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Habeas Corpus for Custody and Visitation

Supreme Court of India


DATE OF JUDGMENT: 04/11/1997

BENCH:       Honble Mr.Justice S.B.Majmudar
       Honble Mr.Justice M.Jagannadha Rao

In-person for the appellant Kailesh Vasdev, Adv. for the Respondent
        J U D G M E N T
The following Judgment of the Court was delivered: M. JAGANNADHA RAO, J.
These two appeals are connected and can be disposed of
together C.A.No  5517 of  1997 arises  out  of order  dated
10.6.1997 and  4.7.1997 passed by the High Court in appeal
against M.J.Petition  No. 985 of 1985 filed by the appellant
in Civil  Court which  was transferred to the Family Court.
C.A. No.  5518 of  1997 arises out of orders passed on same
dates by  the High  Court in  Family Court  Appeal No. 99 of
1995 (arising  out of order dated 1.212.1995 in custody case
No. 9  of 1993 filed by  the respondent).  The orders dated
10.6.1997 are  orders dismissing the matters for default and
orders dated  4.7.1997 are  those refusing  to restore  the
matters and  vacating the  ad interim  order.  In the Family
Court Appeal 99 of 1995 while passing orders on 4.7.1997, it
was also stated by the High Court that appellant has no case
on merits.

     The facts leading to the appeals are as follows:-
     The respondent  Mr.Madhav Under  married the  appellant
(who was  then in  U.S.A) on  11.6.82  at  Omaha,  State  of
Nebraska in  the U.S.A..  On 19.6.1982,  a separate marriage
ceremony as  per Hindu rituals was  performed.   It appears
that the  respondent had  earlier married one Bhagyawanti at
Nagpur on  20.4.1967.  The respondent later left for USA and
obtained an exparte divorce order against Bhagyawanti in the
trial  court   at  Oakland  in the  State  of Michigan  on
25.10.1997 allegedly  by way  of  misrepresentation.  (Later
Bhagyawanti moved  that Court  for vacation  of that order).
The said  Bhagyawanti also  filed petition  No.101/81 in the
District Court,  Nagpur and claimed that the decree obtained
by respondent in USA was void and based on misrepresentation
of facts  and she  claimed for divorce maintenance  and the
reliefs.   She succeeded  in that  case and  a fresh divorce
decree was  passed by  the Nagpur  Court on  11.6.84 relying
upon Smt.  Satya vs.  Tej Singh  [1975 (1)  SCC 120]. That
would mean  that the  Indian Court  held that the US divorce
decree dt.   25.10.1997  was not  binding   on  the said

     The appellant  lived with the respondents in USA for 10
months after  her marriage  on 11.6.1982.   On 15.3.1983, a
male child was borne to them, is USA and was named Abhijeet.
Due  to   certain  compelling circumstances, the   mother
(appellant) and the child left the respondent on 20.4.83 the
child was  35 days  old.  Thereafter, the respondent-husband
had no occasion to live with his wife and the child so far.
They have  been involved  in  unfortunate  litigations both
Civil and  Criminal both  in USA  and India  for the last 14
years.  The respondent  is continuing to live in USA while
the appellant  and her son have  been living in India.  The
boy is now studying in 8th Standard in a school at Pune.
     The respondent-husband  filed a  divorce  case  in  USA
against the  appellant and also sought custody of the child.
Initially on  15.3.1983 the  US Courts had given custody of
the child  to the  mother-appellant.   A divorce  decree was
passed exparte on 23.9.1983. On 20.2.84 the child reached
India with  the appellant  s-mother.   The  respondent then
obtained an order on 11.4.1984 exparte containing directions
as to visitation rights in his favour. Late on, 30.4.84 the
Court passed  an order exparte modifying  the earlier order
unto one  of temporary  custody in  favour of the husband-
respondent and shifting  the  temporary  care,  control  or
possession  of  the  child   from  the   appellant  to  the
respondent, until  a final  bearing as to be  held  on  all
issues.   On 28.4.86,  the US  Court passed on exparte order
granting permanent custody to the respondent-husband.

     In the  meanwhile, the  appellant proceeded from USA to
Australia and  then reached  India and joined her son.  She
then filed M.J. Petition No. 985 of 1985 in the Civil Court,
Bombay for  a declaration  that her marriage with respondent
on 11.6.1982  was null and void inasmuch as the respondents
marriage with  Bhagyawanti was subsisting on that date.  She
claimed  maintenance  for  her and  the  child  and  for  a
declaration that  the divorce  decree passed by the US Court
on 23.9.83 was not binding on her and for injunction against
respondent from  removing the  child from  her.    That  the
divorce  decree  obtained  on  25.10.77  by  the  respondent
against Bhagyawanti  did not  bind Bhagyawanti has now been
declared in  the fresh divorce decree passed by the Indian
Court on 11.6.84 as stated above:

     The respondent  came to  Bombay and filed Habeas Corpus
petition No. 328 of 1986 in the High Court of Bombay and the
said Writ  Petition was dismissed on 15.4.86 and custody was
granted to the appellant by the High court.  The Court said
In a elaborate order);
     Therefore, taking  the totally  of
     circumstances  into  consideration,
     we  find allowed  to  retain  the
     custody for  the present and at the
     stage.    The  interim  Custody  of
     Abhijeet  be  handed  over  to  the
     mother Dhanwanti  forthwith.    The
     petitioner-father-Madhav  will  the
     right  of visiting  between  4.000
     p.m. and 6 p.m. every day.  Subject
     to the above, rule is discharged.
(The permanent custody order  of UDS Court dated 25.4.86 in
favour of  the husband is after this dated.  B Social leaves
petition No. 1290 of 1986 filled by respondent was dismissed
on 8.5.1986.

     We come  to the  next stage  of proceedings  under  the
Guardian and  wards Act,  and eye 13 of the Hindu Minority &
Guardianship Act, 1890) filed by the appellant for permanent
guardianship of  the person/property  of her  son and  other
reliefs.   The Court  appointed her  as permanent  &  Lawful
guardian of  the person/property  of the child or 20.8.1986.
This was  an exparte  order in favour of the appellant-wife.
The application  filed by  respondent for  setting aside the
same was  dismissed on 23.1.1987 by the trial court.  Appeal
No. 1313  of 1987 to the High Court filed by the respondent-
husband was dismissed on 23.11.1987 observing;
     We have  heard Mr.  Ganesh learned
     counsel appearing on behalf of the
     appellant t length and we find that
     there is no merit whatsoever in the
     appeal.   From what has been stated
     hereinabove it  is very  clear that
     the appellant  is fighting with the
     Respondent for  over several years.
     The  conduct   of  the   appellant
     clearly indicates that he is a much
     married man and he had entered into
     marriage  with  the  Respondent  by
     suppressing the  fact of  the first
     marriage with  a  girl  at  Nagpur.
     The   earlier   judgment of   the
     Division  Bench   of   this   court
     clearly indicates    that    the
     appellant   had   treated    the
     Respondent  with  cruelty and  the
     Respondent was  required  to  leave
     the  matrimonial house  with  the
     child  under   great   stress   and
     compulsion.   The conduct  of  the
     appellant does not indicate that he
     is interested in the welfare of the
     child  but   the  anxiety  of  the
     appellant seems to  be to  seek
     custody of  the child only a with a
     view   to   avoid    payment    of
     maintenance for the child.
     Apart from the merits of the claim,
     we must  bear in mind that whatever
     may be,  the disputes  between  the
     parties the  Court has  to consider
     in  the   proceedings   under   the
     Guardianship Act  as to  what is in
     the interest  of the  minor  child.
     The minor child has  remained with
     the mother for last over four years
     and in our judgment it would not be
     in interest  of  the  minor  to  be
     snatched away  from the  mother and
     the order of  the  learned  Single
     Judge  appointing  the  mother  as
     guardian  could   not  be  faulted

     Once again,  the respondent  filed appeal in this Court
in C.A.  No. 1289/90. This  was dismissed  on  10.10.1990.
This Court,  however, while  dismissing the  appeal, made an
     We make  it  clear  that we  have
     decided  the   case  only  on  the
     grounds which  we have  set earlier
     and we  decline to  express ay view
     on the  legal merits  of the decree
     or  on   merits  of   the disputes
     between   the   parties   concerned
     except to the extent that there was
     no good cause for setting aside the
     exparte decree.   I  the  appellant
     has any  other remedy  open in  law
     against  the  exparte  decree  this
     judgment will not preclude him from
     pursuing such remedy.

     Taking  advantage  of  the   said   observation,  the
respondent filed  Case No.D9  of 1993  in the  Family Court,
Bombay afresh  for custody  of child.  That  petition  was
clubbed with  M.J. Petition No. 985 of 1985 filed earlier by
the appellant  in the City Civil Court regarding declaration
that her  marriage was void, which  was transferred  to the
Family Court.  The Family  Court passed an order dt. 1.12.95
allowing  the respondents  application  D9  of  1993  and
granting him  custody of  the child  to the  respondent  and
dismissed appellants  M.J.Petition No.985  of 1985 filed to
declare her marriage with respondent as null & void.

     The appellant preferred appeal to the High Court. Stay
was granted.   It appears, during the hearing of the appeal,
the respondent was given custody of the child for 4 days but
on the first day  the boy  ran away from the respondent and
was traced, and then all the parties met at a police station
and the  custody of  the boy was given to the respondent for
three days.  The boy  was later  taken by  respondent to his
village called Baddlapur in  Maharashtra  for those  three
days. The  appellants appeals were listed after vacation in
the first  week for  9th June.   It  is  the  case  of  the
appellant that the case  was not  listed on  9th.   it  was
listed on  10th June,  1997, and  she had no notice and when
the Advocate  requested the court for time, the case was not
adjourned but  was only passed over till 2.245 p.m. and then
at 2.45  p.m. it  was dismissed  for non-prosecution.  The
application o. 3411 of  1997 to  set  aside  the  same  was
dismissed on  4.7.97. It was also held  i the  order  dt,
4.7.97 that  the appellant-mother  had no case on merits for
retaining custody of the child.

See also  SC : When can a clerical error be corrected

     Aggrieved by  the order  dismissing  the appeals  for
default and  the refusal  to restore the same, and aggrieved
by the findings given on merits  of  the  application  for
custody and  aggrieved by the dismissal of the appeal in the
case for  declaring the  marriage as  null &  void – without
giving any  reasons, – these two  Civil appeals  have been
preferred by the appellant.

     We have  heard arguments  on the merits of the petition
filed for  custody of  the child.   So far  as  the  appeal
relating to declaration of the marriage as null & void filed
by the appellant is  concerned, the appellant stated fairly
that she  does not  want to pursue the same.  Therefore, the
earlier decree of divorce as between her and her husband can
be treated as having become final.

     So far  as the  dismissal of  the  appellants  appeal
(against the  orders in  respondents application D9 of 1993
for custody)  for default  on 10.6.97 and the refusal of the
High Court on 4.7.97 to restore the same, we have been taken
through the affidavits and the circumstances of the case and
we are satisfied that the High  Court was not justified in
not restoring the appeals and in refusing to give a hearing.
it appears  to us  that the  High Court  did  not  give  due
importance to the fact that the case related to custody of a
child who  has been  living with the appellant for more than
12 years  or more  and that it involved serious consequences
for the  child, whatever  be the fault of the appellant.  it
was a  fit case  where the appeal should have been restored,
If the child, on account of his superience in the three days
with his  father –  during the pendency of  the appeal when
temporary custody  was given  to  the respondent  was  not
willing to  accompany the  mother to  the High Court, prima
facie it  appears  to  us  that  there was  no  ground  for
initiating  contempt   proceedings  against   her  for  not
producing the  child. Be that as it may, the said contempt
proceedings will  be disposed  of in  accordance with law by
the High  Court.   In any  event we  direct  recall  of  the
bailable warrants  issued against the appellant, if they are
still pending.

     Before the  hearing of the case, we interviewed the boy
in Chambers  and found that he was quite intelligent and was
able to  understand the  facts and circumstances in which he
was placed.   He  informed us that he was not inclined to go
with his  father to USA and he wants to continue his studies
in  India   till  he  completes  10-2  or  he  finishes  his
graduation.   He feels that he will then be in a position to
decide whether to go to USA for higher studies.  He wants to
continue to be in the custody of his mother. He told us that
his desire is to become a Veterinary doctor.

     Parties & counsel on both sides wanted us to dispose of
the custody matter on merits.

     The High  Court while holding that the appellant had no
case on  merits, has  given only  one  reason  for  granting
custody to the father. it stated that the father.
     Who has  acquired  citizenship  in
     America  is   well-placed  in   is
     career.  The boy is nearing the age
     of 14.  The paramount interest of a
     boy  aged  14  years   of  age  is
     definitely his future education and
     career. The  further  education  of
     the boy whose father is well-placed
     in America  will  be  comparatively
     superior.  The  lower  Court  took
     note  of this  circumstance   and
     granted  custody of  the  boy  to
     respondent.   Therefore, we  do not
     find any  error in the order passed
     by the Court below
It is  clear that  the Family  Court and the High Court have
therefore based their decision on the said sole circumstance
regarding the  financial capacity  of  the  father  to give
better education  to the boy in USA. Learned counsel for the
respondent-husband  has  contended  in addition,  that  the
appellant had  violated Court  orders in USA and brought the
child to  India and  had also  not produced the child in the
Bombay High  Court and had violated  Court directions,  and
that by  such  conduct she  was  disqualified from  having
custody of  the child.  It  was also  argued that  she  was
living in  Bombay while  the chile, is studying at Pune, and
that she  does not have the capacity to educate the child in
USA. The  husband led  evidence that his brother & brothers
wife are  prepared to  come to USA to take care of the child
if the child should come to USA.

     On the  other hand,  the appellant  has contended that
earlier orders granting custody to her have become final and
that there  is no change in the circumstances warranting the
shifting of the custody to the father, that the Child cannot
be uprooted  from the  environment in which he has grown for
the last  more than  12 years, that she has the capacity to
educate the child in USA, that the child is a citizen of USA
and is entitled to go there in his own independent right at
any time,  that in  US, there is no body to take care of the
child in  the husbands  household and that the respondents
brother/wife could  not be  substitutes for the mother, even
if they  go to USA . She submitted that the respondent made
efforts taking away the child from her within 35 days of its
birth and  she had  to leave the house in USA with the child
and the  child was  sent to  India through  her mother;  she
escaped the  detectives  employed  by  the  respondent,  and
proceeded to India via Australia.  Her Sringing the child to
India in those circumstances cannot be a ground for shifting
custody of  the child to the respondent.  She contended that
the Courts  below could not ignore the earlier orders of the
High Court  in the  Habeas Corous  case or the orders in the
proceedings under  the Guardian  &  Wards  Act,  1890.  The
Supreme Court  had also  rejected the respondents appeal in
both cases.  In the latter case the High Court/supreme Court
had refused  to set  aside the ex parte orders passed in her
favour and  against the  respondent.   This operated  as res
judicata or  estoppel.  She also  contended that  when  the
child was  not willing to come before the Bombay High Court
in view  of his unpleasant experience with the father for 3
days when  the Bombay  Court gave custody to the father, she
could not  be found fault with for not bringing the child to
the Court and that fact cannot also be a ground for shifting
custody to the respondent.

     On these  submissions, the  following points  arise for
(1)  Could the Family Court and High Court have ignored the
orders passed  in favour  of the  appellant  in  the  Habeas
Corpus Case on 15.4.86 and the exparte order in the Guardian
& Wards Act case dated 23.11.87 and the orders of refusal of
the High  Court or  Supreme Court  in 1990  to set aside the
latter orders  and could the respondent file a fresh case in
the Family  Court in  1993 to  claim custody,  and if  so is
whether there is proof of changed circumstances between 1990
and 1993  or 1997  warranting the shifting of custody to the
respondent-father,  and   whether  the  capacity   of  the
respondent to give education to the child in USA could alone
be sufficient ground to shift custody?
(2)  Do the fact relating to the appellant bringing away the
child to  India in 1984 contrary to an order of the US Court
or not producing the child in the Bombay High Court have any
bearing on the decision o the Courts in India while deciding
about the paramount welfare of the child in 1993 or 1997?
(3)  In case  the respondent  is not  entitled to  permanent
custody, is  he entitled  to temporary custody or visitation
Point 1:  From the  facts already  stated, it  is clear that
the appellant  has an  order in her favour of the High Court
of Bombay  dated 15.4.86 giving her the custody of the child
passed while  dismissing the  writ  petition  filed  by  the
respondent seeking  a writ  of baheas corpus.  The appellant
then has  also an order in her favour passed again under the
Guardian &  Wards Act  dated 23.11.1987,  though in  exparte
proceedings, giving her permanent custody of the child.  The
appeals preferred by the respondent against he said order to
the Supreme  Court have  been dismissed.   The order in the
proceedings under  the Guardian  &  Wards  Act,  1890  dated
23.11.1987, even though exparte is binding on the respondent
as it  concerns the  same subject matter and operates as res
judicata (Mulla,  CPC, Vol.1,  15th Ed.,  P. 109)  (See also
Sarkar on Evidence 13th Ed. P. 1128 that judgment by default
creates an estoppel – quoting sailendra Narayan vs. State of
Orissa AIR 1956 SC 346).

     We re  of the  view that the High Court, in the present
proceedings, was  clearly in  error in not even referring to
the  earlier   orders  and   their  binding  nature  on  the
respondent, in so far as the said orders considered that in
the interests  of the  paramount welfare  of the  child, the
custody was  to be  with the  mother, the  appellant. In the
present proceedings  started start  on the  premise that the
permanent custody was with the mother. it will be necessary
for the respondent to establish facts subsequent to 1990 and
before 1993   or  1997,  which  can  amount  to  change  in
circumstances requiring  custody of  the child to be shifted
from the appellant to the respondent.

See also  Divorce on Cruelty, False case along with compensation

     It is  no doubt true that orders relating to custody of
children are  by  their  very  nature  not  final,  but  are
interlocutory in  nature and  subject to  modification at an
future time  upon proof of change of circumstances requiring
change of  custody but such change in custody must be proved
to be  in the  paramount interests  of the child [Rosy Jacob
vs. Jacob  a. Chakramakkal (1973 (1) SCC 840)].  However, we
may state  that in  respect of orders as to custody already
passed in  favour of  the  appellant  the  doctrine  of  res
judicata  applies  and the  family  Court  in the  present
proceedings cannot  re-examine the facts which were formerly
adjudicated between  the parties  on the issue of custody or
are deemed to have been adjudicated.  There must be proof of
substantial change in the circumstances presenting anew case
before the  court.  It must be established that the previous
arrangement was  not conductive  to the  childs welfare  or
that it  has produced  unsatisfactory results. Ormerod L.J.
pointed out in S vs. W [(1981) 11 Fam.Law 21 (82) {CA)] that
     the status  quo  argument  depends
     for   its  strength   wholly   and
     entirely on  whether the status quo
     is satisfactory  or not,  the  more
     satisfactory the  status  quo,  the
     stronger  the   argument  for   not
     interfering.  The less satisfactory
     the  status   quo,  the   less  one
     requires before   deciding    to

     We shall  next consider the point which solely appealed
to the Family Court  and the  High  Court  in the  present
proceedings namely  that the respondent is financially well-
off and  can take  care of  the child  better and  give  him
superior education is USA.  Lindley, L.J. in Re. vs. McGrath
(Infants) 1893 (1) Ch. 143 (148) stated that:
     ….the welfare  of the  child  is
     not to  be measured  by money alone
     nor by  physical comfort  only. The
     word welfare must be taken in its
     wides  sense.     The   moral   and
     religious   welfare     must    be
     considered as  well as its physical
     well-being.   Nor can  the ties  of
     affection be disregarded.

As to  the secondary nature of  material  considerations,
Hardy Boys,  J. of  the New Zealand Court said in Walker vs.
Walker &  Harrison (See  1981 N.Z.Recent  Law 257) (cited by
British Law Commission, working Paper No. 96 Para 6.10)
     Welfare  is   an all-encompassing
     word. It   includes material
     welfare,  both   in  the  sense  of
     adequacy of  resources to provide a
     pleasant  home  and  a  comfortable
     standard of living and in the sense
     of an  adequacy of  care to  ensure
     that good health and  due personal
     pride  are  maintained. However,
     while material  considerations have
     their  place   they  are  secondary
     matters.  More  important are  the
     stability and  the  security,  the
     loving and  understanding care  and
     guidance,    the     warm     and
     compassionate  relationships,  that
     are   essential for   the   full
     development  of   the  childs  own
     character, personality and talents
     From the  above, it is clear that the High Court in the
case before  us was  clearly in error in giving sole or more
importance to the superior financial capacity of the husband
as  stated  by him  in  his  evidence.  Assuming  that  his
financial capacity  is superior to that of his wife, that in
out opinion  cannot be the sole  ground for  disturbing the
child from  his mothers custody.  As of today, the child is
getting good  education and  is doing  well in his studies.
The proposal  of an  immediate American  education which the
father is  prepared to finance cannot, in our opinion, be a
sufficient ground  for shifting  the child  to the  fathers
custody, ignoring  the fact  that for  the last more than 12
years, the  child has been in the mothers custody.  Thee is
also, no  basis, having  regard to the oral evidence adduced
by the parties, for  holding that the mother is permanently
residing  at   Bombay  leaving the  child  at Pune.  The
appellants categorical evidence that whenever she had to go
to Bombay  from Pune, her mother used to come from Bombay to
pune to  take care of the child, leaves no doubt in our mind
that the  mother is  residing mostly  at Pune  and  goes  to
Bombay occasionally  for very  short periods  in  connection
with  certain  official  duties  in  her  employment.  the
appellant has  also reiterated before us  that she has been
residing at  Pune and she has a flat there.  As contended by
her, the  child is a citizen of USA by both and he can go to
USA in his own  right in  future whenever it is so decided.
Further the  evidence of  the respondent  and of his brother
that in the event the child is allowed to go to USA with the
respondent, the  respondents brother  and the latters wife
have agreed to proceed to USA, leaving their three daughters
in India  (of  whom  o e  has been  married  recently)  or
anticipating the migration of their daughters, appears to us
to be  too artificial  and a make believe affair rather than
real. It appears  to us that the effort on the part of the
respondent here  is only to impress the Court that the child
will have  company of  these persons  in case  the child  is
allowed to  proceed to USA.  This evidence has not appealed
to us.

     In the result, therefor, we do not find any substantial
change in  the circumstances  between 1990  and 1993 or 1997
which can  justify the shift over  the permanent custody of
the child from the appellant to the respondent.
Point 2:  Much of  the argument  for the appellant was based
upon the  fact that  the appellant had, during 1984, removed
the child  from US to India violating Court orders passed in
that country. It  is said  she has  also not produced the
child before  the Bombay  High Court.  It was argued for the
respondent that this conduct disqualified the appellant from
having custody of the child.

     This  point  can  perhaps be  rejected  on  ground  of
constructive res judicata because of the earlier order as to
custody in  favour of the appellant but a the point has been
argued and is important we shall decide the same as a matter
of law.   Such a question has been considered and decided in
various decisions  of Courts  to which we  shall  presently

     The leading  case in this behalf is the one rendered by
the Privy Council in 1951, in McKee vs. McKee (1951 AC 352).
In that case, the parties, who were American citizens, were
married in  USA in  1933 and lived there till Dec, 1946. But
they had  separated in Dec. 1940. On 17.12.1941, a decree of
divorce was passed in USA and custody of the child was given
to the father and later varied in favour of the mother.  At
that stage,  the father  took away  the child to Canada.  In
habeas corpus proceeding by the mother, though initially the
decisions of  lower courts  went against  her, the  Supreme
Court of  Canada gave  her custody  but the  said Court held
that the  father could not have  the  question  of  custody
retried in  Canada, once  the question was  adjudicated  in
favour of  the mother  in the USA earlier.  On appeal to the
Privy  Council,   Lord Simonds  held  that  in  proceedings
relating to  custody before  the Canadian Court, the welfare
and  happiness  of  the   infant  was  of  the   permanent
consideration and  the order of a foreign court in USA as to
his custody  can be given due weight in the circumstances of
the case,  but such an order of a foreign Court was only one
of the facts which must be taken into consideration.  It was
further held  that it  was the duty of the Canadian Court to
form an  independent judgment on the merits of the matter in
regard to  the welfare of the child.  The  order  of  the
foreign Court in US would yield to the welfare of the child.
Comity of Courts demanded not its enforcement, but its grave
consideration.  This case  arising from  Canada which lays
down the  law for  Canada and  U.K.  has  been consistently
followed in  latter cases.   This view was reiterated by the
House of  Lords in vs. C [1970 AC 668].  This is the also in
USA  (see   24 American   Jurisprudence,  para   1001)  and
Australia.   (See Khamis vs. Khamis) [(1978) 4 Fam. L.R. 410
(full Court (Aus)].

     However, there is an apparent contradiction between the
above view  and the one expressed in ReH. (infants) 1996 (1)
All E.R.  886 (CA)  and in ReE (an infant) 1967 (1) All E.R.
881 to the effect that the Court in the country to which he
child is  removed will send back  the child  to the country
from  which  the  child  has  been  removed.  This  apparent
conflict is explained and resolved by the Court of Appeal in
1974 in ReL. (minor) (Wardship : Jurisdiction): 1974 (1) All
E.R. 913  (CA) and in RER (Minors) (Wardship : Jurisdiction)
: 1974 (1) All  e.R. 913 (CA) and in ReR (Minors) (Wardship
Jurisdiction) 1981  (2) FLR  416 (CA).  It  was held by the
Court of  Appeal in  ReL that the view in McKee vs. McKee is
still the  correct view  and that the limited question which
arose in  the latter  decisions was whether the Court in the
country to  which the  child was removed could conduct (a) a
summary inquiry  or (b) an elaborate inquiry on the question
of custody.  In the case of (a) a summary inquiry, the Court
would return custody to the country from which the child was
removed unless such return  could be shown to be harmful to
the child.   In  the case  of (b)  an elaborate inquiry, the
Court could  go into  the merits  as to  where the permanent
welfare lay  and ignore  the order  of the  foreign Court or
treat the  fact of removal of the child from another country
as only  one of  the circumstances.  The crucial question as
to whether  the Court  (in the country to which the child is
removed) would exercise the  summary or elaborate procedure
is to  be determined  according to the childs welfare.  The
summary jurisdiction  to return  the child  is invoked,  for
example, if  the child had been removed from its native land
and removed  to another  country where,  may, be, his native
language is  not spoken, or the child gets divorced from the
social customs and contacts to which he has been accustomed,
or if  its education  in his  native land is interrupted and
the  child  is being  subjected  to  a  foreign  system  of
education,  – for  these   are  all acts   which   could
psychologically  disturb  the  child.  Again the  summary
jurisdiction is  exercised only  if the  Court to  which the
child has been removed is moved promptly and quickly, for in
that event, the Judge may will be persuaded that it would be
better for   the  child   that  those  merits  should   be
investigated in  a  Court  in  his  native  country  on  the
expectation that  an early  decision in  the native  country
could be  in the  interests of the child  before the  child
could develop  roots in  the country  to which he had been
removed.   Alternatively, the  said  Court  might  think  of
conducting an elaborate inquiry on merits and have regard to
the other  facts of  the case  and the time that has lapsed
after the  removal of  the child and consider if it would be
in the interests of the child not to have it returned to the
country from  which it had been removed. In that event, the
removal of  the unauthorised  child from  the native country
would not  come in  the way  of the  Court in the country to
which the  child has  been remove, to ignore the removal and
independently consider whether the sending back of the child
to its native country would be in the paramount interests of
the child.   (See Rayden & Jackson, 15th Ed. 1988, pp. 1477-
14791 (Bromley,  Family law, 7th Ed. 1987).  In ReR (Minors)
(wardship: Jurisdiction)  1981 (2)  FLR 416 (CA) it has been
firmly held  that the  concept of  forum conveniens  has  no
place in wardship jurisdiction.

See also  Limitation in recovery proceeding u/s 125(3) of crpc

     We may  here state  that this  Court in  Mrs. Elizabeth
Dinshaw vs.  Arvand M. Dinshaw & Another (1987 Z(1) SCC 42),
while dealing  with a  child removed  by the father from USA
contrary to the custody orders of the US Court directed that
the child be sent back to USA to the mother not only because
of the principle of  comity but  also because,  on facts, –
which  were   independently  considered  –  it was  in  the
interests of  the child to be sent back to the native state.
There the  removal of  the  child  by  the  father  and  the
mothers application  in India were within  six months.  In
that context,  this Court  referred to ReH. (infants), 1966
(1) All  ER 886  (CA) which case, as pointed out by us above
has been   explained  in ReL (1974 (1) ALL ER 913) as a case
where the  Court thought  it fit  to  exercise its  summary
Jurisdiction in  the interests of the child.  Be that as it
may, the  general principles  laid down  in Mckee  vs. McKee
(1951 AC  3351) and Jvs. C (1970 AC 668) and the distinction
between summary  and elaborate inquiries as  stated in  ReL
(infants) are  today well settled in U.K., Canada, Australia
and the  USA. The same  principles apply  in our  country.
Therefore  nothing   precludes the   Indian   Courts from
considering the  question on  merits, having  regard to  the
delay from  1984 –  even assuming  that the  earlier  orders
passed in India do not operate as constructive res judicate.

     The facts of the case are  that when  the  respondent
moved the Courts in India and in the proceedings of 1986 for
Habeas Corpus  & under Guardian &  Wards Act, the Courts in
India thought it best in the interests of the child to allow
it to  continues with  the mother in India, and those orders
have also  become final,  The Indian Courts in 1993 or 1997,
when the  Child had  lived with  his mother  for  nearly  12
years, or more, would not exercise a summary jurisdiction to
return the  child to USA on the ground that its removal from
USA in 1984 was contrary to orders of US Courts.

     In this  connection, it  is necessary  to refer  to the
Hague Convention  of 1980  on Civil Aspects of International
Child Abduction.   As  of  today,  about  45  countries  are
parties to  this Convention.   India is not yet a signatory.
Under the  convention, any child below 16 years who had been
wrongfully removed or retained in another Contracting state,
could be  returned back  to the country from which the child
had been  removed, by  application to  a Central  authority.
Under Article  16 of  the Convention, if in the process, the
issue goes  before a  Court, the  Convention  prohibits  the
Court from  point into the merits  of the  welfare  of  the
child.  Article 12  requires the child to be sent back, but
if a  period of  more than one year has lapsed from the date
of removal  to the  date of  commencement of the proceedings
before the  Court, the child would still be returned unless
it is  demonstrated that the child is now settled in its new
environment.   Article 12  is subject  to Article  13 and  a
return could  be refused,  if it  would expose the child to
physical or  psychological harm or otherwise place the child
in an  intolerable position  or if the child is quite nature
and objects  to its  return.   In England, these aspects are
covered by the Child Abduction and Custody Act, 1985.

     So far  as non-convention countries are  concerned, or
where the  removal related  to a  period before adopting the
convention, the  law is that the Court to which the child is
removed will  consider the  question on  merits bearing  the
welfare o  the child as of paramount importance and consider
the order  of the foreign court as only a factor to be taken
into consideration  as stated  in McKee  vs. McKLee (1951 AC
351), unless  the court  thinks it  fit to  exercise summary
jurisdiction in  the interests of the child and its prompt
return is  for its welfare, as explained in ReL 1974 (1) All
ER 193 (CA).  As recently as 1996-1997, it has been held in
P(A Minor)  (Child Abduction:  Non Convention  Country), Re:
(1996 (3)  FCR 233 (CA) by Ward, LJ 1996 (Current Law) (Year
Book) (p.  165-166) that  in deciding  whether to  order the
return of  a child  who has  been abducted  from his  or her
country of  habitual residence-which  was not a party to the
Hague Convention,    1980,   –   the  Courts   overriding
consideration must be the childs welfare.  There is no need
for the  Judge to attempt to apply the provisions of Article
13 of the Convention by ordering the childs return unless a
grave risk  of harm  was established. She  also A(A minor)
(Abduction :  Non-Convention Country)  (re, The Times 3-7-97
by Ward  LJ (CA)  (quoted in  Current Law  Aug. 1997, P.13).
This answers the contention relating to removal of the child
from USA.

     Again as stated earlier, we do not prima facie find any
willful disobedience  on the  part of  the appellant  in not
producing the  child before the Bombay High Court warranting
shifting of  custody to the father.  If the child, after its
three day experience with the father was not willing to come
to the Court, the appellant could not be faulted.

     For  the  aforesaid  reasons,  the  contention  of  the
respondent based  on violation of the earlier orders of the
US Courts  or of the Bombay High Court for production of the
child, is rejected.

Point 3:  Though we  have held that the  respondent is  not
entitled to permanent custody of the child,  It is necessary
to consider  whether the respondent is to be given temporary
custody or visitation rights.

     On the facts of this case, we are not inclined to grant
temporary custody  to the  respondent to take the child from
India.  That would  affect the  childs studies and further
there is  an exparte  order of the US Court given permanent
custody to  the father and if that order is executed by the
respondent, there  is danger  of the  boy not  returning  to
India thus  frustrating any  order that we are asked to pass
giving temporary custody to the respondent.

     As to  visitation rights, of course, the respondent can
be given,  as long  as he wants to visit the child in India,
at Pune,  So far  as this aspect is concerned, the point has
not been  argued before  us elaborately  but,  in  case  the
respondent is  coming to  India, he  could,  in  advance  of
atleast 4  weeks. intimate  in writing to his counsel either
at  Bombay/Delhi   with  copy to  the   address   of  the
appellant/child   and if  that is  done, the appellant shall
positively respond  in writing.   We grant visitation rights
for three hours per day twice a week (for 3 weeks) at a time
and venue at Pune to be agreed by counsel and the appellant,
and this  shall be  at a  place at Pune where the counsel or
their representatives are necessarily present it or near the
venue.  the respondent  shall not  be entitled  to take the
child out from the said venue. The appellant shall take all
such steps to comply with the above visitation rights of the
respondent.   it will  also be open to  the parties to move
this Court  for any  other directions  in  regard  to  these
visitation rights.

     Appeal of the appellant-mother against order passed in
the application  for custody  filed by the respondent before
the Family  Court,   is allowed  as  stated  above  and  the
respondents application  for custody  of child is dismissed
subject however  to  the  visitation  rights  stated  above.
Appeal against the order  in the petition for declaring the
marriage  of   appellant  and  respondent  null  &  void  is
dismissed as  not pressed  in view of the decree of divorce,
already  passed.    The  bailable  warrants  issued  against
appellant  are  directed  to  be  withdrawn,  if  they  are

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