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Mir Mohamed BahauddIn Vs. Mujee Bunnisa Begum Sahiba - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectFamily
CourtChennai High Court
Decided On
Case NumberO.P. No. 329 of 1950
Judge
Reported inAIR1952Mad280
ActsMuhammadan Law; Guardians and Wards Act, 1890 - Sections 17 and 39
AppellantMir Mohamed Bahauddin
RespondentMujee Bunnisa Begum Sahiba
Appellant AdvocateSyed Mohammad, Adv.
Respondent AdvocateS. Azizuddin, Adv.
DispositionApplication allowed
Cases ReferredJumina Khatun v. Gaharajan Bibi
Excerpt:
.....it would be impossible for her under her changed circumstances to look after the child and care for her well-being. the child is about 7 years of age and could very well live with the father and it is stated that the father's mother is in the family to look after the child. j am not satisfied that the petitioner has an ulterior motive in filing this petition......the treatment which he is alleged to have meted out to the mother, there is nothing against the father personally otherwise. he is an official in government service employed as a lecturer in government central polytechnic, madras, drawing a decent salary. he has also married a second wife; but he has no issue by the second wife. that, however, is not a very material circumstance inconsidering his claims for the guardianship. i do not find on the allegations made in the affidavits filed in this case that he is a person who could not be thought of for the guardianship of the minor. i consider him as a fit and proper person to take charge of the custody of the minor. it is also the duty of the legal guardian to look after the child, maintain her, educate and arrange for her marriage all.....
Judgment:

Krishnaswami Nayudu, J.

1. The father of the minor applies for removal of the present guardian Mujeebunnissa Begum, who is the mother of the minor, from guardianship, and for appointment of himself as the guardian of the person of the minor. The present guardian, who is the Respondent, was married to the Petitioner and owing to certain differences there was a divorce of this marriage. She applied in O. P. No. 59 of 1947 for appointment of herself as the guardian of the person of the minor, who was then achild at about two years of 'age. The Petitioner consented to her being appointed and by an order of this Court dated 20-3-1947 made in the said O.P. No. 59 of 1947, the present Respondent was appointed as the guardian of the person of the minor. Subsequent to this, there were certain proceedings in the Presidency Magistrate's Court under Section 488 of the Criminal Procedure Code for orders as maintenance of the minor and a sum of Rs. 12/- was fixed as the monthly maintenance to be paid to the Petitioner. The said order is still in force.

2. It is now stated that the Respondent has married a second husband and by him she has now a female child and that under the Muslim Law, the mother is not the natural guardian, while the father is alive, and that by virtue of the second marriage, she has forfeited her right to be the guardian of the person of the minor and to have her custody. The present application is for removal of the Respondent from the guardianship on the ground that she has forfeited her right to be the guardian under the personal law applicable to the parties.

3. The custody, or what is called 'hizanat' of a minor girl until she attains puberty and of a minor boy until he attains the age of 7 years is with the mother. But even then the legal guardian is only the father. The right to the custody of the minor girl until-she attains puberty continues with the mother, though she is divorced by the father of the child. However, the mother cannot continue to have the custody of the child, if she marries a second husband, in which case the custody belongs to the father. This is the proposition that has been laid down in 'Ulfat Bibi v. Bafati', 49 All 773, Mulla in his book on Principles of Mahomedan Law's 13th Edition, page 295 states as follows:

'The mother is entitled to the custody (hizanat) of her male child until he has completed the age of seven years and of her female child until she has attained puberty. The right continues though she is divorced by the father of the child, unless she marries a second husband in which case the custody belongs to the father.'

The principle laid down in 'Ulfat Bibi v. Bafati, 49 All 773 has been approved by the author in his book, referred to. There is no dispute as to the Petitioner being the legal guardian. But it is contended on behalf of the Respondent that the mother is entitled to hizanat or custody until the minor attains puberty and that this right is not taken away, even if she marries a second husband. That is contrary to what is laid down in 'Ulfat Bibi v. Bafati', 49 All 773. But the learned counsel relies on certain observations made in 'Jumina Khatun v. Gaharajan Bibi', 76 Cal L Jour 303 . In that case a maternal aunt was held to have a preferential right to the custody of the minor over that of paternal grandmother. It - was held that having regard to the welfare of the minor, a maternal aunt' who has married a stranger, in the absence of any preferential person, is not disqualified from being appointed guardian o the minor, that the Mahomedan Law does not lay down that a woman who had- m'arried a stranger to the minor is disqualified from being appointed a guardian under any circumstances-and that it merely lays down that such a woman loses any preferential right which she had by virtue of her relationship to the minor. The-question that arises in this case is not whether by reason of the marriage to a stranger the mo-there loses the right to continue to have the cus-tody of the Minor, but whether she has forfeited her Tight to be the guardian by. virtue of her second' marriage. That is not the point that was-considered in that decision. .. , . , (4) The Mahomedan Law fixes the order of preference 'as regards custody in the case of a boy under the age of seven years and of a girl who has not attained puberty as follows. : failing the mother, mother's mother, how high so ever; father's mother, how high so ever; full sister; uterine sister; consanguine sister and soon in the order prescribed; and only such female relation in the said order of preference would be entitled to the custody of the minor. But she loses the right to custody under certain circumstances if she marries a person not related to the child within the prohibited degrees e.g. a stranger; or, if she goes and resides, during the-subsistence of the marriage, at a distance from the father's place of residence; or, if she is leading an immoral life, as where she is a prostitute; of if she neglects to take proper care of the child.

5. The question that arose for decision in'Jumina Khatun v. Gaharajan Bibi' 76 Cal L Jour 303 was whether by reason of her marriage to a stranger, the maternal aunt was disqualified to be the guardian, and Sen J. observed as follows :

'The Mahomedan Law nowhere directs- that a woman having minor relations should always marry the relations of such minors or that the marriages of such a woman with strangers are looked upon with disfavour. Jt laid down this rule regarding the custody of the minors by 'females in order to protect them as far as possible from harsh treatment by strangers. Further the passages in Bail-lie and the Hedaya stating a woman loses the right of Hizanit by marriage ,with a stranger to the minor occurs where the question of the preferential right of guardianship is being discussed. It is nowhere suggested that where there are' no other eligible relations the Judge cannot appoint a woman who has lost her right of hizanit by her marriage to a stranger. The word 'disqualified is nowhere used. I do not consider therefore, that the Mahommedan Law lays down that a woman who had married a stranger to the minor is 'disqualified' from being appointed a guardian under any circumstances.'

'Considering the welfare of the minor, the maternal aunt was held to be not disqualified-from being appointed guardian of the minor, in the absence of any preferential person, though she has married a stranger.

6. To a similar effect is the decision inSami-un-nissa v. Saida Khatun', I.L.R. (1944)All 368, relied on behalf of the Respondent. In that case the learned Judge relied on section 17 of the Guardians and Wards. Act and held that the primary consideration for the Court is the welfare of the minor, that it is open to the Court to appoint a stranger, if it cannot find a more suitable person and that there is no provision of Muhammadan Law,-which forbids such appointment.

7. In 'Ulfat Bibi y. Bafati' 49 All 773 as in the present case the mother married a second husband, and she was held disentitled to have the custody of the child. The learned-Judges observe as follows :

'We are of opinion that a woman who has been divorced, if this appellant has beendivorced and has married a second, husband, is not a person either herself better suited than the father, however, unsuitable the, father may be, and not a person 'who ought to be heard ,to say that the father is unsuitable. She has abandoned her home and husband either by her own free will, or as the result of her conduct, and in the eyes of the law she has lost the right to assert a claim against the father for the child and probably the right to assert this appeal.'

Though it cannot be stated that however unsuitable the father may be, he may be appointed in preference to the mother, or any other.near relation or stranger, certainly the mother, who has chosen to leave the father--though in this case under alleged ill-treatment--is not the person to whom the child could be entrusted, since it is unlikely that a woman who has married a second husband would be in a position ip pay as much attention to the upkeep and well-being of the child as she would, if she had nottaken to a second husband. It cannot be denied that she is answerable to the husband primarily and to look after his comforts and answer his behests and whatever attention she may bestow on the child could only be after she has been of such service to the second husband as he would require. In my view, unless the father is totally unsuitable, or there is any other relation who would take charge of the child, the mother who has married a second husband, is not at all the person to whom the child of the' first marriage should be entrusted. It would be impossible for her under her changed circumstances to look after the child and care for her well-being.

8. Section 17 of the Guardians and Wards Act provides that the Court should be guided by what, consistently with the law to which the minor is subject, appears in the circumstances to be for the welfare of the minor. The, paramount consideration in cases coming up under the Guardians and Wards Act for appointment of guardian should be the welfare of the minor. But it must be as far as possible consistent with the personal law relating to the parties. The preferential right of any person to the guardianship cannot be ignored unless he is totally unfit to be appointed as guardian and Courts must necessarily consider his claims in preference to any others. If in this case, keeping in view, the welfare of the minor, no other person than the father could be considered as a fit person to be appointed as guardian there is no reason why the father should be passed over as he is also guardian under the personal law.

9. It is argued strenuously on behalf of the Respondent that the Petitioner is unfit to be the guardian, since he has brutally treated the mother and it is not likely that he will have any affection for the child, that the child is of indifferent health and often put to medical treatment and that the Respondent alone can bestow the necessary attention. Further, his character is attacked as being loose. But it must be noticed that apart from the treatment which he is alleged to have meted out to the mother, there is nothing against the father personally otherwise. He is an official in Government service employed as a Lecturer in Government Central Polytechnic, Madras, drawing a decent salary. He has also married a second wife; but he has no issue by the second wife. That, however, is not a very material circumstance inconsidering his claims for the guardianship. I do not find on the allegations made in the affidavits filed in this case that he is a person who could not be thought of for the guardianship of the minor. I consider him as a fit and proper person to take charge of the custody of the minor. It is also the duty of the legal guardian to look after the child, maintain her, educate and arrange for her marriage all at his cost. To take away the child from his custody and keep her with the mother, until she attains puberty and then send that minor to him would be to deprive him of the attachment to the child, which must be cultivated by association and such association must commence at a very early age. It cannot be said that the child is of such tender years that she could not leave the mother's care. The child is about 7 years of age and could very well live with the father and it is stated that the father's mother is in the family to look after the child.

10. It was also argued that the application is not maintainable and that it is filed only with a view to escape the liability to pay maintenance, which the Petitioner is already paying under the orders of the Criminal Court, and that it is an attempt to dispute his liability in a suit which is said to have been instituted in the City Civil Court for the maintenance of the minor. J am not satisfied that the Petitioner has an ulterior motive in filing this Petition. Naturally, he wants to have the child as he is the rightful guardian and is entitled to custody.

11. An argument was advanced that no grounds had arisen for removal of the mother, who has already been appointed as the guardian and unless she could be Validly removed, no fresh guardian could be appointed. Section 39 of the Guardians and Wards. Act lays down the grounds and circumstances under which a guardian could be removed. One of the grounds on which a guardian may be removed is 'by reason of the guardianship of the guardian ceasing, or being liable to cease, under the law to which the minor is subject.' I have already held that by reason of the marriage with the second husband, the Respondent has forfeited her rights to be the guardian. I therefore remove her from the guardianship and appoint the Petitioner as the guardian of the person of the minor. He will be entitled to the custody of the minor and the Respondent will deliver custody of the minor on or before the 15th February 1951. No order as to costs.


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