Punjab and Haryana High Court raps child welfare panel over minor’s custody - ECAS Punjab

Punjab and Haryana High Court raps child welfare panel over minor’s custody

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Saurabh Malik

Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, August 19

The Punjab and Haryana High Court has ruled that the intent, approach and an order passed by Patiala Child Welfare Committee, whereby a minor was removed from her father's custody before being given in foster care, lacked bona fides.

The admonition by the Division Bench of Chief Justice Ravi Shanker Jha and Justice Arun Palli came about a month after a Single Judge rapped the committee for "colourable exercise of powers" in the nine-year-old child's custody matter.

The Judge had observed that the committee's order dated June 5 relating to the child's foster care placement with a family was passed with an incomplete quorum and that also on a gazetted holiday.

The matter was initially brought to the HC's notice after the child's father, an Army officer, filed a habeas corpus petition. Among other things, the father alleged that an aunt and uncle, to whom the child's custody was handed over, were influential persons of the area. The uncle was, in fact, related to a sitting MLA from the ruling party.

After hearing arguments on an appeal filed against the Single Judge order by the uncle and aunt, the Bench asserted the Army officer, being the biological father of the minor, was her natural and legal guardian in terms of Section 6 of the Hindu Minority and Guardianship Act, 1956.

On the contrary, the appellant uncle and aunt failed to show whether they had any authority or lawful right to detain the minor. "In the given circumstances, the only and the inevitable conclusion we could reach is: she was in illegal detention of the appellants".

The Bench added habeas corpus filed by the father for release of minor daughter in unlawful detention was fully maintainable. In the present proceedings, the father never claimed custody, but its restoration. The Bench said the position would be viewed from a different perspective in case of competing claims between biological parents or where parties to the disputed claimed authority or lawful right to retain or claim the child's custody — something that required evidence and full-scale inquiry.



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