The Law Ministry has opposed a suggestion on signing a three-decade-old international convention against child abduction, saying it will go against Indian women married abroad in cases related to child custody following marital discord.
India has so far resisted international pressure, particularly from the West, to sign the 1980 Hague Convention against child abduction. But the Ministry of Women and Child Development is now understood to be in favour of ratifying the convention.
The Law Ministry has, however, maintained its stated position that the convention puts Indian women at disadvantage.
The Women and Child Development ministry, which got an opinion on the issue from National Commission for Women, believes that Hague convention protects interests of a child, rather than that of the parents.
The Law Ministry said its stand was based on the fact that the Hague Convention only stresses about the prompt return of the child to the legal guardian and not the welfare of the child.
"The trend we have monitored so far is that in a majority of cases, the father is a citizen of a foreign country. This helps him winning cases related to the child's custody. Mothers do not enjoy legal rights in a foreign country in majority of cases and end up losing custodial battles... this puts them at a disadvantage," a senior Law Ministry official said here.
The return of the child should be subject to best interests of the child as a general rule, the official added.
The latest move follows an increase in cases of disputes among Indian couples settled particularly in the United States and the United Kingdom, leading to legal battles for custody of children.
India has so far maintained that since it was a signatory to the 1989 United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, ratified by 192 countries, it saw no need to accede to the Hague Convention. Only 75 countries have acceded to Hague Convention.