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Supreme Court admonishes Singapore-based couple fighting for custody of minor girl, says the ‘child has become shuttle cock’

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The Supreme Court on Monday came down heavily on a couple based in Singapore and fighting custody battle for their eight-year-old minor girl in India, saying that “the child has become a shuttle cock” between them.

The Bench, led by Chief Justice (CJI) N.V. Ramana and also comprising Justices Surya Kant and Hima Kohli, was hearing a Habeas Corpus plea filed by a man, who sought release of his minor daughter Henna Gulrajani from the custody of his wife Aditi Subbiah, stating that his daughter was being illegally detained, in defiance to custody orders passed by a Family Court in Singapore. 

Justice Surya Kant said, “Your marriage was solemnised in India and then you started living in Singapore. We are only examining the facts. How can wife be an illegal detainer of a child, she is a mother.”

“You can’t come in a writ of Habeas Corpus to argue the matter,” opined Justice Hima Kohli. 

The CJI said, “You are not remedyless. You can seek it before the Family Court.”

Advocate Prabhjit Jauhar, appearing for the petitioner/father of the child, submitted that the Habeas Corpus was allowed by the Punjab and Haryana High Court, but the custody petition was dismissed. 

CJI replied, “Don’t waste our time.” 

Justice Surya Kant said, “It is for you to file the execution.”

Justice Hima Kohli said, “You have got an order in your hand, why don’t you file an execution? Is it your stand that Indian Courts can’t pass a mirror order?”

Senior Advocate Geeta Luthra appeared for the mother of the child. She said, “I have already filed the guardianship petition. Because he has fled with the child from Singapore.”

Justice Hima Kohli asked, “What is problem between you two, the child is become a shuttle cock. What is the core issue?” 

Geeta Luthra replied, “My ladyship, the custody of the child was with me.”

Justice Hima Kohli replied, “This is unfortunate, what becomes of a child.” 

The CJI directed the Guardian Court Gurgaon to dispose of this matter expeditiously. “Within six months time, the petition pending before the family court should be disposed off,” said the apex court in its Order. 

Petitioner Amit Gulrajani aged about 42-years had challenged the dismissal of appeal by the Punjab and Haryana High Court, which had dismissed his appeal of Habeas Corpus and directions to the State of Haryana, Commissioner of Police, SHO, and Aditi Subbiah to present the child before the Court.

Respondent No 3/ Aditi Subbiah had opposed the plea on ground that proceedings under Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 as well as Guardians and Wards Act, 1980 are pending and he can move those courts for redressal of his grievance and his writ not maintainable. 

The Punjab and Haryana High Court had said, “Though he is relying upon order passed by a Court at Singapore, but then it has to be seen as to whether such order has been passed by the Court of Competent Jurisdiction and to what extent the direction issued by such Court is applicable in light of the laws on the subject applicable to the parties in this country.”

Further, the Court had stated, “Some litigation between the parties is stated to be going on. The petitioner may move appropriate application in the said litigation or file a separate petition/suit. Therefore, it is not found proper and appropriate under the circumstances to get custody of the minor child about eight years from her mother and hand it over to her father. The child is in custody of her mother, who is her natural guardian and it cannot be said that she is being illegally detained or confined by the mother of the child or that her residing with the mother is detrimental to her interest. The petition is doomed for failure and is dismissed.”

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