Father accused of causing mother’s dowry death can’t be granted custody of child: P&H HC

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The Punjab & Haryana High Court last week refused to grant custody of a 3-year-old child to her father, on the ground that he was accused of causing the wife’s dowry death [Somvir v. State of Haryana].

Justice Harnaresh Singh Gill took note of the fact that the wife of the petitioner had died by suicide within four years of their marriage, and that the police had found that the death had not occurred under normal circumstances.

Thereafter, a first information report (FIR) for the offences of cruelty and dowry death was registered against the father of the child.

“The petitioner, who is accused of having driven his wife to commit suicide, cannot be granted any equitable relief, when it comes to handing over him the custody of the minor child.”

The single-judge observed that the issue of a child’s custody was a very sensitive one, and had to be dealt with after considering the paramount welfare of the child.

“Culpability of the crime, he is accused of, would not only emotionally devastate and destruct the growing years of the minor, but would completely compromise her over all mental growth,” Justice Gill recorded.

The father had moved a habeas corpus petition claiming that the child’s maternal uncle and grandparents had illegal custody of her. He informed the High Court that being the father and natural guardian of the child, he was entitled to the custody of the child.

With regard to the allegations and the pending criminal case against him, the father contended that he must be considered innocent until proven guilty, and thus, he could not be denied the custody of his child on those grounds.

However, the Court found that this plea suffered from fallacy. It was the opinion of the Court that the maternal grandparents and uncle were the best people to take care of the child under the circumstances.

The Court cited the case of Ratan Kundu v Abhijit Kundu, where it was held that the pendency of a criminal case where the father has been charged of causing the death of the minor’s mother was a relevant factor required to be considered before an appropriate order on child custody could be passed.

Therefore, the petition was dismissed, considering that the petitioner had been accused of driving his wife to commit suicide.

“This Court is of the considered opinion that the petitioner being the accused of having driven his wife to commit suicide, cannot be handed over the custody of the child, as such course of action is not considered to be of paramount welfare of the child.”

Advocate Shalender Mohan appeared for the petitioner father.

Read Order here:

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