NEW DELHI: In an unprecedented ruling, the Supreme Court allowed a Hindu man to retain the custody of a 16-year-old Muslim boy after the teenager’s biological mother moved the court seeking his custody.
A Bench headed by Justice J S Khehar said, “The child, belonging to a Muslim family, was taken in by Aiku Lal in Lucknow after he was found abandoned. Having been taken in, cared for and educated by Lal, the boy will remain with his adoptive father until he turns 18, upon which he can decide where he wishes to live.”
The court disposed of the petition filed by the boy’s mother, but said the teenager could spend the summer vacations with his biological family if he wishes to.
Shahnaz Begum had moved the apex court after the Allahabad High Court declined to give her the child’s custody.
Begum said her son Akbar had gone missing in 2004. Three years later, she and her late husband found out he was living with Lal in Lucknow.
“If there can be inter-caste marriages, which is not very uncommon, there can also be an inter-caste father and son relationship and that need not raise eyebrows,” the High Court had said, while rejecting arguments that a Hindu should not be allowed to retain a Muslim couple’s child.
The High Court further rejected the argument that a Hindu keeping a Muslim child may create disharmony in society. “We are after all a secular country and the consideration of caste and creed should not be allowed to prevail,” the Court said.
“All other considerations including the right to custody under any law, must yield, to the question of the welfare of the minor,” the HC said, while taking note of the wish of Akbar who did not want to leave Aiku Lal.
Allahabad Court had too rejected her petition on the same grounds as the Supreme Court. Lal apparently remained unmarried due to his commitment to the boy. During a hearing in the apex court, Akbar said he wished his mother and Aiku Lal resided together so he could live in their joint custody. However, the court rejected his suggestion, which was also turned down by his mother.