A protracted Court battle over child custody rights led the Supreme Court on Tuesday to comment on how children are always at the losing end of such family disputes.
While closing Supreme Court proceedings in the case of Soumitra Kumar Nahar v. Parul Nahar, the Bench of Justices AM Khanwilkar and Ajay Rastogi noted,
“In a custody battle, no matter which parent wins but the child is always the loser and it is the children who pay the heaviest price as they are shattered when the Court by its judicial process tells them to go with the parent whom he or she deems fit ... It is the child who suffers the most in a matrimonial dispute.”
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Justices Am Khanwilkar and Ajay Rastogi
Authoring the judgment for the Bench, Justice Rastogi went on to remark,
"It is indisputed that the rights of the child need to be respected as he/she is entitled to the love of both the parents. Even if there is a breakdown of marriage, it does not signify the end of parental responsibility."
Further, it was also acknowledged that in such matrimonial disputes, any solution proposed by the Court would remain guess work.
“… if the parents are bent upon to lead to a separation or divorce, it is always the children who pay the heaviest price and are the sufferers. If the parents fail to enable themselves to decide their inter se disputes particularly in reference to custody of minor children, the Court, after due scrutiny of the records of the case, reaches to any conclusion that always remain a guess work.”
In the case at hand, the Court also sounded a note of anguish over the death of the paternal grandparents of the children during the pendency of legal proceedings. The Bench observed,
"It is an ideal situation where the grandparents remain in the company of their children and also of their grandchildren, but very few are fortunate to have this pleasure in the fag end of their life. In the instant case, the grandparents were not only deprived of love and affection of their children but also of their grandchildren and because of this matrimonial tussle between the parties, they have lost their lives."
The Court added that it is a message to the litigating parties to "introspect and take stock of their deeds and find out a reasonable amicable solution of the ongoing matrimonial discord to secure peace and of their better future."
The Court was dealing with an appeal filed challenging a 2015 Delhi High Court verdict concerning child custody and visitation rights over two children born to the warring couple. Divorce proceedings initiated back in 2011 are pending before a lower court.
Despite its best efforts, the Apex Court found that the couple were unable to reconcile with each other or arrive at a consensus on the issue of child custody and visitation rights.
Therefore, on Tuesday, it disposed of the appeal, while granting the parties liberty to move the appropriate court for custody or guardianship over the minor children. In the meanwhile, an interim arrangement directed by the Court in 2017 is to continue.
The Court also ordered that the pending divorce proceedings be completed expeditiously by the concerned court, and not later than December 31, 2020S
Soumitra Kumar Nahar v. Parul Naha
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