Habeas Corpus Petition for Custody of Minor Child: A Case of Parental Dispute
Mahesh D. Yatnalli vs The State Of Karnataka
23 May, 2023
Bench: Hon’ble Alok Aradhe, Hon’ble Anant Ramanath Hegde
A recent case, WPHC No. 34 of 2023, brought before the court involved a petition seeking a writ of Habeas Corpus to produce a minor son, Kautik Iyer Yatnalli, before the court. The petitioner, the father, alleged that the respondent, the mother, had denied him access to their child, contrary to the terms of a previously reached compromise. The court examined the maintainability of the writ petition and made a decision based on the best interests of the child.
The petitioner and respondent No.4 were married in 2011 but separated in 2014 due to matrimonial disputes. As a result of their separation, respondent No.4 initiated a maintenance proceeding under Section 125 of the Criminal Procedure Code, which was resolved through a compromise. As per the compromise, respondent No.4 was appointed as the guardian of the child, and the petitioner was granted visitation rights during weekends and custody during Summer and Winter Vacations.
The petitioner claimed that despite the agreed-upon compromise, he was denied access to his son during one of the weekends in January 2023 and also during the Summer Vacation starting from March 25, 2023. The petitioner sent emails to respondent No.4 seeking resolution but received no response and was completely denied access to his son. Frustrated by this situation, the petitioner filed a writ of Habeas Corpus in April 2023.
The petitioner’s counsel argued that the writ of Habeas Corpus was maintainable in this case, citing the decision in ‘RAJESWARI CHANDRASEKAR GANESH vs. STATE OF TAMIL NADU & OTHERS’ (2022 SCC ONLINE SC 885). They emphasized that the petitioner, a senior manager at Hindustan Aeronautics Limited, was entitled to access his son as per the compromise. The petitioner assured the court of making suitable arrangements, including the presence of his mother and sister, to ensure a congenial atmosphere during the child’s stay.
The respondent’s counsel contended that the petitioner had not provided evidence of obtaining leave and argued that the petitioner, being alone, would not be able to properly attend to the child’s needs, particularly considering the child’s medical condition of epilepsy. The respondent suggested that the court interview the child and raised concerns regarding the jurisdiction of Habeas Corpus in cases where the child is in the custody of one parent.
The court considered the submissions from both sides and examined the precedents. Referring to the decision in ‘YASHITA SAHU vs. STATE OF RAJASTHAN’ (2020) 3 SCC 67, the court concluded that a writ of Habeas Corpus could be maintained even when a child is in the custody of one parent, if it serves the best interest of the child. In this case, since the petitioner had been deprived of access to the child during the Summer Vacation as agreed upon in the compromise, the court deemed the writ of Habeas Corpus maintainable.
The court also took into account a medical report stating that the child’s current medical condition was stable and interacted with the child privately. Based on these factors, the court concluded that a congenial atmosphere was necessary during the child’s stay with the petitioner.
The court orders the mother to hand over custody of the child to the father, who will spend time with the child until a specified date. The father is directed to provide proper care, including medical attention, and the mother is allowed to make daily video calls. The custody will be returned to the mother as per the agreement’s terms.
In this case, the court upholds the father’s right to spend time with his child and emphasizes the best interests of the child. It acknowledges the importance of maintaining a harmonious environment for the child’s well-being. While the court does not address the breach of the compromise agreement directly, it indicates that such matters can be pursued through contempt proceedings.
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JUDGEMENT REVIEWED BY SHREEYA S SHEKAR