Even minor children have the liberty to choose not to live with their parents, the Delhi High Court said on Thursday.
The observation by a bench of Justices Vipin Sanghi and Deepa Sharma came during hearing of a man's habeas corpus plea for tracing his missing daughter and to hand over her custody to him.
The court refused to hand over custody of the 15-year-old girl, who was traced from Mathura in Uttar Pradesh a few days back, to her father as she had told the police and the Child Welfare Committee (CWC) that she did not want to return to her parents.
It also noted that the girl was safe at the shelter home, where she was being kept, and that she apprehended harm if handed over to her parents.
The bench said the father will have to move a plea before a magisterial court for custody of his daughter. It said the parents can meet the girl at the shelter if she is willing to meet them.
The girl had run away from home in July last year after falling in love with a 32-year-old man who used to work near her house, as per a status report filed by Delhi Police.
The police, represented by senior standing counsel of the Delhi government Rahul Mehra and advocate Tushar Sannu, said she had gone to Mathura, where the man lived, and had married him there after threatening to commit suicide if he did not agree.
Thereafter, she was living alone there in a rented room arranged for by the man who used to visit her once a week to provide grocery and money.
Her statement was recorded before a magistrate on April 25 after which she was taken to a shelter home as she did not want to return to her parents, police said.
It also said that an FIR has been lodged against the man with whom she had eloped.