HC seeks govt reply on plea to fast-track child custody cases

The Delhi High Court has sought the Centre’s response on a PIL seeking direction to formulate guidelines for expeditiously resolving issues of custody and maintenance concerning minors arising from the now rampant practice of “inter-parental child abduction”.

A bench of Acting Chief Justice Gita Mittal and Justice C Hari Shankar has issued notice to the Ministry of Law and Justice on the matter.

The court has fixed the matter for further hearing on December 13.

The plea claims that there has been a paradigm shift in matrimonial cases mostly impacting children who largely bear the brunt of the custody fight between parents.

The court was hearing the public interest litigation (PIL) by an NGO, Art of Learning Foundation, seeking formulation of appropriate guidelines to be followed by judicial officers while dealing with matters involving children instead of the subjective approach being currently adopted by them.

The NGO, represented through its secretary Kaadambari, also highlighted the inordinate delays during court proceedings which frustrate the objective of providing quick relief to the affected children.

The PIL has emphasised the need for appointing professionally qualified counsellors for the family and the affected children and sought directions for mandatory holding of sensitisation workshops for all judicial members dealing with matrimonial matters.

It has also sought directions for circulation of guidelines for selection of judges who can be assigned the responsibility of dealing with matrimonial matters which involves special sensitisation and understanding of human psychological and emotional milieu.

Another issue raised by the NGO regarding the deprecatory practice of making slanderous allegations in the open court by one party against the other and complete absence of the criteria of joint parenting.

“Issue urgent and immediate direction to all the family courts of Delhi to dispose off all the matters relating to visitation and custody petitions pending before them within a period of two months and to decide the main custody petition within a period of not more than six months by making family court fast track courts,” the plea urged.

The court took due note of the absence of guidelines on child rights and the concept of joint parenting and directed the NGO to suggest guidelines on the matter for the consideration of the court.

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