covid: Custody battle: Supreme Court must decide guardianship of Covid orphan | India News

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NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court will decide on the guardianship of a six-year-old Covid-orphaned boy who has been at the center of a custody battle between his paternal grandparents and maternal aunt since his parents died last year last.
The boy’s father died on May 13 and his mother on June 12 as the second wave reached its peak in Gujarat in 2021. The maternal relatives took the child to Dahod from his paternal grandparents’ home in Ahmedabad to witness his mother’s last rites and since then he has not been brought back.
Worried about his fate, health and upbringing, the grandparents moved to the Gujarat High Court to seek custody. The HC judges interacted with the child and recorded in the judgment: “We noticed that he is comfortable with the applicant and his wife (grandparents), but he was not able to give an independent preference between the petitioner and the maternal aunt.”
Despite this, the HC gave custody of the boy to the 46-year-old aunt on the grounds that she was unmarried, employed by the central government and residing in a joint family which would be conducive to raising the child. By contrast, grandparents are both elderly and dependent on grandfather’s pension, the HC had said.
The grandfather’s lawyer, DN Ray, says the HC erred in looking at the age of the grandparents, ignoring the best educational institutions in Ahmedabad and the child’s familiarity with the surroundings of the city where he grew up during his parents’ lifetime. He also said the child’s paternal uncle had his own catering business in Coimbatore and would step in if the need arose.
A holiday bench consisting of Judges MR Shah and Aniruddha Bose suspended the HC order granting custody of the child to the aunt and demanded her response on Tuesday to the grandparents’ request for custody of their grandchild . The bench concluded arguments and said it would consider the aunt’s response before issuing the order on June 9.
The bench said that the educational institutions in Ahmedabad are much better than those in Dahod, a tribal area. On the incapacity of the elderly grandparents vis-à-vis a 46-year-old single maternal aunt, the court asked the aunt’s lawyer to explain how the grandparents, aged 71 and 63 , could be disqualified from having custody of their grandchild. “The age of 71 and 63 is nothing these days. People stay strong even at older ages,” the bench remarked.
When the aunt’s attorney argued that “she was unmarried and raising a child takes some energy,” the bench said, “when the paternal grandparents say they’re ready to take care of the child, they become more energetic. It will be better if the boy stays with the grandparents”.
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