Want mum or dad, judge asks 7-yr-old girl in open court: Daughter Chooses Father
The girl sobs uncontrollably at the poser, following which the hearing was held behind closed doors. Finally, with the girl insisting on staying with her father, the judge gives in to the kid’s demand
November 30, 2010
In an unusual end to proceedings in a child custody case in the High Court, Justice B Sreenivase Gowda delivered an order awarding custodial care of a seven-year-old girl to her father. In itself, a verdict in favour of the father is rare, but Gowda’s process of arriving at his decision was certainly novel.
Sanjay Shetty, a hotelier, and his wife Asha, a government officer, were fighting for custody of their daughter, Shruti. While Sanjay and Asha, who hail from Mangalore and were married in 1998, were both in attendance, the presence of Shruti too seemed to have compounded matters. The arguments in court barely lasted 15 minutes before judge Gowda decided to elicit the views of the child. He asked the child in open court whom she would like to stay with. Shruti broke down and said that she wanted to remain with her father.
CRYING IN COURT
In the first session on Monday, Gowda had asked Asha to look after the child till noon. He also asked her to take the child out to lunch. Shruti, however, refused to budge from her father’s side and burst into tears. The judge kept prodding her to be wit her mother, but a wailing Shruti insisted that she did not want to go with Asha. Gowda then adjourned the case and resumed hearing in his chamber after lunch.
What transpired between the couple, the child, the counsel and the judge in the chamber is not known, but Gowda later pronounced the verdict in Sanjay’s favour.
“The judge may have taken the case to his chamber as he did not want to embarrass the people involved,” an advocate in present in court said. “It is another matter when only the parents are present, but the presence of the child makes it sensitive,” the advocate said.
Sanjay and Asha have been fighting a divorce, child custody and a domestic violence case for some years now. Three years ago, a family court had given custody of the child to Sanjay, but Asha had appealed the verdict in the High Court.
Child custody matters rarely reach the High Court and verdicts usually favour the mother. The father is only provided visitation rights.
Justice Gowda normally presides over criminal cases and in the last few months has disposed of the highest number of cases - over 60 of them.
(The names of the couple and the child have been changed).