Bombay High Court Directs Repatriation Of 7-Year-Old Child To Father's Custody In USA, Says Mother Abducted Her For Own Interest

Bombay High Court Directs Repatriation Of 7-Year-Old Child To Father's Custody In USA, Says Mother Abducted Her For Own Interest

Directing repatriation of a seven-year-old child to the United States of America (USA) in her father’s custody, the Bombay High Court has criticised the mother’s act of “abducting” the child and unilaterally relocating her to India.

Imran ShaikhUpdated: Thursday, May 09, 2024, 11:27 PM IST
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Bombay High Court | File

Mumbai: Directing repatriation of a seven-year-old child to the United States of America (USA) in her father’s custody, the Bombay High Court has criticised the mother’s act of “abducting” the child and unilaterally relocating her to India.

The father was granted sole custody of the daughter by a court in the USA. Pending legal proceedings in the USA, where the mother had filed her say, brought the US-born child to India.

“Story weaved and the scheme designed by the wife to return to India by abducting Miss 'R', unmindful of the ill-consequences of the said act, is not acceptable it being devoid of merits. The said action of the wife was intended to serve her own interest, not the child's,” a bench of Justices Ajey Gadkari and Shyam Chandak said on May 7.

The HC was hearing a habeas corpus (produce person in court) petition filed by the father seeking daughter’s custody, as directed by the court in the USA.

The duo married in India on January 16, 2015 in Pune and they shifted to New Jersey, USA on February 9. The daughter “Miss R” was born on June 24, 2016 in the USA, and hence is a US citizen. The family lived together in New Jersey until August 2020, then in North Carolina until the parents' separation on September 5, 2023.

After separation, the father approached the Mecklenburg Court which granted temporary joint custody till a final decision. However, the wife took their daughter to India in December 2023 without notice, and filed cruelty and custody cases against the petitioner.

In January this year, the Mecklenburg Court granted sole custody to the father hence he approached the HC seeking custody of his daughter.

The wife accused him of cruelty and alleged that he planned to deprive her of their daughter's custody and engaged in coercive tactics.

The bench, however, opined that during her time in the USA, the child adapted well to the local environment, language, and likely had friends, with no recorded harm from the husband until her sudden removal to India by the wife, causing emotional distress due to separation from her routine and father.

Also, the court noted that the father, a data scientist, is financially stable and can adequately support the child in the USA, where the parents jointly own a spacious house suitable for separate living arrangements, the court said.

The wife had raised concerns about the daughter's well-being under the husband's care, claiming that there were instances of neglect and emotional distress which led to disciplinary issues at school. She alleged that the husband rejected her request for counselling for the daughter.

The bench, however, pointed out the delay in her seeking appropriate psychiatric help for her daughter. “She avoided to give priority to Miss 'R's health and instead, thought it appropriate to first file cases against the husband. This amounts to serve one's own interest. As such, the plea as to Miss 'R's mental well-being and the related Psychologist's report was nothing but an attempt to mislead the Court.”

The judges said that the wife's immediate resort to legal action in India after filing an FIR suggested a strategic use of litigation to prolong the legal battle and hinder the daughter's return to the USA.

Further, the wife retained her job in the USA despite residing in India. The court noted that there are no indications that she plans to resign and seek employment in India. These circumstances indicate that once the litigation in India concludes, the wife intends to return to the USA with the daughter and settle there permanently, the court said.

The court said that while it cannot compel the wife to return to the USA, it recommended that she accompany the child. In case she refuses to accompany the child, the HC has asked the husband to let her talk to the child through video call on a daily basis and visit India twice a year.

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