Father is natural guardian of child: HC

Mumbai: Holding that a father was a natural guardian of his child, Bombay High Court has ordered the custody of a two-year-old child be handed over to his biological father who had filed a habeas corpus petition after his acquittal in a case for wife’s murder.
The child is currently in the custody of his maternal grandfather who stays in Baramati, near Pune.
Amol Pawar, a resident of Satara, got married in 2010. The couple was blessed with a son, Tejas, a year later. Pawar’s wife died of burn injuries in 2012.
An FIR was lodged by his father-in-law Ramesh Dhotre and Pawar was tried for cruelty meted out to his wife and murder.
However, he was acquitted.
The court noted that Pawar had been acquitted in the case filed against him and no appeal had been filed by the State.
However, Pawar’s father-in-law has filed an appeal against his acquittal.
“Since Pawar has been acquitted and he is the natural guardian of the minor child, the petitioner cannot be deprived from obtaining the custody of his minor child,” said a bench headed by Justice P V Hardas recently.
“If the respondents feel that the petitioner is disentitled to continue the custody of the minor, they may avail the remedies available in law,” the bench said.
“The question as to whether the welfare of the minor would warrant the handing over the custody of the minor to any other person is a question which can only be decided after the evidence of the parties is recorded and certainly not in this petition,” the Judges remarked.
The bench observed that the respondent (Pawar’s father-in-law), however, would be at liberty to file appropriate proceedings under the Hindu Minority and Guardianship Act for claiming custody of the child.
These proceedings if they are filed by the respondent would be decided in accordance with law.
Presently, the petitioner, being the father, cannot be deprived the custody of his minor child, the bench observed.
Allowing the petition, the court asked Ramesh Dhotre to hand over the child to his biological father, Amol Pawar.
If the child’s custody was not given to his father, the bench directed the state government and police to help the father in getting his child’s custody from his grandfather.
The court rejected the plea of the respondent for a six-week stay on its order to file an appeal.—PTI

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