Increasing number of cases of father or mother abducting child, fleeing country

Jurists and eminent academicians on Monday called upon India to not only sign the 1980 Hague Convention on International Child Abduction but also legislate on it. For, the number of cases of either the father or the mother abducting the child and fleeing the country of stay was increasing.

The multilateral treaty provides for an expeditious method to return a child taken from one member-nation to another. The Convention currently has 89 member-nations worldwide, but India is not a signatory so far. It seeks to protect children internationally from the harmful effects of their removal or retention and to establish procedures to ensure their prompt return to the state of their habitual residence as well as to secure protection for the rights of access.

At a symposium organised here by the British High Commission, the participants, including British Deputy High Commissioner to India Julian Evans; Head of International Family Justice for England and Wales Lord Justice Mathew Thorpe; Chief Justice of the Family Court of Australia Diana Bryant and the former Attorney-General of India, Soli Sorabjee, urged India to sign the Convention. The discussion was moderated by advocate Anil Malhotra. Experts from the office of children’s issues, U.S. State department; Hague Permanent Bureau; the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights; and the National Judicial Academy also attended the symposium.

The participants said “given the increased international mobility, there has been a steady rise in cross-border parental child removal cases. Last year, India was second only to Pakistan as a destination for children removed from the United Kingdom alone by one parent against the wishes of the other.”

At the end of the symposium, Justice Mathew Thorpe, along with Supreme Court judge Justice Vikramajit Sen and Mr. Sorabjee released the first legal textbook on surrogacy, Surrogacy in India, authored by advocates Anil Malhotra and Ranjit Malhotra in the presence of Mr. Julian Evans.

According to Mr. Anil Malhotra, “when an NRI marriage breaks, child custody fight occurs across the seas. We have no laws relating to cases of such conflict over child custody.” The book offers an insight into the draft Assisted Reproductive Technology (Regulation) Bill, 2010 and points out various lacunas.

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