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Sherman made the terrible discovery that men make about their fathers sooner or later... that the man before him was not an aging father but a boy, a boy much like himself, a boy who grew up and had a child of his own and, as best he could, out of a sense of duty and, perhaps love, adopted a role called Being a Father so that his child would have something mythical and infinitely important: a Protector, who would keep a lid on all the chaotic and catastrophic possibilities of life. ~Tom Wolfe, The Bonfire of the Vanities

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Custody fight for children PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Rakesh Bhatnagar   

NEW DELHI: It is a strange story of two children, both brothers, who are not aware of a high legal dispute having international ramificationssurrounding them.

They have been the bone of contention between their father on the one hand and their maternal grandparents on the other over their custody for about five years when their mother died after consuming poison in India.

Both the father and the maternal grandparents are affluent and influential. There have been a few rounds of litigation and at least twice the matter also reached the Supreme Court.

Since the children were born in America when the couple was living there happily, they are US citizens.

Their grandparents belong to a well known political family of Andhra Pradesh and their father runs a flourishing textile business with considerable interests in the US.

As the children were in the custody of their father, who was convicted for abetting the suicide of his wife but later granted bail by the High Court currently seized of his appeal, a New York family court appointed a ward for them there. The NY court said the children would be the responsibility of the US administration and would remain in its jurisdiction.

They must be getting education and care there. But back home their dear ones intensified the litigation, with petitions, applications, interim applications, special leave petitions and civil suits in Chennai, Hyderabad and Delhi galore. The country’s leading lawyers have been appearing for them. The matter, which was once considered to be limited to custody and welfare of the children, has assumed serious legal proportion as the Indian Supreme Court has taken strong objection to the NY family court defying its order for production of the children before it.

It happened on April 25, 2005, before a Bench of Justices Arijit Pasayat and S.H. Kapadia. The petitioner father was to produce his children before Justice Pasayat in his chamber, but he could not. The judges wanted to first ascertain the children’s choice before making any order.

Father’s counsel A. Ragunath informed the court that the NY court had declined his request to release the children from its custody so that they could be produced before the apex court in India. "In essence,what transpires is that the court in the US has virtually rendered our order inoperative," the Bench said. "If such a situation is permitted to continue, it would have large ramifications not only so far this case is concerned, but also have effect on other cases," the Bench added.

Faced with the blatant defiance of its order which was passed keeping in view the interest of the children in mind, the Bench has now asked Solicitor- General Goolam E. Vahanvati "to assist US to decide whether a court in another country can pass any order which would have the effect of virtually rendering inoperative an order passed by a court in India".

If that is permitted, it would mean allowing a court in another country to judge the propriety of an order passed even by the Supreme Court.

But the Bench would also like to know at whose insistence had the NY court appointed a ward for the children and who was bearing the expenses. 

 



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