FIRST-OF-ITS-KIND JUDGEMENT

Court took into consideration the 12-year-old’s submission that he wished to live in Pune with his dad and paternal grandparents to stay in international school and continue pursuing golf, which he plays at the natl level. Mother, who has moved to Kolhapur, acceded

In a rare order on child custody disputes, the Bombay High Court (HC) has recently allowed a father to keep his 12-year-old son with him after a family split.

The mother had sought custody of the child in a plea after matrimonial problems arose, against which her husband — a Merchant Navy officer — had approached the HC. When the court interacted with the child, it came to light that not only is the young boy a national-level golf player, but he also expressed a desire to stay on with his father, because he wishes to focus on his career. Taking these unique circumstances into consideration, the HC passed its order last week and cleared that the welfare of the child lies in his shifting to Pune for studies.

(function(){ var vidads = “vidad-“+67983395; var mobile = (/iphone|ipod|android|blackberry|mini|iemobile|sce|palm/i.test(navigator.userAgent.toLowerCase())); if(mobile){ var div = document.getElementsByClassName(vidads)[0].childNodes[0]; div.setAttribute(“data-slot”,”323287″) var idattr = div.getAttribute(“id”).replace(“323278″,”323287”) div.setAttribute(“id”,idattr); } })(); ~name~~brandtext~ var hideAds = function($containerElem){ if($containerElem && $containerElem.length != 0){ $($containerElem[0].parentNode.parentNode).hide(); } } It is for the very first time that the HC has handed over custody of a kid to his father, keeping in view his education and welfare.

The couple, Girija and Rahul (names changed), got married in March 2003. Girija hails from Kolhapur, while Rahul is a native of Sangli. The latter has been working in the Merchant Navy for years, while she works at a multinational company (MNC) in Pune at present. The couple lived for a stint in the UK post-August 2003, and returned to Sangli eventually, only to be blessed with a baby boy in 2006. They decided to move to Pune later for better prospects and their son was admitted to an international school here. As the child proved to be an active sportsperson, Rahul encouraged him to pursue golf. Soon, things took a turn for the worse when the couple began squabbling regularly over small issues.

As the rancour built up, Rahul filed a divorce petition in the Kolhapur court. On March 22, 2018, it is alleged that Girija forcibly took the child to Kolhapur without informing her husband.

Rahul then moved a petition for child custody in the Kolhapur family court. Girija opposed the same by filing a reply. When his application was rejected, Rahul filed an appeal in the HC for custody. He stated that the child had earlier informed the Kolhapur court that he is not able to cope up with the school curriculum, and is facing mental trauma and general instability due to the family troubles. It was submitted that the son has verbally cleared that he wants to shift to Pune with his father and paternal grandparents, to continue studies at the international school and keep playing golf.

At this point, the HC interacted separately with the parents and the child. The latter told the court that the school in Pune provides him with optimum facilities, honing his self-confidence and leadership qualities. He also expressed a desire to keep playing golf and improving his skills. When the court asked the child if he is okay with not staying with his mother if she wishes to leave Pune, he clarified that he is comfortable living with his grandparents.

The father informed the court that he has not cancelled his son’s admission, and his school is also willing to accommodate special classes for him; at the same time, Girija expressed some apprehensions, and said that in case her son suffers from any ailment, she should not be held responsible, and the grandparents should take proper care of him. She further submitted that during festivals, the child should be sent to her in Kolhapur — this condition was agreed upon by both the child and his father.

Speaking to Mirror after the verdict, advocate Bharat More, who represented the father, shared, “My client had filed a divorce application in the Kolhapur court in 2018, on grounds of cruelty. The wife had demanded custody of the child by filing an application that was allowed by the Kolhapur court. We appealed in the HC, but meanwhile the boy was admitted at a Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) school there; here in Pune, he was studying at an international School. The child is a national-level golf player — he was suffering greatly amid this family dispute. The HC considered the child’s bright future and ordered that the mother immediately hand over the child’s custody to the father. This is a welcome judgment.”

While giving the statement, Justice RG Ketkar had said, “After interaction with the child, I was really impressed with his honesty and sincerity. It is settled in law that while considering interim custody, the welfare of a child is a paramount consideration. In my opinion, his welfare in this case lies in shifting to Pune and studying there so as to pursue his hobbies.”



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