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matrimonial disputes = divorce, custody of children = the custody of the two children.= We, accordingly, make the following interim arrangement: (i) The respondent-husband is directed to bring both daughters, namely, Kirti Bhalla and Ridhi Bhalla, to the Supreme Court Mediation Centre at 10 a.m. on Saturday of every fortnight and hand over both of them to the petitioner-wife. The mother is free to interact with them and take them out and keep them in her house for overnight stay. On the next day, i.e., Sunday at 10 a.m. the petitioner-wife is directed to hand over the children at the residence of the respondent-husband. The above arrangement shall commence from 17.12.2011 and continue till the end of January, 2012. (ii) The respondent-husbad is directed to inform the mobile number of elder daughter (in the course of hearing, we were informed that she is having separate 6

REPORTABLE

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IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA
CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION
SPECIAL LEAVE PETITION (C) Nos. 35468-35469 OF 2009

Gaytri Bajaj …. Petitioner (s)

Versus

Jiten Bhalla …. Respondent(s)

O R D E R

1) The petitioner-wife and the respondent-husband were

married on 10.12.1992 and two daughters were born out of

the said wedlock. The elder daughter was born on 20.08.1995

and the younger daughter on 19.04.2000. It is the grievance

of the petitioner-wife that the Additional District Judge by

order dated 03.06.2003 passed a decree of divorce within eight

days from the presentation of the first and second Motions

under Section 13-B(1) of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955

(hereinafter referred to as “the Act”). The petitioner-wife has
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filed a suit for declaration on 01.02.2006 seeking a declaratory

decree that the respondent has obtained a decree by fraud.

2) On 10.10.2007, the respondent-husband filed an appeal

under Section 28 of the Act in the High Court of Delhi at New

Delhi. The petitioner-wife filed cross-objections to the said

appeal on 07.11.2007. The learned single Judge of the High

Court, by order dated 08.09.2008, allowed the appeal filed by

the respondent-husband without deciding and adjudicating on

the cross-objections filed by the petitioner-wife. Being

aggrieved by the order of the learned single Judge, the

respondent-wife filed a review petition on 13.10.2008. The

said review petition was also dismissed on 10.07.2009 by the

learned single Judge of the High Court. Both the said orders

were impugned in the present special leave petitions.

3) By order dated 14.12.2009, this Court issued notice to

the respondent-husband.

4) The short question which falls for consideration in these

SLPs for the present is with regard to the custody of the two

children.

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5) During the course of hearing, at one stage, considering

the issue raised, namely, relating to the custody of children,

both being daughters, at the request of counsel for both sides,

we decided to interact with the children as well as their

parents, namely, petitioner-wife and respondent-husband in

our Chambers to find out the actual friction in order to arrive

at the possibility of any amicable settlement. Pursuant to the

same, both parties including their children were present before

us and a detailed interaction was held with the children and

their parents separately. In the course of interaction, we were

able to ascertain the following facts:

a) The date of birth of first daughter is 20.08.1995 and

presently she is aged about 17 years. The date of birth of

second daughter is 19.04.2000 and presently she is aged

about 11 years. Both of them were living with their father and

are in his custody and the petitioner-wife had no access to the

children or even a brief meeting with them.

b) After interacting with the children separately and putting

several questions about their age, education, their future and

importance of company of mother as of now, both of them

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were very clear and firm that they want to continue to live with

their father and they do not want to go with their mother.

6) In the aforesaid facts and circumstances, we feel that if

the children are forcibly taken away from the father and

handed over to the mother, undoubtedly, it will affect their

mental condition and it will not be desirable in the interest of

their betterment and studies. In such a situation, the better

course would be that the mother should first be allowed to

make initial contact with the children, build up

relationship with them and gradually restore her position as

their mother.

7) In a matter relating to the custody of children the first

and the paramount consideration is the welfare and interest of

the child and not the rights of the parents under a statute.

Even the statues, namely, the Guardianship and Wards Act,

1890 and Hindu Minority and Guardianship Act, 1956 make it

clear that the welfare of the child is a predominant

consideration. In a matter of this nature, particularly, when

father and mother fighting their case without reference to the

welfare of the child, a heavy duty is cast upon the Court to

4
exercise its discretion judiciously bearing in mind the welfare

of the child as paramount consideration.

8) In the relevant facts and circumstances of the case, we

are convinced that the interest and welfare of the children will

be best served if they continue to be in the custody of the

father. In our opinion, at present, it is not desirable to disturb

the custody with the father. However, we feel that ends of

justice would be met by providing visitation rights to the

mother. In fact, during the hearing on 12.12.2011, Ms. Indu

Malhotra, learned senior counsel for the petitioner-wife

represented that if such visitation rights, namely, visiting her

children once in a fortnight is ordered that would satisfy the

petitioner-wife. Learned senior counsel also represented that

if the said method materializes, the petitioner-wife is willing to

withdraw all civil and criminal cases filed against the

respondent-husband which are pending in various courts.

9) Mr. Ranjit Kumar, learned senior counsel for the

respondent-husband made it clear that this Court is free to

pass appropriate interim arrangement if the same is feasible

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and in the interest of the children. Since both are residing at

Delhi, it is desirable to pass appropriate direction for the

meeting of the petitioner-wife either in the house of the

respondent-husband or in a common place like Mediation

Centre of this Court or the High Court.

10) We, accordingly, make the following interim arrangement:

(i) The respondent-husband is directed to bring both

daughters, namely, Kirti Bhalla and Ridhi Bhalla, to the

Supreme Court Mediation Centre at 10 a.m. on Saturday

of every fortnight and hand over both of them to the

petitioner-wife. The mother is free to interact with them

and take them out and keep them in her house for

overnight stay. On the next day, i.e., Sunday at 10 a.m.

the petitioner-wife is directed to hand over the children at

the residence of the respondent-husband. The above

arrangement shall commence from 17.12.2011 and

continue till the end of January, 2012.

(ii) The respondent-husbad is directed to inform the

mobile number of elder daughter (in the course of

hearing, we were informed that she is having separate

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mobile phone) and also landline number to enable the

petitioner-wife to interact with the children.

11) Inasmuch as the petitioner-wife is willing to withdraw all

civil and criminal proceedings filed against the respondent-

husband, in view of the interim visitation rights being granted

to her, we hope and trust that the respondent-husband will

cooperate and persuade the children to spend time with their

mother as directed above.

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12) It is also made clear that for any reason if the said

visitation is not workable due to the attitude of any of the

parties or due to the children, counsel appearing for them are

free to mention before this Court for the next course of action.

13) Put up on 03.02.2012.

………………………………………….J.

(P. SATHASIVAM)

…………………………………………..J.

(J. CHELAMESWAR)
NEW DELHI;

DECEMBER 16, 2011.

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