Norway's Foreign Minister wants satisfactory end to the case of children's custody

Norway's Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Store told The Hindu in an exclusive interview here that the Norwegian authorities should evaluate the methods used by the Child Protection Service so that cultural differences were better understood and taken into account in future. However, he was at pains to explain that taking a child into permanent custody, as decided by the Stavanger District Court in the Bhattacharya child custody case, was “truly a measure of last resort.”

“I can say that when this is settled, hopefully settled in a way which will be respectful of the family, the children, and also prove the respectfulness of the welfare system in Norway, we will evaluate. We will have to go back and look into what we learn from this. Not perhaps primarily about the rules, but about handling these rules – how they are interpreted and how they are applied,” he said.

Norway was a country governed by the rule of law and as Foreign Minister he could not intervene in the legal process, howsoever well disposed he was to India, he noted.

The Bhattacharyas, Anurup and Sagrika, are waiting with hope and trepidation for the court verdict on March 23, which they hope will resolve their battle for the custody of their two toddlers, now under the care of Norwegian foster parents.

Although the Stavanger Child Protection Service has announced it is willing to award the children's custody to the father's brother, Dr. Arunabhas Bhattacharya, considered capable of taking on the onerous responsibility of caring for the children, one of whom appears to have a personality disorder, the court will have the final say.

Dr. Bhattacharya, a 28 year-old unmarried dentist from Kolkata, has put on hold his practice to help his brother and sister-in-law. He has been staying in Stavanger for the past month, receiving training and counselling on how to take care of the children.

“I am fully aware that this has brought forth a lot of emotion in India. I have many friends who have come to me through government and informal channels alerting me to this and we have to work very systematically to bring out the correct information about procedures. However, I think everyone understands that the government cannot start commenting on the details of what, at the outset, is a very serious matter. So those facts being established, I have received Special Envoy Ganapathi sent by my counterpart. My understanding is that he was able to see the authorities, visit Stavanger and that there is good progress on this matter now,” Mr. Store said.

Click here to read the full transcript of this interview

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