HC permits father custody of three children who had been discovered begging

Disposing of a habeas corpus petition filed by a native of Rajasthan for his three minor children who were rescued by the Chandigarh Administration under the Muskan Operation, the Punjab and Haryana High Court while discharging its duty as “parens patriae” towards the minor children, has directed the DGP Chandigarh to ensure the rehabilitation of the father with his children. The three minors were found begging near the Sector 17 Plaza in Chandigarh when the administration rescued them.

The petitioner, a native of Ganganagar (Rajasthan) had moved to the high court through his counsels, Sylvester Stephen and Stephan Masih, seeking the release of his three children – two minor boys staying at Snehalaya in Maloya, and a minor girl staying in a children’s home in Chandigarh.

As per the matter, the Chandigarh Administration rescued the three children on April 1, 2022, when “Operation Muskan -VII” was conducted in Chandigarh.

The Anti Human Trafficking Unit and Women and Child Helpline team found the three children begging at the Sector 17 Plaza without any family members or attendants accompanying them. After a medical examination (on the instance of the Child Protection Unit) the three children were sent to the children’s homes.

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The Bench of Justice Sureshwar Thakur hearing the matter held that the Court, while functionally discharging its duty as “parens patriae” towards the minor children, hath to balance the strivings of the children’s parent to take them in their custody while also seeing that the imperative necessities of their (the children’s) welfare and care-giving are met to them by the parent.

When the father of the minor children appeared in person before the Court, he could not produce any evidence that he would be able to financially support them.

The Bench said that the court is bound to ensure that the minor children receive parental love and affection and also are groomed under the parenting of the father while also ensuring that all the ill effects of the financial distress troubling the father do not force the children to start begging and wandering the streets again if it discharges its duty as the parens patriae.

The High Court, asking the UT to follow the SOP (Standard Operating Procedure) of the Government of India, directed the DGP to ensure rehabilitation of the petitioner concerned with the local Child Welfare Committee, even if he intends to shift from Chandigarh to his native place in Rajasthan.

The DGP UT was also directed to ensure bearing of all the requisite costs, towards the traveling of the petitioner along with his family to Rajasthan, that they safely reach there.

The high court also ordered that if some time is consumed in providing to the petitioner his family a house to live in, then the administration must ensure that they are provided accommodation in the quarters of the central government located in the native area of ​​the petitioner, free of charge.

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