Court refuses to hand over underage girl’s custody to parents

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A court declined to hand over the custody of a girl who was allegedly abducted from Karachi and later surfaced in Lahore to her parents.

However, it allowed them to meet her twice a month at a shelter home where she has been residing since being shifted to the port city from Punjab.

The girl was allegedly kidnapped from her Karachi house in April and trafficked to Punjab where her illegal child marriage was solemnised.

Her parents, Syed Mehdi Kazmi and Saima Kazmi, filed separate applications under Section 12 of the Guardians and Wards Act, 1890 seeking her interim custody or meeting her on a daily basis.On Monday, Civil Judge and

Magistrate (East) Shafia Memon pronounced the judgement she had reserved after hearing arguments from both sides. Unlike normal custody cases in which the parents of a minor are contesting parties, the judge said that in the present case, both parents of the victim were the applicants while her purported husband, Zaheer Ahmed, the main respondent, the custody of the minor lies with the Shelter Home for Destitute and Orphan Children.

“Thus, the challenge to substance of relief asked for is more from minor herself than the respondents,” she added.She pointed out that a family court entertains matters of guardians and wards under the relevant laws and is not to decide the right of parties but to regulate the custody of a minor. “This power of regulation of custody is subject to welfare of minor.

The paramount consideration of welfare of minor is the soul of proceedings and same will have preference over any other moral or legal right and status,” she went on.

“There is no doubt that parents of minor/ward have right to meet their child, look after her needs and provide social, financial and moral support whenever and wherever needed. However, this is not an absolute right, given facts of the instant case where parents have disputed her Nikahnama and criminal proceedings have been initiated against respondents.”

Noting that the minor’s readiness for meeting her parents was an important factor, the judge said that though the ward was not of the age of majority as per her Nadra record and ossification test, she was old enough to form an intelligent preference as provided under Sub-Section 3 of Section 17 of the Guardians and Wards Act.

“I, therefore, in view of the above facts and circumstances do not see it plausible to change/shift the custody of minor, when the minor has been sent to the shelter home on the direction of the court,” she ruled, allowing the parents to meet her twice a month under the supervision of the shelter home’s incharge.

“It may be noted that in meeting with minor, no unnecessary pressure or compulsion/duress would be applied in case after affectionate advice of the incharge of the shelter home, she refuses to meet with the applicants,” the court warned, adding that the meeting would take place on 1st and 16th dates of every month for three hours. The shelter home’s incharge was told to submit a report on every meeting to the court.

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