1. The minor Rupinder Kaur, aged about 5 years, has been produced before me in Court today. She is properly dressed and appears to be in good health. Her present state of health could not possibly have been brought about since I passed my last order directing the production of the child in Court. I have questioned the child. She states that she is studying in a Government school in her village and that her mummy is looking after her. The father of the child is also present and assures me that he is discharging all his obligations towards the child as the father. He also assures me that his second wife is looking after the child properly.
2. Shrimati Iqbal Kaur respondent is also present. She has produced before me album containing some photographs of a minor girl of about 1 to 3 years of age. As observed by the learned Guardianship Judge, it cannot be said with certainty that the photographs are of Kumari Rupinder Kaur. The respondent has not brought any small present for the child which may have won over her affections. It is, however, considered desirable that the maternal grand mother should be allowed to see the child occasionally. The father is the natural guardian of the minor girl and there is no law which can justify an order directing the father to give up the custody of the child on the facts proved in this case. The dispute as to the guardianship and custody of the child is not between the natural parents but is between the father and the maternal grand mother. The only ruling cited by the respondent's counsel in which the maternal grand mother was allowed to retain the custody of the child as against the natural father was Vagesina Venkata Narasaiah v. Chintalapati Peddi Raju, AIR 1971 Andh Pra 134. In that case, the minor's mother had died in suspicious circumstances and the Court was not sure whether the child's life would be safe in the father's house. This case is, therefore, no authority for the proposition that the appellant who is the natural guardian of the child should be asked to hand over her custody to the maternal grand mother.
3. The respondent is an old lady of more than seventy years of age. If the order under appeal is enforced, the minor may be thrown completely at the mercy of her maternal uncles and aunts after the respondent's lifetime. These uncles and aunts may marry sooner or later and beget children of their own. They cannot be expected to evince the same interest in the health, welfare and upbringing of the minor that a natural or a step-parent may take. Moreover the uprooting of a minor child from his environments can create an emotional upheaval which may not be in the interest of the physical or mental health of the child. After the respondent's lifetime, the child may have to be handed back to the father which may create another emotional upheaval. Under the circumstances, the impugned order of the Guardianship Judge cannot be sustained. It is in the interest of the child and for her benefit that her custody should continue with the natural father.
4. It is, however, desirable that some arrangements should be made so that the maternal grand mother can meet the minor child occasionally. The appellant is prepared to agree to certain arrangements suggested by the Court. His statement may be recorded.
Statement of Shri Bikramjit Singh appellant on S. A.
The minor child is being very well looked after in my house. My second wife is showing the same love and affection for the child as a natural mother. She has given birth to a son about eight months ago but her love and affection for Rupinder Kaur has not diminished in any manner. I will see to it that the child is well looked after and brought up in my house. I have no objection if the child goes to see the maternal grand mother twice a month. I or my wife or both of us would take the minor to Ludhiana twice every month and allow the child to see the respondent for an hour or two on each visit. If we find that the respondent's treatment towards the minor child or her mother is cordial and we have confidence that they would be safe in the respondent's house, we may even agree to stay along with the child with the respondent for a night or two every month.
In view of the assurance given by the minor's father and in the light of the observations made by me above, the appeal is accepted and the order of the Guardianship Judge directing the appellant to hand over the custody of the child to this respondent is set aside. Parties are left to bear their own costs throughout.
5. Appeal allowed.