“Children have the liberty to choose not to live with their parents. Even minor children have the liberty,” the Delhi High Court ruled on Thursday.
The oral observation was made by a bench comprising Justices Vipin Sanghi and Deepa Sharma during a habeas corpus plea hearing of a man for tracing his missing daughter and to hand over her custody to him.
The 15-year old girl was traced from Mathura, Uttar Pradesh a few days back. She told the police and the Child Welfare Committee (CWC) that she did not wish to return to her parents.
The Court refused to hand over her custody and also noted that the minor girl was safe at the shelter home where she is presently being kept, and that she apprehended harm if sent back to her parents, as reported by The Financial Express.
The bench further added that the father will have to move a plea before a magisterial court for custody of his daughter, however, the parents can meet the girl at the shelter if she is willing.
As per a status report filed by the Delhi Police, the girl had absconded from home in July last year after falling in love with a 32-year-old man who used to work near her house.
Senior standing counsel of the Delhi government Rahul Mehra and advocate Tushar Sannu, representing the police, said she had run away to Mathura where the man lived, and got married after she threatened to commit suicide if he did not agree.
Thereafter, the 15-year old was living alone in a rented room in Mathura, arranged for by the man who paid her a visit her once a week to provide money and groceries.
Her statement was recorded before a magistrate on April 25, following which she was taken to a shelter home as she did not wish to return to her parents, police said. It also added that an FIR has been lodged against the man with whom she had eloped.
While a person should not have to live with somebody forcibly, the Court’s judgment is little ambiguous considering minor children need guardians.