The Bombay High Court on Tuesday restored a 17-year-old girl’s custody to her parents.
A division bench of Justice P.B. Majmudar and Justice R.G. Ketkar on Tuesday set aside the September 2009 order of the Child Welfare Committee (CWC) wherein it handed over her custody to her maternal grandfather.
The girl’s maternal grandparent and parents have been engaged in custody battle for three years after the former allegedly took her away from school in 2007.
Her parents have approached the HC seeking her custody. The girl will turn 18 this November.
Her grandfather claimed that the girl had called him in 2007, when she was 14, and requested him to take her away after learning that her mother was not her biological mother.
However, considering that the girl wants to appear for her exams, the high court allowed her to live with her grandfather till May 6.
During lunch break, the girl met the judges in chamber and told them that she wanted to stay with her father, but not her stepmother.
The high court also asked the Commissioner of Police D. Sivanandhan to look into the conduct of Inspector Salunkhe, Senior Police Inspector U.S. Suryavanshi and Sub-Inspector P.T. Warke, who had allegedly first handed over Molina’s custody to her grandfather.
“The police conduct is highly depreciated… police could not have acted as a mediator,” the judges observed.
After a few days, the girl lodged a complaint with the CWC of alleged harassment by her stepmother.
The CWC, without calling for a report to authenticate the allegations, handed over her custody to her maternal grandfather.
Her parents then approached the high court challenging the order of the CWC.
The parents’ counsels, M.P. Rao and Deepa Chavan, argued that the CWC did not have the jurisdiction to entertain custody dispute.
“The CWC can come in picture only when the child is in need of care and protection. Here, the child was in custody of her parents,” said Rao.
The grandfather’s counsel Pradip Havnur argued that under the Juvenile Justice Act 2000, the CWC had wide powers to pass orders to ensure care and protection of a minor.
But the high court set aside the CWC order observing: “The order of CWC is unsustainable as it exceeds jurisdiction.”
The court also observed, that if such an order [of the CWC] is upheld, then children who are subjected to strict discipline by parents may take shelter (of the order as a precedent) and seek to stay with other relatives than parents.
The HC, however, allowed the grandfather to approach the civil court for her custody.