Supreme Court Accedes To A 14-Yr-Old’s Desire, Granting Custody To Her Aunt Instead Of Her Biological Father

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The division bench of Justice CT Ravikumar and Rajesh Bindal of the Supreme Court reinstated custody of a teenage girl to her aunt, overturning a Patna High Court ruling that had granted custody to her biological father, whom she had not lived with since birth.

Emphasizing the importance of the child’s well-being and stability, the highlighted the girl’s preference to reside with her paternal aunt’s family.

The bench said “Keeping in view her age at present, she is capable of forming an opinion in that regard. She was quite categoric in that regard when we interacted with her. She cannot be treated as a chattel at the age of 14 years to hand over her custody to the respondent No.2, where she has not lived ever since her birth,” 

The scenario unfolded during the hearing of an appeal against a ruling by the Patna High Court, which had removed a 14-year-old from her aunt’s care due to the presence of biological children in the aunt’s family.

The High Court’s decision was in response to a habeas corpus petition filed by the biological father. Subsequently, the aunt contested the High Court’s ruling in the highest court.

Upon reviewing the appeal, the Supreme Court clarified that the aunt’s plea did not pertain to guardianship or adoption but solely focused on gaining custody of the child. Following a private discussion with the involved parties, the Court recognized the child’s high level of intelligence and awareness regarding her own well-being.

The bench said “She categorically stated that she is happy with the family where she has been brought up. She has other brother and sister. She is having cordial relations with them. She does not wish to be destabilized”.

The court, despite the aunt’s subsequent marriage or having two children, maintained that the aunt’s custody was still in the best interest of the child.

Consequently, the appeal was granted, reinstating the aunt’s guardianship over the girl.

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