguing that he had the right to take the custody of the girl as he was her biological father. He said that he “cannot be deprived” of his rights. Salunke said that the initial stand taken by the petitioner’s in-laws, refusing the handing over the custody of the child, was “unreasonable”.
The maternal grandparents, meanwhile, submitted that the child was with them because her welfare and wishes needed to be considered. On August 12, a division bench led by Justice Nitin M Jamdar reiterated that the custody of the child has to be handed over to the petitioner — the biological father — and there was nothing adverse in granting that to him. However, the lawyer for the respondent maternal grandparents submitted that even though the custody of the child was ultimately to be handed over to her father, there should not be a “sudden disruption” in her life.
The court then appointed a child psychologist to ascertain the requirement for handing over the custody of the girl and the process for the same, and directed the respondents “not to obstruct the petitioner from visiting his daughter”. Vishakha N Punjani, child psychologist attached to the Maharashtra State Legal Services Authority (MSLSA), submitted her report on September 19, recommending the custody of the five-year-and-five-month old child be given to the petitioner.
In view of the “emotional impact of the sudden separation” on the child, the court said that the same could be “addressed by giving the custody in a phased manner — initially for the limited period — so that the petitioner could also develop a bond with the child, who had been separated for her almost three years”. In October, the bench found the petitioner’s request, stating the benefits of the paternal grandparents while being with their granddaughter “justifiable” and “reasonable”, and permitted the man to take the child to his house for a week.
On November 14, both the parties informed a bench led by Justice Ajey S Gadkari that based on the deliberations, handing over the custody of the girl was a “smooth transition” and she was “comfortable with her biological father”. The bench clarified that the maternal grandparents were entitled to visit the petitioner’s residence to meet their granddaughter, and the parties should maintain a “cordial relation for the welfare of the child”.