Sources close to the Indian Foreign Ministry told The Hindu that the Bhattacharya child custody case in Stavanger was likely to take a new twist with Sagarika Bhattacharya's departure for India on Saturday morning.

“We are uncertain as to how her departure from Norway will change the complexion of the case. Is the mother's side of the family going to abandon the custody battle here in Norway in order to fight it out in India? Or will she return to Norway if and when a fresh court hearing is set? We are not in a position to answer that now,” the sources said.

Abhigyan (3) and Aishwarya (1) were placed in foster care by the Child Protection Agency (Barnevarnet or CWS) in the city of Stavanger, where the children's father Anurup Bhattacharya, a geophysicist, works at Halliburton. The stated reason for placing the children in care until they attain majority was Abhigyan's diagnosed “attachment disorder” and his mother's alleged inability to respond to his needs compounded by marital discord and cultural misunderstandings between the CWS and the parents.

It is possible that Ms. Bhattacharya's departure may have no bearing on the case at all since it is the CWS that has to accept or reject the agreement, signed on Thursday by the couple and the children's paternal uncle, transferring the custody to the latter and notarised by the Indian embassy's consular officer Balachandran.

If the CWS accepts that the agreement meets its demand that the children will not become a “tug of war” between feuding families and that they will be protected from witnessing further marital discord, it could seek a fresh court date to resolve the issue. If however, the agency feels that the children could be at risk in India, it might decide to keep the children under its custody in foster care in Norway until they turn 18.

If the CWS rejects the transfer of custody plea, the Bhattacharyas will have to fight a legal battle against the CWS. A date in the month of June already exists if it comes down to the wire, but sources say intense negotiations between the Indian and Norwegian governments are under way in order to find a quicker and more amiable solution that will see the return of the children to India at the earliest possible date.

Their uncle, Dr. Arunabhas Bhattacharya, who was evaluated for guardianship and found to be capable and responsible by the CWS, has been waiting to take the children back since March 2 when his formal evaluation at the hands of the CWS came to an end. He is, for the moment, staying back in Norway to help his brother, who has been badly affected by the prospect of losing his children to the CWS.

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