Mohammed Shahnawaz Zaheer , a commercial pilot, had made a promise to his dying friend Praveen Dayal-that he would take care of Praveen’s twins after Praveen was gone. The twins, Ayush and Prarthana had lost their mother earlier. In his bid to raise two Hindu orphans, in 2015, Mohammed not only earned praise from the Delhi High Court, but in his fight for the twins’ guardianship, Mohammed made the court pass a landmark order in cross-religious guardianship. The court also took note that all the monies to which the children were entitled is to be kept in the “Aayush Prarthana Benevolent Trust” till they attain the age of 25 years. The twins will be raised as Hindus.
In his plea, Mohammed informed the High Court that during the critical phase of his illness, Praveen requested him to take care of his children. He also placed on record a statement by Praveen’s brother saying he had full faith in Mohammed for discharging the duty of the guardianship of the children. With their maternal uncle and grandmother also settled abroad and expressing helplessness, the twins had nowhere to turn to, Mohammed pointed out.
A report in The Times Of India states, moved by what it termed a “noble endeavour”, the High Court appointed Mohammed as the guardian of twins under the Hindu Minority & Guardianship Act. 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 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.
The HC order streamlined everything to allow the twins to integrate with us. I have a three-storied 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.
Mohammed disclosed that the court had 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,” added Mohammed.
According to India Times, 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.”