There has been a spurt in cases of runaway wives who have slapped criminal cases against their non-resident Indian (NRI) husbands.
And, often, the men can do little to gain custody of their children.
Though the police in countries such as the US, UK and Canada often press child abduction charges in such cases, they cannot follow them up in India, as the country has not yet ratified the 1980 Hague Convention.
“We hope it may be possible for India to ratify this in the near future,” said a spokesperson for the British High Commission in Delhi.
“Since India has not signed the Hague Convention, courts here have not really been enforcing judgments of foreign courts,” said senior advocate Pinky Anand, who represented complainant V. Ravi Chandran, on whose petition the Supreme Court ordered the CBI to trace his son and former wife in India.
The Hague Convention on the civil aspects of international child abduction is a multilateral treaty that provides a speedy method to return a child taken from one member nation to another.
The convention was drafted to “insure the prompt return of children who have been abducted from their country of habitual residence or wrongfully retained in a contracting state not their country of habitual residence”.
“India has been used as a haven or a refuge where you could defeat the law. Moreover, dowry laws are peculiar to the Indian legal system,” said Anand. “Hopefully, this judgement would pave the way for foreign judgements to be enforced in India.”
The Canadian High Commission told HT that its “consular officers at the department of foreign affairs and international trade and in India were currently managing 23 child custody, child abduction and child welfare cases”.
More than 60 such cases have been reported from the US — over a dozen of them in the last three months alone.
“Parental child abduction can cause immense distress to both the child that has been taken and the family they leave behind,” the British High Commission spokesperson said. “The British government is limited in the assistance it can provide as decisions concerning custody and country of abode need to be taken by the courts.”
The British High Commission said it was aware of 11 cases in the past 12 months involving British nationals where a parent had either abducted a minor son or daughter to India or retained him or her after a holiday visit.
“Cases are sometimes filed to blackmail and extort money,” said criminal lawyer Tarun Goomber, citing the example of a man who could not come to India to meet his parents as arrests warrants had been issued against him after his wife filed a case.
“Some cases of this sort have come to our notice,” said a senior official of the Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs, on condition of anonymity. “But the government cannot do much as it doesn’t have the jurisdiction.” Anand said at times such cases were used “as a tool to pressurise the other side, prevent a person from coming back to the country and make the other party give in”.