'Case of marital dispute rather than illegal detention': Calcutta High Court dismisses Habeas Corpus plea

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The Calcutta High Court rejected a habeas corpus petition filed by a father seeking the appearance of his children, who were currently residing with their mother.

A division bench of Justices Partha Saratji Chatterjee and Tapabrata Chakraborty of Calcutta High Court recently while dismissing a habeas corpus plea observed, "...there is undeniably a marriage dispute between the petitioner and his wife. The parties have leveled claims and counter-allegations against each other, which must be investigated using evidence and we find no evidence to suggest that the petitioner's wife and children were unlawfully detained.”

The bench also added that “the Guardians and Wards Act deals with the child custody matter and there are significant differences between the enquiry under the Act and exercise of powers by a writ court.”

In the present matter, the petitioner alleged that his wife, her minor children, and her in-laws departed the matrimonial residence in Hyderabad on November 19, 2022, to attend a marriage ceremony. "She left the train with her minor children, informing her in-laws that she would attend the wedding ceremony with her children. However, no information was given by her, and she and her children had been missing since then," he informed.

It was also alleged that the petitioner then approached the police and the Child Welfare Committee, but nothing was done. As a result, the petitioner filed a writ of habeas corpus before the high court.

Advocate Ayan Poddar representing the petitioner submitted that since his client is the natural guardian of the children, so his wife should be directed to give custody of the children. It was also submitted that for the purpose of determining custody of children, the well-being of the children is more important than the rights of the parties.

Further, the State counsel, Simanta Kabir, stated that the petitioner and his wife were involved in a matrimonial dispute. It was additionally stated that the petitioner's wife had filed a complaint against her husband and in-laws under Sections 498A, 406 of the IPC, as well as Sections 3 and 4 of the Dowry Prohibition Act, and they were given bail in the issue.

Simanta Kabir also stated that the children were currently living with their mother at her parental home and that the petitioner's minor son had been admitted to a school.

Court heard both sides of the parties and observed that there was a matrimonial dispute between husband and wife and there was no evidence on the record that the petitioner's wife or children had been wrongfully detained.

Accordingly, the court dismissed the petition of habeas corpus with no costs and further directed the petitioner that nothing in the order will prevent the petitioner from taking steps before the appropriate forum, if so advised and in accordance with law.

Case Title: Sri Saikat Ghosh vs. the State of West Bengal & Ors.

Statute –The Guardians and Wards Act 1890 and Constitution of India