A government-appointed panel has recommended one window solution in cases of intercountry removal and retention of children, an official statement said on Monday.
The Committee, headed by Justice Rajesh Bindal of the Punjab and Haryana High Court, submitted its report on legal issues related to these two issues, recommending addressing the problems of parents and children involved.
Inter-Country Parental Child Removal Disputes Resolution Authority:
The Committee has recommended that the Government may establish an ‘Inter-Country Parental Child Removal Disputes Resolution Authority’.
The composition of the authority:
The Authority may be chaired by a retired High Court Judge, with Members from Legal and Social sector background along with representatives from key Ministries.
The authority has been envisaged to provide a one window solution in cases of intercountry removal and retention of Children.
The Authority may examine the inter-country cases of removal and retention of children vis-a-vis the cultural context, the merit of the case, and the best interest of the Child.
Over three crore Indians living abroad have cross-border marriages. When such a diverse family unit breaks down, children suffer as they are dragged into an international legal battle between their parents. Inter-spousal child removal is one of the most unfortunate outcomes of such breakups. Children are “abducted” by one parent and taken to a country with a different culture. This can be traumatic as they are also cut off from the other parent.
International Child Abduction Bill:
The Protection of Children (Inter-Country Removal and Retention) Bill, 2016 seeks to address the issue. The Bill is in consonance with the principles of the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, 1980, which seeks to protect a child from the harmful effect of wrongful removal and secure prompt return and reintegration of the child in an environment of his/her ‘habitual residence’.
The Bill defines ‘wrongful removal or retention’ as an act in breach of custody to a person or an institution or any other body under the law of the country in which the child was habitually resident immediately before the removal or retention. The law will be applicable to those wrongfully removed or retained children in India who have not completed 16 years.
The Bill recommends the setting up of a Central Authority tasked with discovering the whereabouts of the child. The Authority will further act to prevent harm to the child, secure the voluntary return of the child to his or her habitual residence, exchange information relating to the child with the appropriate authorities of the contracting state, institute judicial proceedings in the High Court concerned to secure the return of the child, provide free legal aid advice, and make administrative arrangements for the return of the child.
The court can order the return of a child who has been wrongfully removed or retained in India and if a period of one year has not elapsed from the date of removal or retention. However, the one-year cap is not final. The court can order return if it is established that the child is not settled in his/her new environment. It can refuse to order return if returning would expose the child to harm or if the child, on attaining an age and level of maturity, refuses to go back, among other conditions.
The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction (1980):
The Hague Convention is a multilateral treaty whereby the contracting states will have to cooperate with each other in expeditiously sending back the runaway parent and the child to the country of the child’s ‘habitual residence’.
It seeks to return children abducted or retained overseas by a parent to their country of habitual residence for the courts of that country to decide on matters of residence and contact.
The convention shall apply to any child, up to the age of 16 years who is a habitual resident of any of the contacting states.