The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Court balm on ropeway orphan

Calcutta, Feb. 18: A six-year-old, who underwent the trauma of seeing her parents die a painful death and is now at the centre of a tug-of-war between grandparents for possession, was saved some more suffering by Calcutta High Court today.

Justice P.. Sinha asked police to stay away from her — shuttling her from one grandparents’ house to another — even if that meant going against a Supreme Court precedent.

Deciding the rulebook was not bigger than Bindiya Mandal, the judge imposed an interim stay on two directives issued by lower courts that obeyed a Supreme Court order in deciding that paternal grandparents are an orphan’s legal guardians.

Bindiya, whose parents died in a freak accident in which a ropeway in Darjeeling snapped last year, should not now be seeing policemen come to her mamar-bari (maternal grandparents’ house) and then be forced out of there, Sinha said.

The girl went back to Kharagpur at the end of the day, secure in the knowledge that no one would be coming to her present place of board to yank her out of there.

Bindiya had gone with her parents to Darjeeling on a vacation a few days after Durga Puja last year. The ropeway snapped on October 19, killing several tourists, including her parents. She was severely injured, from which she has still not fully recovered, and was admitted to a Siliguri hospital.

Bindiya’s maternal grandparents — Gauripada and Anuprabha Giri — went there to bring her back. After a few days of tussle over custody, the parents of Bindiya’s father — Bimal Chandra and Anuradha Mandal — moved the chief judicial magistrate’s court. The grandparents on either side live in Kharagpur.

The court ruled in favour of the Mandals and ordered the police to bring Bindiya away from her maternal grandparents’ home, prompting the Giris to go to the district sessions court. This court, too, ruled in the Mandals’ favour.

The Giris contested the ruling in Calcutta High Court. Their counsel, Jaymalya Bagchi, admitted that the Mandals were legally correct, but told the court about another apex court directive — that police intervention in a child’s life was not desirable. He pleaded that an-already traumatised child should not be made to suffer more trauma.

Justice Sinha upheld the argument.

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