The Bombay High Court has ruled that religion of a parent cannot override other factors such as financial capability while deciding the custody rights of a minor child.
The court was hearing two separate appeals filed by a four-year-old girl's father Lisbon Miranda and her paternal aunt, Louella Fernandes, challenging a single judge's order which had granted the custody of the minor child to her maternal grandfather Rajan Chawla.
The child's father was a Christian, while mother a Hindu. The girl's father was arrested on charges of killing his wife and is currently in jail. The minor has been staying with her maternal grandparents after the death of mother.
However, her maternal aunt, on instructions of the child's father, contested the claim of minor's grand father Rajan Chawla for the custody of the child. The minor's father also put up his claim for the custody of the child.
An argument was urged before the single judge on the fact that the father of the minor professes the Christian religion, while the maternal grandparents are Hindus. It was urged that the grandparents may not be able to initiate the child into Christian precepts.
However, this submission was not pressed in the appeals filed before the High Court and correctly so, noted Justices Dhananjay Chandrachud and S C Gupte.
"In any event, even if the aspect of religion is borne in mind, it is evident that the child was born in a family where father professes Christianity and mother was a Hindu," the judges noted.
"Evidently, in such a situation it would be most inappropriate to assign to the religion of one parent such an overwhelming importance as to override the balance of other factors which bear on the welfare of the child," the judges observed, while dismissing both the appeals.