A boy caught in a custody battle between his father and maternal grandparents will get to decide on his own in April with whom he wants to live.
Observing that the boy will turn 18 on April 12, the Bombay High Court (HC) recently asked the boy to decide for himself. The HC was hearing an appeal filed by the boy’s maternal grandparents, Krishna and Anuradha Karandikar, challenging a Family Court order.
In December 2003, the Family Court, Pune, had directed that the child’s custody be handed over to his father, Vinayak Rajmachikar.
However, the order was stayed and the Karandikars retained custody.
The Karandikars’ daughter, Ashwini, had married Rajmachikar on June 9, 1990 and the boy was born on April 13, 1991, but matrimonial disputes led to the mother returning to her parents on September 16, 1992.
Rajmachikar filed a petition seeking divorce on the grounds of cruelty in June 1993 but it was dismissed in March 1997, when he filed a fresh petition for divorce.
The new petition, filed on the grounds of desertion, was allowed, but the custody of the child remained with the mother. Ashwini went on to challenge the divorce in the high court, but before the appeal could be decided she died on January 19, 2002.
Rajmachikar then approached the Family Court, seeking the child’s custody and his plea was granted in 2003.While the Karandikars’ appeal was pending, the child was subjected to psychiatric assistance.
The report submitted by the Department of B.J. Medical College and Sassoon General Hospital, Pune, said there was nothing wrong with the boy’s thought and decision-making processes, “social judgement” and intellectual abilities.
It also said he had expressed a desire to stay with his grandparents.
During the hearing of their appeal, the Karandikars agreed that it was the boy who had to take a decision after completion of 18 years of age.
A division bench of Justice B.H. Marlapalle and Justice D.G. Karnik allowed the custody to remain with the Karandikars for the few days to go before the boy attained majority.
The boy has completed Class 11 and is preparing for admission to the National Defence Academy.