HC says canít thrust religion upon child

Rejects jailed Christian man's plea for custody of daughter.

The argument that a man's religion must prevail upon his offspring was "directly contrary to the freedom of religion under Constitution of India and will be gender discriminatory", Bombay High Court (HC) observed recently and granted custody of a three-year-old born of a Christian father and Hindu mother to her maternal grandfather.

The father, convicted for harassing and stabbing his wife to death on May 25 in their Andheri (West) flat, has been in jail since.

The girl has been staying with her maternal grandparents. The court was hearing guardianship petitions filed by the father, his sister and the girl's maternal grandfather.

The girl's father and aunt contended that "the child must be brought up as a Roman Catholic. Catholic rituals must be performed and she must attend a convent school where the ideals of Christianity would be taught".

The court retorted, "It would be insulting to Christianity to see the father of the child who is a Christian being convicted of murder of his wife. The child would not get the idealism of Christianity from a father who has been imprisoned during her minority having been charged with murder of her mother and cruelty toward her."

The court observed that the child's mother had not converted to Christianity after marriage and she had been looked after by a Hindu mother until her death.

"There is no greater religion among the great religions. What is to be understood in consideration of the religion of the minor is that a minor who has been brought up on the tenets of any of the great religions be not disturbed by thrusting upon the minor the tenets or traditions of another religion which would cause stress and trauma upon the minor during the delicate years of his/her growth," Justice Roshan Dalvi observed.

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