“Hatred is not an emotion that comes naturally to a child. It has to be taught, a parent who would teach a child to hate the other parent represents a grave and persistent danger to the mental and emotional health of that child.”~The Honorable Judge, Gomery of Canada
Parental Alienation Syndrome is the unhealthy coalition between a narcissistic parent and his or her children against the targeted, non-narcissistic, nonabusive parent. In such a scenario, the innocent or targeted parent receives hostility and rejection from his or her children in this system. The psychological health of the children is used as arsenal in the narcissist’s twisted world. This syndrome is destroying the child in many manners like the relationship of the children’s are getting destroyed with the targeted parents; mentally and physically also the child is getting disturbed.1
The term “Parental Alienation Syndrome” (hereinafter referred as PAS) is coined by Richard A. Gardner a very popular American Psychiatrist in 1980’s. According to him this is a sort of disorder in which child impedances and insults targeted parent without having any justification.2
The Indian Courts are very familiar to such situations and in most of such cases the custody of the minor child normally granted to the mother. In several cases stronger and wilier parent usurps the child’s custody in defiance of the court orders. The ones having faith in the justice machinery knock the doors of the Courts without any positive developments foe several years. And when the case reaches the higher courts, the custodial parent is denied the right because the usurper parent by would have had the custody of the child for several years. The law’s logic, therefore, is not to disturb the settled, though it being an illegal custody.
Another practice followed in such situations is that after a lengthy legal battle against the usurper parent, the child is finally interviewed by the Court who naturally opts for the usurper parent. That is what psychologists called Parental Alienation Syndrome. It is said that a child’s mind is like a colorless bottle hat assumes the color of the liquid which is poured into it. Similarly the parent in custody creates hate and animosity in the child against the non- custodial parent
The judgment of Justice Jasti Chalameshwar and Justice A.K. Sikri has recognized PAS in India. It is the most relevant jurisprudence for improving a remediable psychological condition in children.
In the Case before the abovementioned bench of the Hon’ble Apex Court namely Vivek Singh vs. Romani Singh [(13.02.2017 – SC): (2017) 3 SCC 231] the Appellant Vivek Singh was married to the Respondent Romani Singh. There was fight between the Appellant and the Respondent forcing the Respondent to leave the matrimonial house and unwillingly leave the barely two year child behind as the Appellant did not allow her to do so. The Respondent filed petition Under Section 25 read with Sections 10 and 12 of the Guardians and Wards Act, 1980 (Act) for the custody and appointment of the Guardian of the minor daughter before the Principal Judge of the Family Court. The Principal Judge, Family Court was of the opinion that the Appellant was fit person to retain the custody of the child and, therefore, dismissed the petition filed by the Respondent.
The order of the Family Court was challenged by an appeal in the High Court which found it appropriate to handover the custody of the child to the Respondent mother. In the opinion of the High Court, the Respondent, being mother of a girl child of less than five years’ of age at the relevant time, was better suited to take care of the child. And that the visitation rights were granted to the father the Appellant, by the Court.
The Father challenged the decision of the High Court in the Apex Court and the Apex Court dealt the following issues while deriving the final standing on the law relation to the PAS.
Firstly, the report of the Principal Counselor stated that the child did not want to change her present environment and that she was more interested in staying with the father. Further, it was also observed in the report that the child was in a very sensitive phase of mental and physical growth.
Secondly, for the best interest of the child though the parents aim to ensure that the child is least affected by the outcome, the inevitability of the uncertainty that follows regarding the child’s growth lingers on till the new routine sinks in. The effect of separation of spouses, on children, psychologically, emotionally and even to some extent physically, spans from negligible to serious, which could be insignificant to noticeably critical. Second justification behind the ‘welfare’ principle is the public interest that stand served with the optimal growth of the children and that the childcentric human rights jurisprudence that has evolved over a period of time is founded on the principle that public good demands proper growth of the child, who are the future of the nation.
Thirdly, the factors in favor of the Father were that child was living with him from tender age of 21 months and that she was happy in his company with the desire was to continue to live with him. However, from the events various factors in favor of Respondent emerged. For first 21 months when the parties were living together, it was the Respondent who had nursed the child. And that the Respondent mother was forcibly deprived by the custody of the child when she was forced to leave the matrimonial house. The Respondent, therefore, could not be blamed at all for the Appellant’s custody of the child.
Lastly, the continuous company of the mother with child, for some time, was absolutely essential. It was a fit case where Respondent deserved a chance to have the custody of child for the time being, i.e., at least for one year, and not merely visitation rights.
In conclusion, PAS is destructive irrespective of the gender of the alienating parent. Every year, thousands of children and parents are experiencing this phenomenon of PAS and the resulting devastation it causes. The financial and emotional cost of PAS is excessive to the target parent. Government has a crucial role in helping those innocent children who are pitted into custody. They should see the horrifying conditions of family courts as there is a shortage of judges and trained counselors. The sheer volume of cases has overwhelmed the system from the past few years. The governments must understand that equipping the Family Courts is for the benefit of the next generation of Indians who have to be nurtured and eventually grown from their broken marriages.