By Mudassir Raja
RAWALPINDI: Snatching minors and infants from mothers by the latter’s in-laws has become another kind of domestic violence against women as the number of such cases reported to the court of district and sessions judge has increased, it has been learnt.
According to information gathered from the court, during the last about three months each day almost one habeas corpus petition was filed with the district and sessions judge by women seeking the recovery of their children from the custody of their husbands after they ousted them over domestic disputes.
The custody of a boy less than seven years of age and a girl not reached the age of puberty is the exclusive right of a mother, except in exceptional circumstances. But in order to mentally torture the women, the in-laws take away the minors after ousting them from their houses, said Anila Attique, a lawyer in family matters.
She said when the right of a woman is violated by taking away her child, she has no other immediate legal relief except filing a habeas corpus petition with the court seeking recovery of the child through a bailiff with the help of the police.
She said a woman moves the court only when she is certain that her relation with her husband is bound to break down or when her child is not properly looked after by her in-laws. She said delay in filing a recovery petition by the woman could undermine her seriousness in getting back the child.
About the increasing numbers of such petitions, the lawyer said it had become more affordable after the court of DSJ was delegated with the powers to hear the habeas corpus petitions. Before 2002, only high courts could take up such petitions, she added. Secondly, women find it easier and more convenient to get prompt relief through the court, and thirdly they are now more aware of their legal rights.
Another lawyer, Rafaqat Bashir Awan said there are four exceptions when the court does not hand over the minor to the mother.
First, if a woman remarries a man stranger to the child; second if a woman being married stays away from the house of her husband; third if she is believed not to have good moral character and lastly if she neglects caring the child properly.
A court official who often acts as a bailiff told Dawn on condition of anonymity that it was not usually the husband who snatched the minor. Often sisters or parents of the man are involved in taking away the child.