HC denies minor daughter’s custody to father serving life sentence

 The Delhi High Court has refused to grant custody of a 15-year-old girl to her father, who is serving life sentence in a murder case, saying the daughter is in her formative years in which she needs the care and protection of her mother more than any other person.

The high court said it cannot be overlooked that the man had no access to his daughter since the time she was one year old and is practically a stranger to her.

The high court’s order came while dismissing a man’s appeal challenging a family court’s decision denying him the custody of his minor daughter, who has been living with his estranged wife.

It is not in dispute that the child since the age of one year, is in the custody of mother. The appellant is facing sentence of life imprisonment for the offence under sections 302 (murder) and 201 (destruction of evidence) IPC, the court said.

“He may be on bail presently but looking at his antecedents and his conviction in a criminal case of the most heinous nature making his future uncertain, it cannot be considered in the interest and welfare of the child to grant her custody to the appellant (man),” a bench of Justices Suresh Kumar Kait and Neena Bansal Krishna said.

The bench said, “The child is now 15 years old and she is in her formative years wherein she needs the care and protection of the mother more than any other person. Furthermore, the appellant cannot claim the custody by asserting that his mother would take care of the child.”

It said the family court has rightly declined permanent custody of the child to the man, but considering that he is the natural father, he has been granted limited visitation right for one hour in a month in the interest of welfare of the minor.

The man and the woman had got married in February 2006 and a girl child was born to them in March 2007.

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He was arrested by the police in the criminal case in May 2008 and remained in judicial custody till January 2015.

The man claimed his wife left her matrimonial house in 2008 when he was in jail and later sought divorce.

He said on being released on bail in 2015, he filed the petition seeking custody of the child who he has not been able to meet since he was sent to jail.

The woman claimed the child will not be safe in the custody of the man who repeatedly extended threats to her and their daughter. She said the man has been convicted in the criminal case and sentenced to life imprisonment, and looking at his antecedents, it is not safe to hand over the daughter’s custody to him.

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