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In battle between grandmothers, SC says religion not the only norm for child’s custody

A Supreme Court bench dismissed a paternal grandmother’s plea against the maternal grandmother for custody of a child born to her son and his Hindu wife, on the grounds that the child is a Muslim.

india Updated: Jan 30, 2018 19:25 IST
Bhadra Sinha
Bhadra Sinha
New Delhi, Hindustan Times
Child custody,Supreme court,grandmothers
Supreme Court building in New Delhi. (Sonu Mehta/HT File)

Religion is only one of the several considerations in deciding the guardian of a child, the Supreme Court (SC) held on Monday refusing to intervene with the custodial rights granted to a maternal grandmother of a 9-year-old girl whose father is facing the death penalty for his wife’s murder in Dubai.

A bench headed by Justice SA Bobde dismissed a paternal grandmother’s plea for custody of a child born to her son and his Hindu wife, on the grounds that the child is a Muslim. While the mother was a Hindu at the time of marriage, she embraced Islam later.

The SC did not accept the grandmother’s argument and upheld the Bombay high court decision which declared the maternal grandmother — a Hindu — the child’s guardian.

Advocate Liz Mathew, who appeared for the maternal grandmother, told HT: “The SC endorsed the view taken by the HC that the child’s welfare was of paramount interest. There are seven criteria under the law, which a court has to consider while appointing a guardian. Religion is just one of them.”

In this case, the minor’s mother and father got married on May 11, 2008 in Kerala.

After the marriage, the woman embraced Islam.The child was born in March 2009.

In 2013, the husband allegedly murdered his wife in Dubai. The woman’s body was brought back to India and she was cremated at Nandvi, Raigad district, Maharashtra, according to Muslim customs.

Later, the maternal grandmother filed a case before a trial court to become the child’s guardian.

She got a favourable order on May 5, 2014. But the paternal grandmother approached the HC and raised the plea of religion before it. She even accused the child’s maternal uncle of sexually assaulting the child in Kerala when she went to stay there with her maternal grandmother.

The HC, on November 15, 2017, refused to set aside the trial court directive.

Before the top court, the paternal grandmother claimed the girl’s mother had left the child with her before leaving to Dubai.

The SC, however, approved the HC finding that she tutored the child to lodge the sexual assault case against the paternal uncle. The bench noted the HC observation that the child was made a “pawn” to force the maternal grandmother to write a mercy plea to the authorities in Dubai to pardon the child’s father and save him from the gallows.

First Published: Jan 29, 2018 22:08 IST