Father in custody battle ordered to meet son through video conferencing due to Covid 19
Court took the risks posed to the health of the child in the current situation into account for its order.Updated: Sep 19, 2020, 09:06 IST
The Madhya Pradesh high court has directed a man to use his visitation rights through a virtual meeting as a physical meeting may not be in the interest of the child and her mother during Covid pandemic, as per the court’s order.
The order was passed by the high court’s principal bench at Jabalpur on September 7, 2020, while hearing an application filed by the father seeking an interim custody of his 9-year-old son, subject to the high court’s judgement on a petition filed by mother of the child to challenge a family court’s judgement delivered on August 31, 2019, whereby her husband got a divorce from her.
The boy is presently in the custody of his mother residing in Alwar in Rajasthan while the father is posted in Raipur in Chhattisgarh, as per counsels of the parents.
Mother of the child in her reply, as per the HC order, said she complied with the court order and brought the child from Alwar to Bhopal on every first and third Friday of the month. During the lockdown and the extended lockdown periods, she ensured regular conversations between the child and the father through video calls, normal phone calls and WhatsApp.
She denied the allegation that she didn’t allow the child to speak to his father on some pretext or the other.
She said she was a doctor by profession and “during the ongoing pandemic, it was suitable for the child to continue to stay with her until travel within the country resumed normally as Alwar to Raipur (Chhattisgarh) is not only an inter-state travel but is also very far, which could be risky for the child’.
The court observed that the custody of the child was handed over to the father for a month by an order passed on September 26, 2019. Later, the order was modified on November 5 to give custody of the child to the mother with visitation rights to the father.
The division bench comprising of chief justice Ajay Kumar Mittal and justice Vijay Kumar Shukla observed: “We find that it would not be advisable, at this stage, to change the custody of the child… A proposal was put to the counsel for the respondent-applicant that visitation rights can be conferred through video conferencing, as physical meeting of the child during Covid-19 may not be feasible in the interest of the child and the parties. Accordingly, it is directed that the respondent-applicant i.e. the father shall be entitled to have video conferencing with the child every fortnight for half-an-hour in an amicable environment and said this arrangement shall continue for the months of September and October, 2020.”
Welcoming the order, Ruchika Gohil, the counsel for the mother, said, “I have not heard so far that any court anywhere else allowed visitation rights to a parent through video conferencing due to the Covid situation.”
Ajatshatru Meena, counsel for the father of the child said, “We are not satisfied with the order and will challenge it.”