In a city where police and judges often come across brutal crimes done in the name of property or inheritance, a Muslim couple’s bid to raise two Hindu orphans has earned praise from the Delhi high court. Moved by what it termed a “noble endeavour”, the HC recently appointed Mohd Shahnawaz Zaheer, a commercial pilot, as the guardian of twins Ayush and Prarthana under the Hindu Minority & Guardianship Act.
The decision set a new precedent in Indian Law
In his landmark order allowing cross-religion guardianship, Justice Najmi Waziri also approved a Trust set up in the name of the siblings, where the Indian Commercial Pilots Association and other well-wishers have contributed over Rs 1 crore. By virtue, the entire estate and remaining wealth of the dead parents will automatically go to the Trust and not to the guardian.
When reporters visited the Zaheer household earlier this week, it found the twins bonding well with the family. Zaheer said, “The HC order streamlined everything to allow the twins to integrate with us. I have a three-storey house and my in-laws and parents live with me. Ayush and Prarthana are the cynosure of their eyes. Since the court appointed me as guardian, now they will get a passport and can travel abroad with us.”
Zaheer also disclosed how the court has entrusted one Arun Saini, a willing neighbour, to make sure the children receive Hindu religious instructions and can visit temple for prayers. “I don’t want them to ever convert. They will be raised as Hindus,” he said.
Twins lost both parents in 2012
The twins lost their airhostess mother and pilot father within a year’s time in 2012 and were at the mercy of the family driver who took care of their basic needs. Though their father Praveen Dayal extracted a promise from Zaheer that he will take care of the twins, the latter remained unsure as cousins and distant relatives of Dayals allegedly laid claim to bank accounts and family property.
Mistreatment from relatives made them approach Zaheer
A hectic flying schedule kept Zaheer busy till he got a call from the sobbing kids complaining of maltreatment. Zaheer then filed a suit under the Guardianship Act, urging the court to give legal approval to his role as a guardian.
In his plea, Zaheer informed HC that during the critical phase of his illness, Praveen Dayal requested him to take care of the children. He also placed on record a statement by Dayal’s brother saying he has full faith in Zaheer for discharging the duty of guardianship of the children. With their maternal uncle and grandmother also settled abroad and expressing helplessness, the twins had nowhere to turn to, Zaheer pointed out.
How the court saw it
“Poets and writers of different literatures have elegantly articulated and eulogized the principle of foster care and guardianship amongst the foremost and finest human duties. The essence of human endeavour is caring for innocent lives,” Justice Waziri observed, quoting poets Nida Fazli and Javed Akhtar to stress that “taking care of orphaned children who are in urgent need of foster care and the protection of their interests is amongst the noblest of human endeavours.”
The court also took note that all the monies to which the children are entitled is to be kept in the “Aayush Prarthana Benevolent Trust” till they attain the age of 25 years. “It is, therefore, directed that all banks, financial institutions and insurance companies shall make all payments, maturity or redemption amounts, etc apropos the estate of late Praveen Dayal and late Kavita Dayal in the name of Aayush Prarthana Benevolent Trust.”
A victory of Cross-religion relations
Advocate Yogesh Jagiya, who fought the case free of cost, viewed it as an unprecedented order. “It was a cross-religion matter. There have been cases of adoption but not of guardianship where you only raise the children but have no rights in their property. We worked hard to convince the court.”
Enrolled in a top public school in Delhi, Ayush says he wants to become a pilot while his sister wants to be a designer.
(Originally published in The Times Of India)