Understanding a Supreme Court Landmark Judgment on Child Custody

Judgment of Civil Appeal No. 4987 of 2022 in which the Supreme Court of India examines the best interest of the child

Hon’ble Supreme Court of India recently delivered a landmark judgment on child custody in the case of Rohith Thammana Gowda vs. State of Karnataka & Others (Civil Appeal No. 4987 of 2022). The appeal was directed against a judgment of the High Court of Karnataka at Bengaluru in a Habeas Corpus writ petition filed by the husband (appellant) seeking custody of his minor child.


The appellant, Rohith Thammana Gowda, and respondent No.3 (wife) were married according to Hindu rites and ceremonies in Bengaluru. The couple subsequently moved to the United States, where they obtained Permanent Resident Cards and their son, Aarya Ranjani Rohith, was born. However, marital conflicts arose, and the child’s mother brought him to India without the husband’s consent.

Key Points

  1. Child’s Welfare Paramount: The Supreme Court emphasized that in cases involving child custody, the paramount consideration is the welfare of the child, rather than the desires of the parents.

  2. Wish vs. Best Interest: The court distinguished between the child’s wish to stay with one parent and the determination of what is in the child’s best interest. While the child’s wish can be ascertained through interaction, the best interest involves considering all relevant circumstances.

  3. Foreign Court Orders: The court recognized the significance of orders passed by foreign courts. Even if India is not a signatory to the Hague Convention of 1980, which deals with international child abduction, Indian courts should acknowledge foreign court orders that consider the child’s welfare.

  4. Custody Jurisdiction: The court addressed the jurisdiction issue, stating that courts should exercise their jurisdiction based on the proximity of the proceedings and the welfare of the child. Courts must consider whether the child has gained roots in the new environment.

  5. Naturalized Citizenship: The court highlighted the importance of a child’s naturalized citizenship and upbringing. In this case, the child was a naturalized US citizen with an American passport, having lived and studied in the US for most of his life.

  6. Consideration of Facts: The court noted that the child’s upbringing, education, cultural familiarity, and opportunities in the country of citizenship should be considered while deciding custody.


The Supreme Court allowed this Civil Appeal No. 4987 of 2022 and set aside the High Court’s judgment. It directed the respondent No.3 to ensure the child’s return to the United States, considering the child’s naturalized citizenship and the best interests of the child. The court clarified that if respondent No.3 wishes to accompany the child and stay in the US, the appellant must facilitate suitable arrangements. This landmark judgment  on child custody reiterates the importance of prioritizing the child’s welfare in custody cases and acknowledging foreign court orders that consider best interests of the child.

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