The Bombay high court on Thursday appointed the maternal grandfather as the guardian of a three-and-a-half-year-old girl, whose Christian father has been arrested for allegedly killing her Hindu mother on May 25.
Justice Roshan Dalvi also rejected a petition filed by the child’s paternal aunt seeking her custody on behalf of the father. In her petition, she had also opposed the maternal grandfather’s plea for guardianship, on grounds of religion.
Rajan Chawla, 61, had approached the high court seeking his appointment as the guardian of his granddaughter Angelina Miranda, primarily on the ground that the child had been staying with his family after her mother’s murder.
Soon after, Louella Fernandes, Angelina’s paternal aunt filed a petition seeking her guardianship. Her counsel Uday Warunjikar opposed Chawla’s plea contending that section 17 of the Guardians and Wards Act, 1890, requires the court to take into consideration the religion of a child and that of the proposed guardian.
Warunjikar submitted that since the father of the child is a Roman Catholic, she must be brought up as a Roman Catholic.
The contention, however, did not find merit with justice Dalvi who rejected it stating that the concept of religion, as envisaged in section 17 of the Guardians and Wards Act, 1890, does not contemplate that in our patriarchal society only the religion of the husband must prevail.
The judge felt that this would be contrary to the freedom of religion, which allows each individual to profess and practice the religion of his/her choice.
Justice Dalvi also said that it would be in the interest of the child if she is kept away from any religious dogma.
The court also observed that the child was better adjusted to living with the grandfather and his family and that there was no reason to disturb the custody of the child at the behest of the father, who has at this stage, rendered himself unfit for seeking her custody.