Woman Not Fitting Into Mold As Per Desire Of Husband Is Not Factor To Lose Custody

Women are conditioned from birth to believe that they are constantly being observed and evaluated. From the media to their family, every faction of the society has convinced her that her appearance and behaviour are under review and the same determines her ‘status’ in society. She is taught to conform to the stereotypes and live according to the internalized bias so as to present a picture of ‘the perfect woman.’ Now while these shallow standards are not exactly new to women, the concerning notion that these evaluations matter when it comes to adjudging motherhood is one that should raise the alarm of the downfall in society’s perspectives.

The Chhattisgarh High Court was tasked with dealing with such a situation in a case in March, 2022 while dealing with the case of Diya and Paras. They were married in April, 2007 and had a child, Daksh, by the end of the year. Unfortunately, they couldn’t get along with each other and eventually opted for divorce by mutual consent, which was finalized in March, 2013. Here, it was agreed that Diya would get custody of Daksh.

However, after Daksh had crossed the age of 5, an application was filed by Paras for custody. Paras claimed that Diya would keep the company of different males every day and was habituated to intoxication. He also implied that her attire. i.e., wearing jeans and T- Shirts, was not befitting of a lady and that she maintained ‘illicit relations’ with another man and hence, has lost her chastity. He pleaded that if Daksh continued to be raised by Diya, it would have an ill effect on his mind and hence, the custody must be handed over to Paras.

To these statements, Diya retorted that she was working as a contractor and in order to carry out her job, she had to travel to different sites along with her male colleagues and supervisors. She stated that she would wear suitable garments (capris and T-Shirt) to allow her to work in the field. Diya was also able to show how Daksh was being lovingly looked after by her as well as her mother while she was at work, and was admitted to a good school.

The High Court decided to look at the matter objectively and in consonance with the views expressed in previous judgements in this subject matter. It observed that the custody of the child cannot be decided based on oral statements without ‘human touch’, since these could be created by any person for their convenience. So, while Paras had many statements regarding Diya’s character, the Court held that these were bald oral statements formed merely through thought and opinion.

The Court also made a very significant observation: it was important to set boundaries to protect the rights and freedom of women, especially when an attack is made to assassinate the character of a lady. In realizing that the statements made by Paras were highly influenced by Diya’s attire and the fact that she was interacting with male members of the society, the Court held that a much higher degree of continuous evidence would be required to show that the behaviour of the mother was detrimental to the interest of the society.

The Court has also been quoted saying ‘The character certificate by few of the society members, who might have ostrich mind set, should not be allowed to decide the character of a woman and to draw an inference while deciding the custody of the child that because of the behaviour of mother it would have an adverse impact on the mind of the child.”

It also observed that in deciding custody, the first and paramount consideration is the welfare and interest of the child including the child’s ordinary comfort, contentment, health, education, intellectual development, favorable surroundings and not the rights of the parents. In questioning Paras, the Court was also able to deduce that he worked a 12-hour job and had never offered to help the child in a financial manner. Hence, the Court granted custody to Diya along with defined visitation rights to Paras.