A 20-day-old baby – snatched from her mother immediately after birth by estranged in-laws – has become the center of an extraordinary search as the High Court ordered police to raid any place where they suspect the child has been hidden.
The petitioner, Mahrukh Iqbal, also expressed an apprehension that the child may have been killed.
“This is a serious apprehension… this Court has no reason to brush aside this apprehension of the petitioner,” Justice Ali Mohammad Magray said in an order today.
Justice Magray had on 27 August ordered the family to hand over the child to her mother.
“The deprivation to which the child has been put, … may be more serious and fatal for a child of her tender age than an attempt to kill the child,” the court said.
The petitioner, who hails from Jammu, had got married in November last year and went to Srinagar to live with her husband at her in-laws’ home. Iqbal is her husband’s second wife.
As per the details mentioned in the court order, Iqbal consulted a Gynaecologist in July 2021 and was advised to undergo a Caesarean section (C-section) delivery.
According to Iqbal, despite the medical advice, her husband insisted on delivering the baby normally. She has alleged that her in-laws were forcing her to go for a normal delivery instead of taking the doctor’s advice and taking care of her.
As per her petition, Iqbal was admitted “in Government JLNM Hospital, Rainawari, Srinagar. The Doctors at the Hospital, after conducting medical tests, including ultra-sonography, advised her to undergo C-section delivery on the very same day as the baby’s life was under threat”.
After the C-section, she became a mother of a girl child on 7 August 2021. Iqbal had tried to contact her husband but after finding out that her phone number was blocked by him.
She remained admitted in the hospital for two days and during the time Iqbal was in the hospital, she “alleged that her mother-in-law threatened her that she would take away the petitioner’s new born child”.
As per the petition, her husband also came to the hospital “with some goons and threatened her of dire consequences for having undergone C-section against his wishes and the wishes of other private respondents”.
Iqbal has alleged that the “step-brother of her husband came to the hospital along with a maid and took the infant in his lap and tried to run away with the child”.
However, her parents stopped him and called the police. “Due to their intervention, the attempt to snatch the petitioner’s suckling baby was foiled,” it read.
Following an apology by her in-laws, Iqbal went to their residence in Nishat area of Srinagar district where, as per the petition, they “snatched her suckling baby from her arms and forcefully locked and confined the petitioner in a room”.
For three days, she was allowed to breastfeed her child only thrice. From 11 August 2021, Iqbal has alleged that she has not seen her child.
On the same day, when she enquired about the whereabouts of her child, the father-in-law told her that the family had gone out with the baby and would return by the evening. However, when they didn’t return, “he told her that she would never be able to see her infant daughter again and that he will make sure that the petitioner craves for the sight of her child,” read the petition.
According to the petitioner, she was then locked and “illegally/wrongfully confined in the room for eight consecutive days and even her phone was snatched from her”.
On 18 August, after managing to get hold of her mobile phone she contacted the Women’s Police Helpline to file a complaint after which she was taken to the Women Police Station, Rambagh.
Iqbal then filed the petition under Article 226 of the Constitution seeking recovery of her 20 days’ old child from her in-laws and sought her child’s custody.
The court, in its order, said that it cannot remain “a silent observer” and directed the Senior Superintendent of Police, Srinagar to take all measures immediately “whatever are necessary” to ensure recovery of the child.
“The Senior Superintendent of Police … shall be authorised to raid any place and household they may suspect the child been confined in or kept hidden,” the court said.