The High Court of Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh on Tuesday took strong exception to the conduct of the husband and his relative in refusing to produce an infant child before the Court in a Habeas Corpus petition filed by the mother of the child (Mahrukh Iqbal V/s UT of J&K and Others).
Single-judge Justice Ali Mohammad Magrey said that the infant child is suffering great loss, both physical and mental by depriving it of mother's care and bond.
The Court, therefore, directed to the Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP), Srinagar to take all necessary measures to ensure the recovery of the female child from private respondents.
"The Senior Superintendent of Police and/or the Police team he may assign such duty or may be accompanying him shall be authorised to raid any place and household they may suspect the child has been confined in or kept hidden," the Court said.
In this regard, the Court also underscored the importance of mother's breast milk for an infant.
"There is no denying the fact that breast milk is a natural and perfect mix of almost all vitamins, proteins and fats, meaning everything a baby needs for proper growth, besides, being easily digested by babies than artificially prepared infant formulas or cows’ milk. It also contains antibodies that help the suckling babies fight off viruses and bacteria and breastfeeding lowers the babies’ risk of catching infections and allergies. Breastfeeding has also been linked to higher Intelligence Quotient in later childhood," the Court observed.
In her plea, the petitioner-mother stated that she hails from Jammu and was married to the respondent from Srinagar. The marriage was solemnized on November 9, 2020 at Jammu and she moved to Srinagar to live with her husband and her in-laws in their house at Srinagar.
When she became pregnant, she consulted a gynecologist/ doctor who recommended her to undergo a Caesarean-section (C-section) delivery. However, contrary to the medical advise, her husband insisted on normal delivery of the baby.
It was further alleged that her husband instead of taking care of her and abiding by the doctor's advise, forced her to undergo 'natural delivery' and stopped interaction with her and deserted her in the last month of pregnancy. The other relatives of her husband also deserted her, she alleged.
It was submitted that petitioner, being in the advance stage of her pregnancy and having no one to fall back upon in Srinagar, was compelled to call her parents from Jammu who flew to Srinagar in order to take care of her.
Subsequently, a female child was born to the petitioner through C-section procedure. However, after she delivered the baby, the husband allegedly came to the hospital with some goons and threatened her of dire consequences for having undergone C-section against his wishes.
Later, the husband's relatives came to the hospital and apologised for the conduct of the husband and asked her to return to the matrimonial house which she did.
It was alleged that upon return to the matrimonial home along with infant, her husband snatched the suckling baby from her arms and forcefully locked and confined the petitioner to a room.
After 8 days of confinement, she managed to get hold of her mobile phone and contacted the Women’s Police Helpline to lodge a complaint after which she was taken to the Women Police Station, Rambagh. She informed the Women’s Grievance Cell that her infant daughter was illegally taken from her and unlawfully detained by the private respondents and was missing for the past seven days then.
However, no action was taken on petitioner’s complaint prompting her to move the High Court.
When the matter was heard on August 27, the respondent father undertook to surrender the child before the Court on August 31.
But when the matter came up for hearing on August 31, Tuesday, the Court noted that the respondents had not produced the baby.
"Mr. Zahoor A Shah, respondent no.5, was pointedly asked about the implementation of order passed by the Court on 27.08.2021 and the undertaking furnished by him in the open Court to produce the child before the Court at 4.30 pm on that day, but without any satisfactory reply, he insisted on grant of time to make submissions qua rejection of the claim of the petitioner," the Court noted in its order passed on Tuesday.
The Court, therefore, directed the SSP Srinagar to take all necessary measures to ensure recovery of 24 days old female child from the private respondents.
The Court also said that the petitioner is free to file a proper complaint before the concerned police station for alleged offences against her and her child by the private respondents.