Minor declines mom’s company; SC grants custody to father

NEW DELHI
26 Feb 2017

A minor girl's unequivocal desire to be with her father and not go to the United Kingdom with her mother weighed on the Supreme Court which granted the custody of the child to the man. The apex court said the 15-year-old girl has "achieved sufficient level of maturity" and as she does not want to go to the UK, the court "cannot take the risk of sending" her to a foreign country against her wish. "This court cannot take the risk of sending the child to a foreign country against the wishes of a mature girl like her, as it may prove to be a turbulent and tormenting experience for her. That would not be in her interest," a bench of Justices A K Sikri and R K Agrawal said. The apex court observed that ample chances were given to the mother by giving her temporary custody of the girl but she was unable to "win over the confidence" of the child, who was happy with her father and wanted to continue in his company. "We are convinced that custody of the child needs to be with father. She is already 15 years of age and within three years, she would be major and all this custody battle between her parents would come to an end. She would have complete freedom to decide the course of action she would like to adopt in her life," the bench said. The couple, who are now divorced, had married in 1999 and in March 2000 shifted to the UK where the matrimonial dispute started. The child was born in Delhi in January 2002. The apex court's verdict came while setting aside the May 2010 judgement of the Punjab and Haryana High Court which had directed the father, with whom the child was residing, to hand over the girl's custody to her mother. The bench said being a "mature girl", she was competent to take a decision for herself and during her interaction with the apex court judges from time to time during pendency of the matter, "she has unequivocally and without any reservation expressed her desire to be with her father". "From the interaction, it is clearly discernible that she is a mature girl who is in a position to weigh the pros and cons of two alternatives and to decide as to which course of action is more suited to her," the bench said. The woman had taken a decree of divorce from a UK Court while the man, who had shifted to India along with the child in 2010, obtained divorce from a court here. In November 2009, the father had shifted to India, along with the child, and the mother had obtained British citizenship for her daughter in July 2010.