Conduct of Judges in Child Custody Cases Raises Concern Over Apprehension of Bias: Delhi HC

Child Custody Visitation Family Law Insider

Debangana Ray

Published on June 16, 2022 at 18:53 IST

The Delhi HC set aside three orders passed by a family court regarding a case of child custody after it was alleged that the judge shared his personal number with the parties and even met one of them in his chamber.

The court asked the principal judge of family court of the southeast district to takeover the case.

The High Court clarified that even if there is no question regarding the integrity, neutrality and judicial independence of the judge, his conduct has however, given a cause for reasonable apphrehension of bias.

The Single Judge Bench of Justice Dinesh Sharma stated that, “The judges have to remind themselves time and again that each conduct is observed and noted by the litigants and therefore, knowingly or unknowingly they may not act in any manner which gives rise to even slightest of doubt in the minds of the litigants and lawyers.”

The court set aside three orders dated August 21 and December 22, 2021 and March 4, 2022 on the interest of justice.

On March 4, the family court had granted visitation rights to the father on Wednesday and Friday and overnight stay of the minor child in question on the second and fourth Saturday.

The court also passed orders regarding vacations, long holidays and school functions of the child who is less than three years of age.

The petitioner, who is the mother of the child alleged that the family court only focused on the rights of the father and has ignored the comfort of the child.

She further stated that the judge had shared his personal number during the proceedings and has met with the father unilaterally in his chambers.

The Bench opined that the judge should not have done so. It was stated that, “It is a settled proposition that justice must not only be done but must also appear to have been done. The conduct of the judge while conducting the judicial proceedings should be above board,”

The Bench also modified the interim arrangement of visitation of the father.

The Bench suggested that, “The principal judge, Family Court is requested to decide the said guardianship petition as expeditiously as possible, preferably within four weeks. Learned Principal Judge, Family Court, may also take assistance of the Child Counselor and interact with the child before deciding the visitation rights.”

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