Women and Justice: Keywords

Domestic Case Law

Lehdeaho v. SHO, PS Chung, Lahore and others Supreme Court of Pakistan (2017)

Divorce and dissolution of marriage

The petitioner was a mother who moved with her husband, the respondent, to Canada with their three minor children in 2009. The respondent moved back to Lahore, Pakistan and the children stayed with the petitioner in Canada. The respondent wanted the entire family to move back to Lahore. To this end, he approached the Guardian Court in Lahore and declared himself as the guardian of the person and property of his children.  When they came to visit him, he refused to let the children go back to Canada. Under the Guardians & Wards Act of 1890, the Guardian Court is any lower court that can hear an application for custody and guardianship of children. The respondent proceeded to file an application for custody of the children before the Guardian Court. The petitioner was in Canada when she received the notice of the proceedings for custody and unable to immediately enter Pakistan as her visa had expired. In her absence, the Guardian Court passed an order giving the custody of the children to the respondent until the petitioner could appear before the Guardian Court. The petitioner filed an application to the High Court for custody of her children, which was dismissed as the matter was still pending before the Guardian Court. The High Court’s reasoning was that because the Guardian Court is where the evidence and witnesses are evaluated, it is the appropriate forum for the case to be heard for custody of children. The Supreme Court of Pakistan considered whether the High Court had jurisdiction to hear the petition on custody matters pending a final decision by the Guardian Court. The Supreme Court observed from previous case law that the Guardian Court is the final arbiter on questions of custody of a child. However, this should not disadvantage a person illegally deprived of custody of a minor child from a remedy to regain custody pending adjudication by the Guardian Court. On this basis, the Supreme Court held that the High Court has the right to pass orders where it would be in the best interest and welfare of the minor. The Supreme Court also held that the High Court has jurisdiction to restore custody to the person lawfully holding such custody while the Guardian Court gives its final orders. After considering that the children wanted to move back to Canada with their mother, the order was passed in her favor.