New Delhi: Interest of children should be given paramount importance by courts while settling a custody battle between estranged spouses, the Supreme Court has said.
   
"In a matter relating to the custody of children, the first and the paramount consideration is the welfare and interest of the child and not the rights of the parents under a statute," a bench of justices P Sathasivam and J Chelameswar said.
   
The court passed the order while deciding a legal battle between a divorced couple for custody of their two daughters.    

"Even the statues, namely, the Guardianship and Wards Act, 1890 and Hindu Minority and Guardianship Act, 1956 make it clear that the welfare of the child is a predominant consideration.
   
"In a matter of this nature, particularly, when father and mother fighting their case without reference to the welfare of the child, a heavy duty is cast upon the Court to exercise its discretion judiciously bearing in mind the welfare of the child as paramount consideration," the bench said.
   
The bench in this case, held chamber proceedings in which it interacted personally with the 17 and 11 year old girls to know their preference.
   
The court after hearing their point of view directed that the daughters would remain with the father but allowed the mother to meet the children on weekends.
   
"In the relevant facts and circumstances of the case, we are convinced that the interest and welfare of the children will be best served if they continue to be in the custody of the father. In our opinion, at present, it is not desirable to disturb the custody with the father. However, we feel that ends of justice would be met by providing visitation rights to the mother," the bench said.

Agencies