Saturday, December 2, 2023

First-ever: Kerala High Court appoints separate lawyer for child in custody matter

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The High Court of Kerala has walked that extra mile for the welfare of a child by appointing a separate lawyer to represent the child in a custody case.

The Division Bench of Justice A. Muhamed Mustaque and Justice Sophy Thomas took the landmark decision last week, after observing with both the parents fighting for the custody of the child, there was no one to protect the interest of the child.

The case pertained to a petition filed by the father, a practising lawyer, seeking custody of his third and youngest offspring.

A family court has already granted custody of the elder two children to the father on the grounds that both of them were subjected to molestation by their maternal grandfather.

The counsel appearing for the petitioner contended that there were medical records indicating that the youngest child was molested by the mother and that there was a case registered against her under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POCSO Act).

During the hearing in another child custody case earlier, Project Coordinator of the Victim Rights Centre, Advocate Parvathy Menon, had apprised the Court that appointing an independent counsel for the children would help to protect their best interests, since the same would be lost in heated disputes between the parents.

Advocate Menon further submitted that while the law of custody prioritised the ‘best’ interests of the child, children generally did not have the right to have their views regarding their interests presented before the court.

The High Court implemented the suggestion in the present custody case and appointed a separate lawyer for the child.

Advocates Jamsheed Hafiz, K.K. Nesna and T.S. Sreekutty appeared for the petitioner, while Advocate Fathima Beevi represented the mother of the child.

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