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Kumble’s wife wins daughter custody battle

New Delhi, Jan. 31: After a fiercely fought innings in court, cricketer Anil Kumble’s wife Chethana Ramatheertha has got legal custody of her daughter through her first marriage.

The Supreme Court ruled on Thursday in favour of Chethana in a custody battle for nine-year-old Aaruni, now studying “in a well-known school in the city of Bangalore”.

“The child is at present nine years of age and on advent of puberty. This is the age in which she requires more care and attention of the mother,” a division bench of Justices Shivraj V. Patil and D.M. Dharmadhikari said while giving the legal custody to Chethana.

The bench gave visitation rights to Chethana’s divorced husband, Kumar V. Jahgirdar, a stockbroker.

“The progress report of Aaruni from Sophia High School, Bangalore, indicates that she is very good at studies and has a bright educational career. It is reported that the wife (Chethana) is presently in the family way and the prospect of arrival of the second child in the family of the wife is another circumstance which would be in favour of the present child,” the judges added.

Chethana and Kumble have fought a series of legal battles to get custody of Aaruni since 1998 when Chethana’s marriage with Jahgirdar “broke down”.

According to the facts of the case as presented to the Supreme Court, Chethana married Jahgirdar in 1986 and Aaruni was born on December 7, 1994.

In 1998, the couple got a divorce decree on mutual consent and she married Kumble on July 1 the next year.

Thereafter, she went out of the country with Kumble, leaving the child in the custody of her former husband.

On her return, a family court rejected her application seeking Aaruni’s custody in August 1999. She approached Karnataka High Court, which gave liberty to the parties to approach the family court again for alteration or modification of the terms of consent of divorce.

On Chethana’s application again, the family court gave custody of the child to her.

The high court reversed this order on an appeal by Jahgirdar, but later, on Chethana’s revision petition, the same high court directed that the “child should be placed in the custody of the mother for a continuous period of one year”.

Jahgirdar this time moved the Supreme Court, which said in an order on April 18 last year that “pending final orders” the mother would be allowed to retain custody of the child with visitation rights to Jahgirdar. It added that Chethana should leave Aaruni with her former husband whenever she went on tours with Kumble.

In its final order, the apex court gave full legal custody to Chethana while noting that Kumble had promised to “extend the same love to the child and cooperation to the natural parents as he has been doing throughout in the past so that the child gets the best of care, affection and education for her proper upbringing”.

In a note of appreciation to Kumble, the court pointed out that in his deposition, he had said he would give the best of his love and affection to Aaruni as if she were his own child.

Explaining why they chose the mother, the judges said the petitioner (Jahgirdar) “lives alone with his father and there are no female members living jointly with him to ensure constant company care and attention to the female child”.

The bench added that Jahgirdar’s contention that Kumble “might poison the mind of the child and create ill will towards the natural father is not borne out from the evidence on record”.

“On the contrary, the second husband (Kumble) in his deposition made several statements evincing a very cooperative and humane attitude on his part towards the problem of the estranged couple and the child,” the judges said.

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