The Bombay high court directed the state police and the Union ministry of external affairs to seek Vodafone’s help to trace an Italian citizen, who was locked in a custody battle with his estranged Goan wife over their minor adopted daughter.
Despite proceedings pending in the high court, the man, Alessandro* (surname withheld), fled to Italy with the child in August 2015.
However, earlier this week,the woman’s counsel, advocate Rohaan Cama, told a bench of justices VM Kanade and PR Bora that Alessandro’s Indian mobile number was still active in Italy.
Cama said his client called the number three weeks ago, trying to ascertain if it was still in use. He said Alessandro answered the phone. However, he switched it off immediately and has remained unreachable since then.Cama submitted the details of the phone number in court.
The bench directed the police to collect information about this number. It also directed Vodafone to cooperate with the police.
The bench directed the authorities to trace the man’s location using the emails he sent the woman and his counsel soon after he fled India.
Justice Kanade also directed the National Legal Services Authority to send its representative to the court at the next hearing to ascertain if a lawyer could be engaged in Italy to help bring back the child to India.
MEA counsel advocate Rui Rodriguez told the court that the ministry had ‘already issued Interpol notices against the man and that efforts were being taken by the under secretary (extradition).’
The bench suggested that the ministry send out public notices quelling the man’s fears of coercive action upon his return. The bench said the man must be informed that the court, the authorities, and the woman were only keen to know of the child’s whereabouts and whether she was well or not.
The high court is likely to take up the matter for further hearing on March 21.
The couple adopted the child from a centre in Pune in 2010. She had been abandoned in a garbage bin when she was just a few months old.A year later, however, the couple split and the wife gained custody of the child. In June 2011, Alessandro got an order from the family court granting him custody.
While the matter was pending final hearing for more than a year, the high court granted interim access to the wife, who had been travelling from Goa to Pune thrice a week to meet the child. In 2015, an Italian court granted Alessandro sole custody of the child, after which he fled with her.