The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Legal hope for baby’s custodians

Calcutta, Jan 18: Barring a remote hurdle, the law is on the side of the childless couple who wants guardianship of the baby found abandoned in a dingy Shibpur bylane three days ago, lawyers and legal experts said.

Milan and Mala Ray, the childless couple from Howrah, are expected to file a fresh petition on Monday with a higher court seeking permanent custody and legal guardianship of Bakul, the six-day-old baby.

Yesterday, the chief judicial magistrate, Howrah, had granted the Rays permission to keep the girl till Shibpur police completed the investigation into the whereabouts of Bakul’s biological parents.

“I will file the petition on Monday, on behalf of my client, seeking the court’s approval for adopting Bakul as well as praying for her permanent custody and legal guardianship,” said Deb Kumar Addya, the couple’s lawyer. The Rays had stumbled on the infant on Wednesday night at a local club where a youth had taken the child after finding her in a bundle of clothes in a bylane.

“There is only one hindrance to the couple’s intention to have permanent guardianship of the child and subsequently adopt it. They may face a problem only if someone else claims the child’s custody. But in this case, no such claimants are expected,” the lawyer said.

Justice A.M. Bhattacharya, former chief justice of Calcutta High Court, said: “The plus point for the Rays is that they are a childless couple. As per existing laws, a couple having a girl child cannot adopt a girl. Similarly, a couple having a son cannot adopt a boy.”

In the present case, the Rays have an advantage as the court has already passed an order allowing them to keep the child in their custody, added Bhattacharya.

Bikash Bhattacharya, advocate-general of Tripura, supported the chief judicial magistrate’s decision. “There are several formalities to be fulfilled before an order is issued giving a couple custody of any abandoned child. The magistrate has rightly directed the police to find the real parents first.”

The advocate-general, however, said that apparently there was no hurdle for the couple in getting custody of the child. “If the court finds that the couple is capable of maintaining the child, it should not hesitate to allow the Rays to be the guardians of the child,” he added.

Gitanath Ganguli, executive chairman of the West Bengal Legal Aid Services, said the Rays had rightly decided to move the district judge’s court. “The Juvenile Justice Act has empowered district judges to decide who will be the custodian of such children.”

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