HC questions police inaction in case of girl spirited away by mother

Aug 25, 2012, 06:32 IST | Samarth Moray and Saurabh Vaktania

Case of kidnap registered only after MiD DAY report on father's plight, HC takes cops to task; in final reckoning, man gets no relief as court allows former wife to retain custody of 7-year-old child

The Bombay High Court on Wednesday questioned the police over their inaction in a case of spiriting away of a seven-year-old girl to Uttar Pradesh by her mother.

MiD DAY report on July 23
MiD DAY report on July 23

The proceedings in the HC vindicated the stand taken by MiD DAY that a kidnap case should have been registered when the father of the child first brought the matter to the notice of the police in the city (‘7-year-old girl goes missing, cops refuse to register case’, July 23, MiD DAY).

Natural guardian
Though it questioned the police inaction, the court also concluded that ultimately the child’s mother was her “natural guardian”, and therefore could retain her custody. The court suggested the father approach the Family Court to regain custody of his daughter from his former wife.

Dad won’t give up
Reacting to the decision, the child’s father Naushad Sheikh, an accountant who lives and works in the city, said he intended to seek further legal remedy.

“Right from childhood I have taken care of my daughter and she has been with me in Mumbai all her life,” Sheikh said. “I was both her father and mother. I don’t know how she will survive in Uttar Pradesh. Her whole future is at stake, her schooling has been interrupted and she has lost a year. I am thinking about further legal action. I am her father, but I cannot meet her without permission.”

On July 19, Sheikh’s daughter Saniya, a Std III student in Kamla High School next to Madhu Park in Khar (W), did not return home in the evening.
Upon making enquiries, Sheikh found out from Saniya’s class teacher that a burqa-clad woman had left with the child. The school principal later confirmed that the woman was the child’s mother.

When Sheikh approached the Khar police station to lodge a complaint, the officials there refused to do so. Sheikh had at the time attempted to call his former wife, but her phone was switched off.

The couple had divorced in 2010, and Sheikh had remarried soon after. Subsequently, he lost touch with his former wife.After the MiD DAY report on July 23 on the father’s plight, the police registered a complaint.

DCP Pratap Dighavkar even ordered a preliminary departmental inquiry into why a case had not been registered at the outset. Sheikh later approached the high court with a writ of habeas corpus, pleading to the court that the police be made to reunite him with his daughter.

Disposing of his case, a division bench of Justices A M Khanwilkar and A R Joshi observed: “The fact remains that the minor daughter is presently in custody of her mother, who is her natural guardian. The petitioner, if so advised, is free to pursue remedy before the matrimonial court.”

When Sheikh raised apprehensions about the quality of education his child would receive in the present circumstances, the court recorded his former wife Shama Parvin’s statement, which made it known that the girl was currently attending Jyoti Bal Vikas School in Uttar Pradesh. 

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