The Madhya Pradesh High Court affirmed an order passed by the Family Court whereby the custody of a motherless child was granted to his father (respondent) over his maternal grandparents.

The bench of Chief Justice Ravi Malimath and Justice Anand Pathak observed that "father as per Section 6 of Act of 1956, is Natural guardian of minor and since he is his biological father also, therefore, statute also favours the cause of respondent as father."

In this case, in 2018, the respondent/father moved an application under Section 6 of the Guardian and Wards Act, 1890 seeking custody of his son, wherein the Family Court allowed the application and directed his maternal grandparents to hand over the custody of the child to the father being the natural guardian. This impugned order of custody passed by the Family Court is challenged before this High Court.

Advocate Hardayesh Kumar Shukla appeared on behalf of the appellant and submitted that the criminal proceedings were pending under Sections 304-B, 498-A, 506, and 34 of IPC against the respondent and that he may be convicted therein. It was also submitted that the respondent is in a transferable job, therefore, he cannot look after his child properly.

Advocate Suresh Agrawal appeared on behalf of the respondent and submitted that the mother of the child died by suicide and since after that the maternal grandparents, with their meagre financial resources, were not being able to look after the child properly and that he should be granted the custody of the child.

The High Court observed that, if the provisions of the Guardians and Wards Act, 1890, and the Hindu Minority & Guardianship Act, 1956 were seen in juxtaposition then "the conclusion appears is that the welfare of minor is paramount consideration while considering the custody, in appointment or declaration of a person as guardian of Hindu minor by a Court."

The High Court then examined the status of the contesting parties and found that the circumstances were weighing in favor of granting the custody of child with the father-respondent as the maternal grandparents were not able to establish steady income and observed that "respondent / father is working as Constable in I.T.B.P., a paramilitary force and earning regular salary. Regular source of income guarantees a continuous flow of money, modest though, but certainly sufficient to look after the interest of child. Secondly, being a member of Indian Paramilitary Force, he leads a disciplined life and therefore, discipline would inculcate into the family set up and would help the minor to grow in disciplined manner which if compared to the life likely to be led with maternal grandparents then the difference would appear clearly. Thirdly, father has shown his keen interest to bring upon his child and take him under his supervision."

The High Court further observed that "When matter is tested on the anvil of welfare of minor and the comparative resources of the parties and emotional attributes involved in the case then after balancing of the totality of the circumstances, only one conclusion appears inevitable. The conclusion is that Ayush's welfare lies in living with his father."

Accordingly, the High Court dismissed the appeal and the order of the Family Court, granting custody of the child to the father, was affirmed.

Cause Title- Anand Kumar & Anr. v. Lakhan Jatav

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