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Women lawyers have proved to be bold, brave and successful mothers, fiction of a polluted mind to think otherwise: P&H HC

“Branding lady lawyers as a class as irresponsible is unacceptable,” said the Punjab and Haryana High Court while responding to a child's paternal grandparents who sought custody of their lawyer daughter-in-law’s child.

Lydia Suzanne Thomas

Remonstrating a child’s grandparents who sought the custody of their grandchild on the ground that the child’s mother was a “lady lawyer”, Justice Augustin George Masih of the Punjab and Haryana High Court remarked recently that "Branding lady lawyers as a class as irresponsible is unacceptable."

"Branding lady lawyers as a class as irresponsible is unacceptable and, therefore, the welfare of the child, which includes moral and ethical values, is least expected to be protected and secured by such grandparents, who have narrow outlook towards life and society. Women lawyers are not only successful in their professional endeavours but have proved to be bold, brave and successful mothers."
Punjab and Haryana High Court

Justice Masih explained:

"As regards the stand of the petitioners (grandparents) that respondents No.1 (the child’s father) and 2 (the child’s mother) are Advocates by profession and, therefore, cannot take care of child and would not be able to watch the welfare of their child, suffice it to say that the stand, which has been taken by the petitioners, is a fiction of a polluted mind, where a working woman is looked down upon as a careless and care free person ignoring the fact that she also is a mother of the child."

The Court added that persons with the sort of outlook as the petitioners were unfit to look after the child’s welfare.

The petition before the Court arose out of a revision petition preferred by the paternal grandparents of a 3-year old male child.

The petitioners challenged the order passed by a Civil Judge dismissing their application for impleadment to proceedings instituted by their daughter-in-law for the custody of her child. The proceedings were instituted under the Hindu Minority and Guardianship Act, 1956.

The Court noted that the application for impleadment was made by the petitioners in an attempt to delay proceedings and only when the mother filed a habeas corpus petition in the High Court for the custody of her child.

The Bench, while adjudicating on the habeas corpus petition, had directed the Civil Judge to expedite proceedings in the lower court. It was only then that the impleadment application was made, Justice Masih noted.

Stating that the Trial Court had “seen through the petitioners plan” and rejected the impleadment application, the Judge reasoned:

"Had the petitioners been interested, as is asserted, in the welfare of the minor child, they should have, at the very outset, moved an application for being impleaded as a party to the lis at initial stage. It is only after the proceedings have been expedited by this Court vide order dated 30.05.2019 that the present application for impleading the petitioners as party has been filed on 10.10.2019. This leaves no manner of doubt that the application preferred by the petitioners for impleading them as a party is not a bona fide exercise on their part."

Opining that the grandparents did not have a right to be impleaded to the proceedings, the Court stated that the Impleading Court has the competence to examine the intent and purpose with which the application was moved.

The Judge also reiterated that the primary consideration before any Court in deciding which parent was to have custody of the child would be the child’s welfare.

Such welfare could not be decided by money or physical comfort alone, Justice Masih emphasized, "which probably appears to be a consideration on the part of the petitioners overlooking the factum of the love and affection and the natural affinity of the parents to a child".

Because the intent and purpose of the statute is to give primacy to the welfare of the child, the same would have to be considered. The parent who would best foster the same was to be allowed the custody of the child, Justice Masih expounded.

"Welfare as a word is not to be given a restrictive meaning but has to be read in the widest amplitude and the Court has to decide with regard to the welfare of the child as to who would better promote the same."
the Court added.

Read the Order here:

Laxmi Roy v. Deepa and Ors. - Final Order dated September 9.pdf
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