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City sees rise in cases of parents kidnapping kids PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Shibu Thomas , TNN   
  • The last time that Bandra resident Manpreet Biji, 28, saw her son Guruashish was more than a year ago, before her father-in-law allegedly kidnapped him and absconded.
  • Ulhasnagar resident Priti Chhug, 26, trudges to the police station daily to enquire about her four-year-old son, Sujal, who was allegedly kidnapped by her husband on the day the court was to order him to hand over custody to the child's mother.
  • The Bombay High Court issued non-bailable warrants against HR college lecturer Hema Suryanarayanan after she disappeared with her eight-year-old son. Her ex-husband K R Ravishankar had been given custody of the boy in the Supreme Court.

Cases of parents abducting children are on the rise in Mumbai, say family court lawyers and counsellors. Custody battles in which estranged spouses hurl accusations at one another are common, but the new twist in the tale is that one parent disappears with the child to frustrate custody proceedings.

Many such cases have found their way to the Bombay High Court in the last few years.

"Abduction of a child by a parent is emerging as a major issue that we deal with on a daily basis," said family court lawyer Madhuri Sharma. "The child is a pawn, as the parents don't see beyond themselves."

The interest of the child is the last concern of parents who abduct their own offspring, said Dr Harish Shetty, consultant psychiatrist at Hiranandani Hospital, who has dealt with three such cases in the past few years. He underscored the trauma that children face as a result of such actions by their parents.

No statistics on such abductions are available for India. A study in the United States has revealed that 3.5 lakh cases of child abduction occur every year in that country.

There is no specific provision in law to deal with a truant parent, and the other parent's only real option is to file a criminal case of kidnapping. "Criminal law is the only avenue but it is also very destabilising, not only for the parents but also for the child," said Sharma.

A kidnapping charge confers the responsibility for finding the child on the police, who are reluctant to intervene in a custody battle between spouses.

More pertinent, however, is the moral question of whether parents, whom the law considers natural guardians, can be made to face the wrath of the courts. "Criminal provisions can be invoked in such cases but the law is open to interpretation. Can a parent be called a kidnapper?" said advocate Kranti Sathe, who practises in the family court.

The other options are to file either a habeas corpus petition seeking the production of the child, or a contempt of court case (if the family court had awarded custody). Priti explored all these options after her husband Bunty Chhug, 28, spirited away their only son in November 2008. Foremost among her worries is the possibility that her husband may flee to Dubai or Germany, where he has connections.

Manpreet filed a habeas corpus petition in the Bombay High Court, which ordered the state Criminal Investigation Department (CID) to take over the case and trace the child. "My son was barely a year old, and I was still breast feeding him. All I wish is that my child is safe and I can see him again," she said.

Dr Shetty noted, "In a large number of cases, a parent kidnaps his or her child to either manipulate the spouse into returning or seek plain and simple revenge," said Shetty. He added, "Rare is the case where the couple thinks of the welfare of the child."

Dr Shetty said that being kidnapped by a parent could be a traumatic experience for the child. "A child needs to grow in a peaceful and healthy atmosphere. The higher the conflict, the more traumatic it is for the child. Such children grow up confused and in fear, and many show serious behavioural issues as they enter their teens."


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