New Delhi: The Supreme Court has sought Centre’s reply on the possibility of entering into mutual agreements with the US in matters connected with child custody disputes due to an increase in the number of cases.
A bench of Justices S.K. Kaul and A.S. Oka said: “We also feel that even though India may not be a party to the Hague Convention, there may be possibility of entering into mutual agreements with the US as a number of such cases is increasing on account of Indian residents staying in the US. We issue notice to the Union of India, Ministry of External Affairs and Ministry of Home Affairs for the said purpose returnable on February 6, 2023”.
The apex court passed the order while holding a US resident guilty of civil contempt for failing to bring back his child to India on the order of the court in May last year.
The bench noted that the contempt petition filed by the woman, who married in 2007, is an outcome of an unfortunate matrimonial dispute and “as it happens in every such dispute, the child is the worst sufferer”.
“The breaches committed by the respondent are wilful as can be seen from his conduct. As a result of the breaches committed by the respondent, the petitioner has been deprived of the custody of her son (who is 12 years old) though she is entitled to the custody in terms of the order dated May 11, 2022. Therefore, the violations made by the respondent are of a very serious nature.”
The top court noted in its order the man came to Ajmer in June last year and took his son with him but failed to bring him back to India.
According to the terms of settlement recorded in the custody order, the child would continue to live at Ajmer and complete his education up to Class 10 and later, he may go to his father in the US. The parties had agreed that until the child completes his education, he would visit Canada and the USA with his father every year for a month in June.
The bench said: “We, therefore, hold the respondent guilty of civil contempt. However, the respondent will be heard on the question of sentence on the next date.”
The CBI had submitted that a notice dated December 27, 2022 has been issued to the man, who was present in the court proceedings held on January 16 through virtual mode, asking him to appear before the agency on January 31. “Learned counsel submits that if the respondent does not appear, steps will be taken under the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty with the USA which is in force since October 3, 2005. The respondent being quite aware of this issue now, is expected to appear on January 31, 2023 before the concerned authorities, failing which, necessary orders would enure from the authorities,” said the bench, in its order, while fixing the matter for hearing on sentence on February 6.