covid: Custody battle: Supreme Courtroom to resolve on guardianship of Covid orphan | India Information
NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court will decide on the guardianship of a six-year-old Covid-orphaned boy who is at the center of a custody battle between his paternal grandparents and maternal aunt since the death of his parents last year.
The boy’s father died on May 13 and his mother on June 12 when the second wave was peaking in Gujarat in 2021. The maternal relatives took the child to Dahod from his paternal grandparents’ house in Ahmedabad to attend the last rites of his mother and since then, he was not brought back.
Anxious about his whereabouts, health and education, the grandparents moved Gujarat high court seeking custody. The HC judges interacted with the child and recorded in the judgment: “We noticed that he is comfortable with the petitioner and his wife (grandparents), however he was not in a position to give an independent preference between the petitioner and the maternal aunt. ”
Despite this, the HC gave the boy’s custody to the 46-year-old aunt on the ground that she was unmarried, employed with the central government and residing in a joint family which would be conducive for the bringing up of the child. In contrast, the grandparents are both senior citizens and dependent on the grandfather’s pension, the HC had said.
The grandfather’s counsel DN Ray said the HC erred by looking at the age of the grandparents, ignoring better education facilities in Ahmedabad and the child’s familiarity with the surroundings in the city where he grew up when his parents were alive. He also said that the paternal uncle of the child has his own restaurant business in Coimbatore and would pitch in if the need arises.
A vacation bench of Justices MR Shah and Aniruddha Bose stayed the HC order giving the child’s custody to the aunt, and sought her response by Tuesday to the grandparents’ plea seeking custody of their grandchild. The bench concluded arguments and said it would take into account the aunt’s response before pronouncing the order on June 9.
The bench said that the education facilities at Ahmedabad are much better than that at Dahod, a tribal area. On the disqualification of senior citizen grandparents vis-a-vis 46-year-old unmarried maternal aunt, the bench asked the aunt’s counsel to explain how the grandparents, aged 71 and 63, could be disqualified to have custody of their grandchild. “Age of 71 and 63 is nothing these days. People stay strong even at more advanced ages,” the bench remarked.
When the aunt’s counsel argued that “she was unmarried and that rearing a child requires some energy”, the bench said, “when paternal grandparents say they are ready to take care of the child, they become more energetic. It will be better if the boy stays with the grandparents”.