Pak SC | Mother’s poverty not a ground to disentitle her from custody of her child – minor’s welfare is of paramount importance

Supreme Court of Pakistan: The Division Bench of Qazi Faez Isa and Mazhar Alam Khan Miankhel, JJ. dismissed a petition challenging assailing the judgment of Peshawar High Court vide which custody of a minor girl was handed over to her mother.

Petitioner herein, father of the minor, submitted that the child did not even recognize her mother and was not ready to go with her. He also relied on the decision of a jirga, which had decided that the custody of child should remain with the petitioner-father.

The Court noted that the petitioner worked as a labourer in Dubai and her stepmother and a divorcee sister of the petitioner looked after the child. The petitioner also had three children from his second wife. However, the respondent had not married again after divorce from the petitioner.

At the outset, the Court opined that a jirga has no legal authority to decide custody of children, and in doing so, it violated the law and Islamic injunctions. A mother cannot be compelled to part with her child by a jirga. Mother cannot be called upon to barter the right to her child’s custody to secure a divorce, nor can a child be used to settle personal scores.

The Court placed reliance on Razia Bibi v. Riaz Ahmad, 2004 SCMR 821 and opined that poverty on the part of a lady is no ground to disentitle her from the custody of minor. It was held that welfare of the minor is of paramount consideration in determining custody, and principles of hizanat must be adhered to unless there are valid reasons not to do so. The dictum in Rubia Jilani v. Zahoor Akhtar Raja, 1999 SCMR 1834 was relied on in this regard.

In view of the above, the petitioner was directed to, immediately and peacefully, handover the minor girl to her mother.[Bat Khan v. Sherin Bibi, Civil Petition No. 809-P of 2018, Order dated 08-02-2019]

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