Pinnacle court to make a decision on guardianship of Covid orphan in judicial proceeding

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The Supreme Court will choose the guardianship of a six-year-old Covid-orphaned boy who is at the centre of a judicial proceeding between his paternal grandparents and maternal aunt since the death of his parents last year.

The boy’s father died on May 13 and his mother on June 12 when the second wave was peaking in Gujarat in 2021. The maternal relatives took the kid to Dahod from his paternal grandparents’ house in Ahmedabad to attend the last rites of his mother and since then, he wasn't brought back. 

Anxious about his whereabouts, health and education, the grandparents moved Gujarat judicature seeking custody. The HC judges interacted with the kid and recorded within the judgment: “We noticed that he's comfortable with the petitioner and his wife (grandparents), however he wasn't during a position to provide an independent preference between the petitioner and also the maternal aunt.”

Despite this, the HC gave the boy’s custody to the 46-year-old aunt on the bottom that she was unmarried, employed with the central government and residing during a joint family which might be conducive for the upbringing of the kid. In contrast, the grandparents are both senior citizens and enthusiastic about the grandfather’s pension, the HC had said.

The grandfather’s counsel DN Ray said the HC erred by viewing the age of the grandparents, ignoring better education facilities in Ahmedabad and also the child’s familiarity with the environment within the city where he grew up when his parents were alive. He also said that the paternal uncle of the kid has his own restaurant business in Coimbatore and would dig in if the necessity arises. 

A vacation bench of Justices MR Shah and Aniruddha Bose stayed the HC order giving the child’s custody to the aunt, and sought her response by Tuesday to the grandparents’ plea seeking custody of their grandchild. The bench concluded arguments and said it might take under consideration the aunt’s response before pronouncing the order on June 9.

The bench said that the education facilities at Ahmedabad are far better than that at Dahod, a tribal area. 

On the disqualification of adult grandparents vis-a-vis 46-year-old unmarried maternal aunt, the bench asked the aunt’s counsel to elucidate how the grandparents, aged 71 and 63, may well be disqualified to own custody of their grandchild. 

“Age of 71 and 63 is nothing nowadays. People stay strong even at more advanced ages,” the bench remarked.

When the aunt’s counsel argued that “she was unmarried which rearing a toddler requires some energy”, the bench said, “when paternal grandparents say they're able to be sure of the kid, they become more energetic. it'll be better if the boy stays with the grandparents”.