Custody orders are always restraining orders and can be changed to take into account the best interests of the child: Patna HC
In a recent judgment, the Patna Supreme Court overturned a custody order issued by the Patna Family Court, emphasizing the paramount importance of the well-being of the child in question.
The verdict was announced by Judge Sunil Dutta Mishra on May 15, 2023.
The case revolved around Ranjan Kumar Gupta, the plaintiff, and Puja Devi, the defendant, who married on December 15, 2010. The couple gave birth to a daughter on February 7, 2012. Both parties agreed to seek divorce through a joint application under Section 13-B of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955.
According to their agreement, the petitioner should pay Rs. 5 lakhs as compensation to the defendants and the underage girl would live with her father. After paying the agreed amount on March 5, 2016, the plaintiff took custody of the child.
After the payment, disputes arose between the parties, resulting in the defendant filing a motion for custody of their minor daughter. The petitioner rejected the petition, alleging that the defendant harassed him and his family members after receiving the payment. Matters escalated further when the defendant requested that her consent to the mutual divorce be revoked, expressing a desire to reunite with her husband. In response, the plaintiff requested a refund of his entire payment.
On January 31, 2017, the Patna Family Court issued an order ordering the defendant to recover the Rs. 5 lakhs to the petitioner and requested the petitioner to transfer custody of the minor child to the defendant. Dissatisfied with this decision, the plaintiff appealed to the Patna High Court, arguing that the lower court failed to consider the best interests of the child and that, as the child’s natural guardian, he provided the necessary care, love and affection .
The court acknowledged the considerable time that had elapsed since the initial custody order was issued and noted the changed circumstances.
The court emphasized that “The well-being and welfare of the child must always take precedence over the rights of the parents involved.”
Referring to Section 26 of the Hindu Marriage Act, 19 56, the court underlined the court’s power to make appropriate child custody, maintenance and education arrangements during and after the divorce proceedings.
The court emphasized the non-rigid nature of custody decisions, emphasizing that they may be modified or revoked to better meet the needs of the child.
Based on the above considerations, the Supreme Court overturned the previous custody decision and ordered the trial court to issue a new decision taking into account the child’s preferences and the collective good. The court also asked the trial court to expedite the completion of the marriage case and urged both parties to cooperate in reaching a speedy resolution.
Case No.: DIFFERENT CIVIL JURISDICTION No. 330 of 2018
Judge: Judge Sunil Dutta Mishra
Order date: 05/15/2023
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