Punjab and Haryana High Court Rules in Favor of Parent in Kidnapping Allegations

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Published on: January 20, 2024 at 14:38 IST

In a recent judgment, the Punjab and Haryana High Court asserted that a parent cannot be deemed guilty of kidnapping their own child. This decision came as the Court dismissed a complaint accusing a woman of abducting her child from her in-laws’ residence.

Justice Harpreet Singh Brar, delivering the observation, emphasized that to establish the offense of kidnapping, the minor child must be taken away from the custody of a ‘lawful guardian.’

The Court further clarified that a mother is inherently considered a ‘lawful guardian,’ especially in the absence of any court order revoking her parental rights.

The case in question involved strained relations between the parents of a minor girl. Despite a prior domestic violence complaint against the husband and in-laws, which was settled in 2015, the mother faced allegations in 2018 of conspiring to kidnap her three-year-old child from her father-in-law’s residence.

A criminal case was filed against the woman, along with her parents, sister, and brother, on charges of kidnapping, house trespass, and criminal conspiracy. Although a trial court summoned the woman in 2018, she did not appear, citing health issues. Subsequently, a non-bailable warrant was issued in June 2022.

In April 2022, the High Court granted custody of the minor child to the mother, who had challenged a family court order in her husband’s favor. Seeking to quash the 2018 criminal case and summons, the woman filed a petition before the High Court.

The High Court underscored the enduring parent-child relationship despite marital issues and highlighted the natural inclination of a parent to seek their child’s company, particularly when no court order restricts it. Referring to Section 6 of the Hindu Minority and Guardianship Act, 1956, the Court stressed that custody of a child under five years should generally be with the mother.

The Court acknowledged the irreplaceable role of a mother in a child’s upbringing, describing a mother’s love as selfless and asserting that children of tender years should not be deprived of such affection. Considering the child’s age at the time of the alleged incident and Section 6 of the Hindu Minority and Guardianship Act, the Court deemed it in the child’s best interest for the mother to have custody.

Consequently, the Court quashed the trial court’s summoning order and dismissed the complaint against the woman (petitioner).

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