In mother’s absence, father is child’s natural guardian: HC

The Bombay High Court has granted custody of a minor boy to his father, who was accused of murdering his wife, after observing that in the absence of a mother, a child's natural guardian is the father.

A division bench of Justices PV Hardas and A S Gadkari was hearing a petition filed by Amol Pawar, seeking custody of his two and a half year son who was being looked after by his maternal grandfather after the father was arrested for allegedly murdering the child's mother.

Amol got married to Ramesh Dhotre's daughter in November 2010. In March 2012, she died due to burn injuries following which Amol was arrested and booked for murder and harassment.

In April 2013, a sessions court in Satara acquitted Amol from the charges following which he sought custody of his son from his father-in-law.

‘Since the petitioner has been acquitted and he is the natural guardian of the minor child, the petitioner cannot be deprived from obtaining custody of his minor child,’ the high court said.

It also noted that till date the state government has not preferred an appeal against Amol's acquittal.

While directing Dhotre to hand over custody of the child to Amol, the court said, ‘The respondent (Dhotre) would be at liberty to file appropriate proceedings under the Hindu Minority and Guardianship Act for claiming custody of the minor child in the family court.

Currently, the petitioner being the father cannot be deprived of the custody of his child.’ 

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