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Judgments of Supreme Court of India and High Courts

Mrs. Kanika Goel vs The State Of Delhi Thru Sho on 20 July, 2018




Mrs. Kanika Goel       …..Appellant(s)

State of Delhi through S.H.O. 
and Anr.               ….Respondent(s)


A.M. Khanwilkar, J.

1. These appeals take exception to the judgment and orders

passed   by   the   High   Court   of   Delhi   at   New   Delhi   dated   16 th

November, 2017,  1st December, 2017 and 6th December, 2017,

in Writ Petition (Criminal) No.374 of 2017 and Criminal M.A.
Signature Not Verified

Digitally signed by
Date: 2018.07.20
No.2007 of 2017, whereby the writ petition filed by respondent
16:23:42 IST

No.2 for issuing a writ of habeas corpus for production of his

minor daughter M (assumed name), who was about 3 years of

age at the time of filing of the writ petition and for a direction

for return of M to the jurisdiction of the competent Court in

the   United   States   of   America   in   compliance   with   the   order

dated 13th January, 2017 passed by the Circuit Court of Cook

County,   Illinois,   USA,   came   to   be   allowed.   The   Delhi   High

Court directed the appellant  to comply with the directions as

M was in her custody, the appellant being M’s mother. 

2. The respondent No.2 asserted that he was born in India

but presently is a citizen of USA since 2005. He is working as

the CEO of a Company called ‘Get Set Learning’. The appellant

is   his   wife   and   mother   of   the   minor   child   M.   She   is   a   US

Permanent Resident and a “Green Card” holder and has also

applied   for   US   citizenship   on   2nd  December,   2016.   At   the

relevant time, she was a certified teacher in the State of Illinois

and was employed as a Special Education Classroom Assistant

in   Chicago   Public   Schools.   The   respondent   No.2   and   the

appellant   got   married   on   31st  December,   2010   as   per   Sikh

rites, i.e. Anand Karaj ceremony, and Hindu Vedic rites in New

Delhi.  It was clearly understood between both the parties that

the   appellant,   after   marriage,   would   reside   with   respondent

No.2 in the USA. Eventually, the appellant travelled to the USA

on a Fiance Visa and got married to respondent No.2 again on

19th  March, 2011 at Cook County Court in Chicago, Illinois.

Before   the   marriage,   the   parties   entered   into   a   Pre­Nuptial

Agreement dated 20th October, 2010 enforceable in accordance

with the laws of the State of Illinois, USA. The appellant then

took employment as a teacher in Chicago Public School and

also   secured   a   US   Permanent   Citizen   Green   Card.   The

appellant   became   pregnant   and   gave   birth   to   M   on   15 th

February, 2014 in USA. M is thus a natural born US citizen

and was domiciled in the State of Illinois, USA from her birth

till   she   was   clandestinely   removed   by   the   appellant   in

December 2016 under the guise of undertaking a short trip to

New Delhi to meet the appellant’s parents.  

3. The appellant was scheduled to return to Chicago on 7 th

January, 2017 but she went missing and filed a petition under

Section 13(1) of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 (for short “the

1955   Act”)   being   H.M.A.   Case   No.27   of   2017   seeking

dissolution of marriage on the ground of cruelty, along with an

application under Section 26 of the 1955 Act on 7 th  January,

2017 seeking a restraint order against respondent No.2 from

taking M away from the jurisdiction of Indian Courts. A notice

was issued thereon to respondent No.2, made returnable on

11th January, 2017. 

4. The   respondent   No.2,   however,   filed   an   emergency

petition   for   temporary   sole   allocation   of   parental

responsibilities   and   parenting   time   in   his   favour   or   in   the

alternative, an emergency order of protection for possession of

his   minor   daughter   M,   before   the   Circuit   Court   of   Cook

County, Illinois on 9th  January, 2017. A notice of emergency

motion was served on the appellant by e­mail, informing her of

the proposed hearing on 13th January, 2017. 

5. In the meantime, on 11th January, 2017 the Family Court

at   New   Delhi   issued   a   fresh   notice   to   respondent   No.2   and

passed   an   ex­parte   order   on   the   application   filed   by   the

appellant   under   Section  151 of   the  Code  of  Civil  Procedure,

restraining   respondent   No.2   from   removing   the   minor   child

from the jurisdiction of that Court until further orders. 

6. The respondent No.2 on the other hand, caused to file a

missing   person   complaint   on   13 th  January,   2017   before   the

SHO,   Vasant   Kunj   (South),   P.S.   New   Delhi,   which   was

acknowledged   by   the   Police   Station   on   14 th  January,   2017.

Besides   the   said   complaint,   respondent   No.2   moved   the

Circuit Court of Cook County, Illinois, USA on 13 th  January,

2017   when   an   ex­parte   order   was   passed   for   interim   sole

custody of the minor child.  The said order reads thus:

“1) The child M born on 15.02.2014, in Chicago, Illinois
and   having   resided   in   Chicago   solely   for   her   entire   life
(specifically   at   360   East   Randolph   Street,   Chicago,   IL
60601) is also a US citizen.

2) The child is a habitual resident of the state of Illinois,
United   States   of   America   having   never   resided   anywhere
else. Illinois is the home state of the child pursuant to the
Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Enforcement Act. 

3) Karan   Goel   is   the   natural   father   of   the   minor   child
and granted interim sole custody of the minor child. Child is
to be immediately returned to the residence located in Cook
County, Illinois, USA by Respondent. 


4) The Cook County, Illinois Court having personal and
subject matter jurisdiction over the parties and matter.

5) All  further   issues   regarding   visitation,   child   support
are reserved until further Order of Court.”

7. The appellant did not comply with the order of the Circuit

Court of Cook County, Illinois, therefore, respondent No.2 filed

a   writ   petition   before  the  Delhi  High  Court  on  1 st  February,

2017, to issue a writ of habeas corpus and direct the appellant

to   produce   the   minor   child   M   and   cause   her   return   to   the

jurisdiction of the Court in the United States, in compliance

with the order dated 13th January, 2017 passed by the Circuit

Court of Cook County, Illinois, to enable the minor child to go

back   to   United   States   and   if   the   appellant   failed   to   do   so

within   a   fixed   time   period,   to   direct   the   appellant   to

immediately   hand   over   the   custody   of   the   minor   child   to

respondent   No.2   (writ   petitioner)   to   enable   him   to   take   the

minor child to the jurisdiction of the US Court. 

8. This   writ   petition   was   contested   by   the   appellant.   The

High   Court   issued   interim   orders   including   regarding   giving

access of the minor child to respondent No.2 in the presence of

the   appellant   and   her   parents.   Finally,   all   the   contentious

issues between the parties were answered by the High Court

by a speaking judgment and order dated 16 th November, 2017,

in favour of respondent No.2, after recording a finding that the

paramount interest of the minor child was to return to USA, so

that she could be in her natural environment. To facilitate the

parties   to   have   a  working  arrangement  and  to  minimize  the

inconvenience,   the   Division   Bench   of   the   High   Court  issued

directions in the following terms: 

“139.  In   the   light   of   the   aforesaid,   we   are   more   than
convinced that respondent No.2 should, in the best interest
of the minor child M, return to USA along with the child, so
that she can be in her natural environment; receive the love,
care   and   attention   of   her   father   as   well   –   apart   from   her
grandparents, resume her school and be with her teachers
and   peers.   Pertinently,   respondent   No.2   is   able­bodied,
educated,   accustomed   to   living   in   Chicago,   USA,   was
gainfully employed and had an income before she came to
India in December 2016 and, thus, she should not have any
difficulty in finding her feet in USA. She knows the systems
prevalent   in   that   country,   and   adjustment   for   her   in   that
environment   would   certainly   not   be   an   issue.   Accordingly,
we direct respondent no.2 to return to USA with the minor
child   M.   However,   this   direction   is   conditional   on   the
conditions laid down hereinafter.

140. Respondent No.2 has raised certain issues which need
to be addressed, so that when she returns to USA, she and

the minor child do not find themselves to be in a hostile or
disadvantageous environment. There can be no doubt that
the return of respondent No.2 with the minor child should be
at the expense of the petitioner; their initial stay in Chicago,
USA, should also be entirely funded and taken care of by the
petitioner by providing a separate furnished accommodation
(with   all   basic   amenities     facilities   such   as   water,
electricity, internet connection, etc.) for the two of them in
the vicinity of the matrimonial home of the parties, wherein
they have lived till December 2016. Thus, it should be the
obligation   of   the   petitioner   to   provide   reasonable
accommodation sufficient to cater to the needs of respondent
No.2 and the minor child.   Since respondent No.2 came to
India   in   December   2016   and   would,   therefore,   not   have
retained   her   job,   the   petitioner   should   also   meet   all   the
expenses of respondent No.2 and the minor child, including
the   expenses   towards   their   food,   clothing   and   shelter,   at
least for the initial period of six months, or till such time as
respondent No.2 finds a suitable job for herself. Even after
respondent   No.2   were   to   find   a   job,   it   should   be   the
responsibility of the petitioner  to meet the expenses of the
minor   daughter   M,   including   the   expenses   towards   her
schooling,   other   extra­curricular   activities,   transportation,
Attendant/   Nanny   and   the   like,   which   even   earlier   were
being   borne   by   the   petitioner.   The   petitioner   should   also
arrange a vehicle, so that respondent No.2 is able to move
around to attend to her chores and responsibilities. 

141. Considering   that   the   petitioner   had   initiated
proceedings in USA and the respondent No.2 has been asked
to appear before the Court to defend those proceedings, the
petitioner   should   also   meet   the   legal   expenses   that
respondent No.2 may incur, till the time she is not able to
find a suitable job for herself. However, if respondent no.2 is
entitled to legal aid/assurance from the State, to the extent
the legal aid is provided to her, the legal expenses may not
be borne by the petitioner.


142.  The   petitioner   should   also   undertake   that   after   the
return of the minor child M with respondent No.2 to USA,
the custody of M shall remain with respondent No.2 and that
he shall not take the minor child out of the said custody by
use of force. He should also undertake that after respondent
No.2 lands in Chicago, USA, the visitation and custody rights
qua   the   parties,   as   may   be   determined   by   the   competent
Court in USA, shall be honoured. 

143.  Respondent   No.2   has   also   expressed   apprehension
that   the   petitioner   would   seek   to  enforce   the   terms   of   the
Pre­Nuptial   Agreement   entered   into   between   the   parties.
Since the said agreement has been entered into in India, its
validity has to be tested as per the Indian law. Respondent
No.2   has   already   initiated   suit   for   declaration   and
permanent   injunction   to   challenge   the   said   Pre­Nuptial
Agreement   dated   22.10.2010.   We   have   perused   the   said
agreement and we are of the view the petitioner should not
be permitted to enforce the terms of this agreement in USA,
at least till the said suit preferred by the respondent No.2 is
decided.   The   petitioner   should,   therefore,   give   an
undertaking  to this Court, not  to rely upon or  enforce the
said Pre­Nuptial Agreement to the detriment of respondent
No.2   in   any   proceedings   either   in   USA,   or   in   India.   The
undertaking shall remain in force till the decision in the suit
for   declaration   and   injunction   filed   by   respondent   No.2
challenging   validity   of   the   Pre­Nuptial   Agreement.   This
undertaking   shall,   however,   not   come   in   the   way   of   the
petitioner   while   defending   the   said   suit   of   the   respondent

144.  With the aforesaid arrangements and directions, in our
view,   respondent   No.2   can   possibly   have   no   objection   to
return to USA with M. The comfort that we have sought to
provide to respondent No.2, as aforesaid, is to enable her to
have a soft landing when she reaches the shores of USA, so
that the initial period of at least six months is taken care of
for her, during which period she could find her feet and live
on her own, or under an arrangement as may be determined

by the competent Courts in USA during this period. At this
stage, we are not inclined to direct that the custody of M be
given to the petitioner so that he takes her back to USA. M is
a   small   child   less   than   4   years   of   age,   and   that   too,   is   a
female child. Though she may be attached to the petitioner –
her  father, she is bound to need her  mother  – respondent
no.2   more.   In   our   view,   once   M   returns   to   USA   with   her
mother,   i.e.   respondent   No.2,   orders   for   custody   or   co­
parenting   should   be   obtained   by   the   parties   from   the
competent   Courts   in   USA.   Moreover,   it   would   be   for   the
Courts in USA to eventually rule on the aspect concerning
the   financial   obligations   and   responsibilities   of   the   parties
towards   each   other   and   towards   the   minor   child   M   –   for
upbringing   the   minor   child   –   M   independent   of   any
directions issued by this Court in this regard.

145.  The   petitioner   is   directed   to   file   his   affidavit   of
undertaking in terms of paras 140 to 144 above within ten
days with advance copy of the respondents. The matter be
listed   on   01.12.2017   for   our   perusal   of   the   affidavit   of
undertaking, and for passing of final orders.”

9. By   this   judgment   and   order   passed   by   the   High   Court

and   the   directions   issued,   as   reproduced   hitherto,   the

substantive issues inter se the parties were answered against

the   appellant  to  the  extent  indicated. In continuation  of  the

aforementioned directions, a further order was passed on 1 st

December, 2017 by the High Court which reads thus: 

“1.  In terms of the directions contained in our judgment
dated   16.11.2017,   the   petitioner   Karan   Goel   has   filed   the
affidavit dated 20.11.2017. A perusal of the affidavit shows
that the petitioner has undertaken and consented to abide
by all the conditions imposed upon him, so that respondent
no.2 could return to USA with the minor child.

2.  Respondent   no.2   has  also  filed  a   counter­affidavit   to
the   said   affidavit   of   the   petitioner.   Respondent   no.2   has
raised the issue that the petitioner has not particularized the
amounts and facilities that the petitioner would provide in
case respondent no.2 were to return to USA with the minor

3.  The   petitioner   is   present   in   Court   with   his   parents.
The petitioner has tendered in Court the details/particulars
of the proposed financial aid in terms of our judgment. The
said details/ particulars read as follows:

‘1.  Upon   Respondent   No.2   giving   a   date/this
Hon’ble Court fixing a date on which she and minor
child   M   will   depart   from   Delhi   for   Chicago,   Illinois,
USA,   the   Petitioner   shall   do   the   following   at   least   3
[three] days prior to their departure date:­

(i) Book   airline   tickets   on   United   Airlines   with   a
non­stop  flight  from   Delhi  to USA   for   minor  child M
and Respondent No.2;

(ii) Provide   a   hotel   room   at   The   Hyatt   Regency
(located   ~7   minute   walk   from   minor   child   M’s
preschool) for the first seven (7) days after landing in
Chicago to enable Respondent No.2 to sign leases for

(a) accommodation and (b) a car; and

2.   The   Petitioner   is/   was   already   paying   [directly
out of his salary] the following amounts for minor child
M   and   shall   continue   to   do   so   in   compliance   of   the
directions   of   this   Hon’ble   Court   (all   amounts   in   US
Dollars  USD):­

(i) ~$2,100/month   Preschool   tuition   at   Bright
Horizons Lakeshore East where she was enrolled five
days a week; and

(ii) ~$232/month   for   health   insurance   via   Blue
Cross Blue Shield of Illinois.

3.   In addition to point 2 above, the Petitioner shall
pay the following amounts (all amounts in US Dollars
USD) for a total of $4,200/month to Respondent No.2
in advance for the first month [by transferring the said
amount into a joint account prior to Respondent No.2
and   minor   child   M   taking   off   from   Delhi]   and
thereafter   by   the   28th   of   every   month   for   the
subsequent   month   [for   the   initial   period   of   six

(i)   $2,600/month   as   rent   for   a   fully   furnished
apartment   with   high­speed   internet,   air   conditioning
and heating, water, garbage disposal, and parking for
a vehicle; 

(ii)  $400/month   for   Respondent   No.   2’s   health

(iii) $1,000/month in expenses for food, shelter, and
clothing for minor child M and Respondent No. 2; and

(iv)   $200/month for a car lease and car insurance. 

4.   In case legal aid / assurance is not available /
provided to Respondent No.2, the Petitioner shall give
an additional amount of $1,500/ month to Respondent
No.2   for   her   legal   expenses   for   the   first   six   months
after   her   and   minor   child   M’s   return   to   Chicago,
Illinois, USA’. 

4.   We   have   also   separately   recorded   the   statement   of
petitioner on oath, wherein he has undertaken to this Court
to abide by the offer made by him in terms of our decision.
He  has  also  undertaken  that   in case of any  breach  of  the
said   stipulation,   respondent   no.2   may   enforce   the   same
before the competent Court in USA.


5.   To ensure compliance of the aforesaid obligation, the
petitioner has offered that he shall deposit an amount US$
25,000 in an escrow account, which shall be operated upon
orders of the competent Court in Cook County, Illinois, USA.
The   said   account   shall   be   operatable   at   the   instance   of
respondent   no.2   in   case   of   non   compliance   of   any   of   the
condition and to the extent it becomes necessary, under the
orders of the said Court.

6.  The petitioner seeks a short adjournment to produce
the relevant documents in that regard before this Court. 

7.  Since the petitioner and his parents are in India, and
it   is   submitted   that   the   petitioner   has   not   met   his   minor
daughter since March 2017, it is agreed that the petitioner
and his parents shall be allowed to meet the minor child M
today, tomorrow and day after tomorrow at DLF Promenade
Mall, Vasant Kunj, New Delhi. 

8.  Today’s meeting shall take place between 6:00 p.m. to
8:00 p.m., and on Saturday and Sunday, the meeting shall
take place from 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. The petitioner has
desired that the meeting may take place exclusively. 

9.  Since   respondent   no.2   has   apprehensions,   the
petitioner   has   offered   to   and   has   deposited   his   American
Passport with the Court Master. The Court Master shall seal
the same in Court and thereafter the same be handed over to
the Deputy Registrar concerned to be kept in safe custody.
The same shall not be parted with unless so ordered by this

10.  The  petitioner   has  assured   that   the  child  shall  not   be
taken   away   unauthorisedly   and   shall   be   duly   returned   to
respondent no.2 at the end of the meeting on each date. 

11.  List on 06.12.2017 for further directions. On the next
date,   the   child   may   be   brought   to   the   Court   so   that   the
petitioner and his parents are able to meet the child in the
Children’s Room at the Mediation Centre between 2:30 p.m.
to 4:30 p.m.


12. Order dasti under the signatures of the Court Master.”

10.  Again, on 6th December, 2017, another order was passed

to formally dispose of the writ petition finally in the following


1. “Mr.   Jauhar   has   tendered   in   Court   the   affidavit   of
undertaking   sworn   by   the   petitioner   along   with   three
annexures, which are:

(i) A   statement   from   Citibank,   USA   in   respect   of   joint
account held by the petitioner and respondent No.2;

(ii) An affidavit of Molshree A., Sharma, ESQ., a partner at
the law firm of Mandel, Lipton, Roseborough  Sharma Ltd.,
based in Chicago; and

(iii) Documents   to   show   deposit   of   US$25,000   in   an
escrow account operated by the aforesaid law firm.

2. The petitioner has stated that he has already deposited
US$25,000 into his attorney’s escrow account. The affidavit
of Molshree A., Sharma affirms that the said escrow account
may   be   operated   by   respondent   No.2/   Kanika   Goel   in   the
event of failure of the petitioner/ Karan Goel in meeting his
obligations as per his undertaking given to this Court.

3. We are satisfied with the aforesaid arrangement made
by the petitioner to secure the interests of respondent No.2
and   the   minor   child   in   terms   of   our   decision   dated

4. In   these   circumstances,   we   now   direct   respondent
No.2 to return to USA along with the minor child M within
two weeks from today, failing which the minor child M shall
be handed over to the petitioner, to be taken to USA.

5. We may observe that learned counsel for respondent
No.2 has sought more time on the ground that respondent
No.2 wishes to assail the decision dated 16.11.2017 and that
the   Supreme   Court   shall   be   closed   for   Winter   Vacation   in
later   part   of   December,   2017   and   early   part   of   January,
2018. However, we are not inclined to grant any further time

for  the  reason  that  it  is  imperative  for   respondent  No.2  to
return to USA on or before 23.12.2017, and if she does not
so   return,   her   return   may   not   be   permitted   by   the
Immigration Department of USA without further compliance
being   made   by   her.   We   cannot   permit   a   situation   to   arise
where respondent No.2 is able to defeat the direction issued
by this Court on account of her own acts  omissions.

6. The passport of the petitioner deposited in this Court
is   directed   to   be   returned   forthwith.   The   said   passport   be
returned   to   Mr.   Prabhjit   Jauhar,   larned   counsel   for   the
petitioner. The said passport shall be retained by Mr. Jauhar
so as to enable the petitioner and his parents to meet the
child M, while they are in New Delhi, India. Mr. Jauhar shall
return the passport to the petitioner only at the time when
the petitioner has to return to USA, after ensuring that the
custody of the child is with respondent No.2.

7. The   meeting   between   the  petitioner   and   his   parents,
on the one hand, and the child, on the other hand, shall be
undertaken   as   per   the   arrangement   worked   out   by   us
earlier, i.e. two hours every working day, and three hours at
the weekends, as mutually agreed between the parties. 

8. The   petition   stands   disposed   of   in   the   aforesaid


11. Being   aggrieved   by   the   aforesaid   judgment   and   orders,

the   appellant,   being   the   mother   of   the   minor   child   M,   has

approached this Court by way of Special Leave under Article

136 of the Constitution of India. This Court issued notice on

15th  December,   2017,   when   it   passed   the   following   interim



“O R D E R
Issue notice.

As   Dr.   Abhishek   Manu   Singhvi   and   Mr.   R.S.   Suri,
learned   senior   counsel   along   with   Mr.   Prabhjit   Jauhar,
learned counsel has entered appearance for the respondent
No.2, no further notice need be issued.

Counter affidavit be filed within two weeks. Rejoinder
affidavit, if any, be filed within a week therefrom.

Let the matter be listed on 24th January, 2018.
As   an   interim   measure,   it   is   directed   that   the
arrangements   made   by   the   High   Court   for   the   visitation
rights   shall   remain   in   force.   The   petitioner­wife   shall   not
create any kind of impediment in the meeting of the father
with the child.

In the course of hearing, we have also been apprised
by Dr. Singhvi that the Green Card issued in favour of the
petitioner­wife is going to expire on 22nd December, 2017.

Be that as it may, If, eventually, the petitioner loses in this
proceeding and the respondent No.2 succeeds, the expiration
of the Green Card cannot be a ground to deny the custody of
the child to the father. Needless to say, if the petitioner wife
intends to go to United States of America and gets the Green
Card renewed, it is open for her to do so. We may also record
that the husband has acceded to, as stated by the learned
counsel for the respondent No.2, that he shall not implicate
her in any criminal proceeding.”

In continuation of the aforementioned interim arrangement, a

further order was passed by this Court on 24th January, 2018,

which reads thus:

“O R D E R
Heard   Mr.   Kapil   Sibal,   learned   senior   counsel   along
with   Ms.   Malavika   Rajkotia,   learned   counsel   for   the
petitioner and Dr. A.M.Singhvi, learned senior counsel along
with   Mr.   Prabhjit   Jauhar,   learned   counsel   for   the

Though,   we   are   not   inclined   to   interfere   with   the
interim   arrangement   made   by   the   High   Court   yet,   regard

being had to some grievances of both the parties, we intend
to pass an order clarifying the position.

Having   heard   learned   counsel   for   the   parties,   it   is
directed as follows:

(i) Whenever respondent No.2 is available in India, he
shall   intimate   the   petitioner   by   E­mail   and   also
forward a copy of the said E­mail to the counsel for the
petitioner so that she can make the child available for
meeting   with   the   father   at   Promenade   Mall,   Vasant
Kunj between 5.30 P.M. to 7.30 P.M. on weekdays and
11.00 A.M. to 2.00 P.M. on holidays when the school is

(ii)   When   the   father   will   be   meeting   the   child,   they
shall meet without any supervision. 

(iii)   When   the   father   is   not   in   India,   there   can   be
communication/interaction   through   Skype   at   about
7.30 P.M.(Indian Standard Time) or any other mode on

(iv) The passport of the child, which is presently with
the father, shall be handed over to the mother  for a
period of one week so that she can take appropriate
steps to complete certain formalities for admission of
the   child   in   a   school.   This   direction   is   without
prejudice   to   the   final   result   in   the   special   leave
petition.   The   passport   shall   be   returned   by
Ms.Malavika   Rajkotia,   learned   counsel   for   the
petitioner   to   Mr.Prabhjit   Jauhar,   learned   counsel   for
the respondents.

Let the matter be listed on 19.02.2018 at 2.00 P.M. for
final disposal.”

These are the relevant interim orders, which were to operate

until the final disposal of the appeals. On 18th  May, 2018, a

grievance was made before this Court about non­cooperation

by the appellant, which has been recorded as under:


“O R D E R

As mentioned in the first hour, the matter is taken up
today.   Be   it   noted,   we   have   listed   the   matter   today   as   it
relates to the conversation right of the father with the child.

In the course of hearing, Mr. Prabhjit Jauhar, learned
counsel appearing for the respondent­father submitted that
the   directions   issued   by   this   Court   on   earlier   occasion
relating to Skype contact are not being complied with.

Ms. Malavika Rajkotia, learned counsel appearing for
the   appellant   submitted   that   there   has   been   no   deviation
and   in   any   case,   the   mother   does   not   intend   to   anyway
affect, indict or intervene in the right to converse by Skype.
Ms. Rajkotia has assured this Court that her client has not
given   any   occasion   to   raise   any   grievance   and   if   any
grievance is nurtured by the father, the same shall be duly
addressed, so that the order of this Court is duly complied

We   are   sure,  the  parties  shall  behave   like   compliant

The   hearing  was   concluded and the interim  arrangement as

directed by this Court was to be observed by the parties until

the pronouncement of the final judgment. 

12. The   appellant,   being   the   mother   of   the   minor   child   M,

has   assailed   the   decision   of   the   High   Court   for   having

overlooked the rudimentary principles governing the issue of

invoking   jurisdiction   to   issue   a   writ   of   habeas   corpus   in

respect   of   a   minor   child   who   was   in   lawful   custody   of   her

mother.   According   to   the   appellant,   the   High   Court   has

completely glossed over or to put it differently, misconstrued

and   misapplied   the   principles   of   paramount   interest   of   the

minor girl child of tender age of about 4 years. Similarly, the

High Court has glossed over the doctrine of choice and dignity

of   the   mother   of   a   minor   girl   child   keeping   in   mind   the

exposition in K.S. Puttaswamy  Anr. Vs. Union of India 

Ors.1  The High Court has also failed to take into account that

the intimate contact of the minor child would be her mother

who was her primary care giver and more so, when she was at

the   relevant   time   in   the   company   of   her   mother.     The

appellant, being the mother, had a fundamental right to look

after   her  minor   daughter  which  cannot  be whittled down or

trivialized on the considerations which found favour with the

High Court. The welfare and paramount interest of the minor

girl child  would   certainly  lean towards the mother, all other

things being equal. The role of the mother of a minor girl child

cannot   be   reduced   to   an   appendage   of   the   child   and   the

mother cannot be forced to stay in an unfriendly environment

1 (2017) 10 SCC 1

where   she   had   been   victim   of   domestic   violence   inflicted   on

her.  This  would  be  so when the mother was also a working

woman   whose   career   would   be   at   stake   in   the   event   the

directions given by the High Court were to be complied with in

letter and spirit. The High Court ought to have adopted a child

rights based approach but the reasons which weighed with the

High   Court,   clearly   manifest   that   it   was   influenced   by   the

values of pre­constitutional morality standard. The approach

of   the   High   Court,   of   delineating   an   arrangement,   which   it

noted as the lowest prejudice option to the mother,   has no

place for deciding the issue of removing the custody of a minor

girl child of tender age from her mother and giving it to her

father for being taken away to her native country.   The High

Court   has   misunderstood   and   misapplied   the   principle

expounded   in  Nithya  Anand   Raghavan   Vs.   State   (NCT   of

Delhi)  Anr.,2   and    Prateek Gupta Vs. Shilpi Gupta 

Ors.3 The High Court has completely overlooked the autonomy

of the appellant inasmuch as the directions given by the High

2 (2017) 8 SCC 454
3 (2018) 2 SCC 309

Court   would   virtually   subjugate   all   her   rights   and   would

compel her to stay in an unfriendly environment at the cost of

her career and dignity. The arrangement directed by the High

Court   can,   by   no   standard,   be   said   to   be   a   just   and   fair

muchless collaborative arrangement to be worked out between

the parents, without compromising on the paramount interest

and welfare of the minor girl child. The High Court committed

a manifest error in answering the issue of best interest of the

minor girl child, inter alia on the basis of the provisions of the

Juvenile Justice Act and disregarding the crucial fact that the

minor girl child was presently staying with her mother along

with   her   extended   family,   which   she   would   be   completely

deprived of if taken away to a place within the jurisdiction of

the   US   Court  by   respondent  No.2 ­  her  father.   It  was  also

contended that in the process of reasoning out the plea taken

by the appellant regarding the circumstances in which she fled

from USA with the minor girl child due to domestic violence

inflicted   on   her,   the   said   issue   has   been   trivialized.   It   is

contended   that   as   the   marriage   between   the   appellant   and

respondent No.2 was solemnized in New Delhi as per Anand

Karaj   ceremony   and   Hindu   Vedic   rites,   the   fact   that   the

appellant went to the United States to stay with her husband,

would make no difference to her status and nationality, much

less   have   any   bearing  on   the  issue of    best  interest    of  the

minor girl child. 

13.   On the other hand, the respondent No.2 would submit

that  the High  Court analysed all the relevant aspects of the

matter keeping in mind the legal principles expounded in the

recent   decisions   of   this   Court   and   recorded   its   satisfaction

about the best interest  of the minor girl child coupled with the

necessity   of   the   minor   girl   child   to   be   produced   before   the

Circuit   Court   of   Cook   County,   Illinois,   USA,   which   had

intimate contact with the minor girl child,   inasmuch as the

minor   girl   child   was   born   and   was   domiciled   within   the

jurisdiction   of   that   Court   before   she   was   clandestinely

removed by the appellant to India. It is contended that since

both the father as well as the minor girl child are US citizens

and the mother is a permanent resident of US and domiciled

in   that   country,   only   the   Courts   of   that   country   will   have

jurisdiction   to   decide   the   matrimonial   issues   between   the

parties,   including   custody   of   the   minor   girl   child   and   her

guardianship.  Further, at the tender age of about 3 years, the

minor girl child had hardly spent any time in India so as to

suggest that she has gained consciousness in India and thus

it would be in the  best interest of the child to be taken away

to the US. It is contended by respondent No.2 that the High

Court has analysed all the relevant facts before recording the

finding   that   the   welfare   and   best   interest   of   the   minor   girl

child would be served by returning to United States. As that

finding is based on  tangible material on record as adverted to

by the High Court, this Court should be loath to overturn the

same and, more so, when the High Court has issued directions

to balance the equities and also facilitate return of the minor

child   to   be   produced   before   the   Court   of   competent

jurisdiction. The directions so issued are no different than the

directions given by this Court in  Nithya Anand Raghavan’s

case, (supra).   It is contended by respondent No.2 that this

Court may primarily examine the directions issued by the High

Court and if necessary, issue further directions to safeguard

the interest of the appellant, but in no case should the plea

taken by  the  appellant, that the minor girl child should not

return   to   US,   be   accepted.   It   is   contended   that   the   sole

consideration   in   a   proceeding   such   as   this,   must   be   to

ascertain   the   welfare   of   the   minor   girl   child   and   not   to

adjudicate upon the rights of the father or the mother. While

doing so, the Court may take into account all such aspects to

ascertain   as   to   whether   any   harm   would   be   caused   to   the

minor child or for that matter, has been caused in the past

during   her   stay   in   US.     From   the   order   passed   by   the   US

Court, it is evident that the custody of the minor girl child with

the appellant had become unlawful and for which reason, this

Court in exercise  of  its jurisdiction for  issuance of a writ of

habeas corpus, must direct the appellant to give the custody of

the   minor   girl   child   to   her   father.   It   is   contended   that   the

argument regarding health or personal matters raised by the

appellant are only arguments of causing prejudice and should

have   no   bearing   for   answering   the   matters   in   issue,

particularly in the context of the equitable directions passed

by   the   High   Court.    The Court must keep in  mind  that the

minor girl child is presently staying in India without a valid

Visa after her Visa obtained for travelling to India expired.  The

respondent No.2 would submit that no interference with the

directions issued by the High Court is warranted in the fact

situation of the present case. 

14. We   have   heard   Ms.   Malavika   Rajkotia,   learned   counsel

appearing for the appellant and Ms. Meenakshi Arora, learned

senior counsel appearing for the respondent No.2. 

15. We   shall  first  advert to  the  analysis made by   the High

Court   in   respect   of   the   contentious   issues.   That   can   be

discerned   from   paragraph   102   onwards   of   the   impugned

judgment.   The   High   Court   was   conscious   of   the   fact   that   it

must first examine  the issue regarding the welfare and best

interest   of the minor child. It noted that the minor girl child

was about 3 years when the writ petition for habeas corpus

was   preferred   on   1st  February,   2017.   It   then  noted   that   the

respondent No.2 – father of the minor girl child had acquired

citizenship   of   the   USA   in   2005   and   holds   an   American

Passport.     He   is   living   in   the   USA   since   1994   and   is   thus

domiciled in the USA. He had acquired a Bachelors’ degree in

Economics and obtained MBA qualification from the University

of Chicago.  He was an Education Software Entrepreneur. The

appellant wife is the biological mother of the minor child M,

who has acquired permanent resident status of the USA i.e.

Green Card and had also applied for American citizenship on

2nd December, 2016. The respondent No.2 and appellant were

classmates during their schooling and revived their contacts in

2000. Eventually, they decided to get married and thereafter

reside in USA where the respondent No.2 had his work place

and   home.     The   marriage   was   solemnized   in   New   Delhi   in

India on 31st October, 2010 as per Anand Karaj ceremony, and

Hindu   Vedic   rites   in   the   presence   of   the   elders   of   both   the

families.   After   the   appellant   arrived   in   USA,   they   performed

civil   marriage   before   the   competent   Court   in   USA   on   19 th

March, 2011. 

16. The   High   Court  adverted  to  the  accomplishment  of  the

appellant   in   her   education   and   occupation.   The   High   Court

noted   that   the   couple   started   their   matrimonial   life   in   the

United   States   and   lived   as   a   couple   in   that   country.   They

made the United States their home and their entire married

life, except the duration during which they were on short visits

to India, had been spent in the USA.  They gave birth to a girl

child   M   in   USA   on   15th  February,   2014   at   North   Western

Memorial Hospital, Chicago, Illinois, USA. The minor child M

is   a   US   citizen   by   birth   and   grew   up   there   until   she   was

clandestinely   removed   by   the   appellant   to   India   on   25 th

December,   2016.   The   minor   child   had,   in   fact,   started

attending pre­school in Chicago and had a full time schedule

at school from August, 2016. Thus, the mental development of

M while she was in USA till the end of 2016, had taken place

to such an extent that she was very well aware and conscious

of her surroundings. She was perceiving and absorbing from

her   surroundings   and   communicated   not   only   with   her

parents, but also with her other relatives, her peers at the pre­

school,   her   instructors,   teachers   and   other   care   givers.   The

American way of life and systems were already in the process

of being learnt and experienced by M when she came to India

in   December,   2016.   The   environment   which   M   was

experiencing during her growth was the natural environment

of   Chicago,   USA.   Both   her   parents   were   looking   after   her

proper   upbringing.   The   Court   also   noted   that   the   paternal

grandparents   of   the   minor   child   M   were   visiting   and

interacting with her. The Court then adverted to the decisions

in  Surinder Kaur Sandhu Vs. Harbax Singh Sandhu and

Anr.4, Aviral Mittal Vs. State5, Shilpa Aggarwal Vs. Aviral

Mittal and Anr.6, Dr. V. Ravi Chandran Vs. Union of India

 Ors.7, and Nithya Anand Raghavan (supra), to opine that

the Court in the US seemed to be the most appropriate Court

to  decide   the  issue  of custody of M, considering that it had

4  (1984) 3 SCC 698
5  (2009) 112 DRJ 635
6  (2010) 1 SCC 591
7   (2010) 1 SCC 174

intimate contact with the parties and the child. It went on to

observe   that   it   was   neither   inclined     nor   in   a   position   to

undertake a detailed enquiry into aspects of custody, visitation

and   co­parenting   of   the   minor   child   in   the   facts   and

circumstances of the case, considering all the events unfolded

in, circumstances developed in and evidences were located in

the   USA.   After   having   said   this,   it   examined   the   compelling

reasons disclosed by the appellant to dissuade the Court from

issuing directions for return of M to her native country and the

environment where she was born and being brought up. That

analysis has been done in paragraph 114 onwards. The High

Court   considered   the   grievances   of   the   appellant   in

paragraphs 114 to 117 in the following words: 

“114.   The   allegations   of   respondent   no.2   against   the
petitioner   and   his   mother   are   that   the   petitioner’s   mother
follows a strict eco­friendly lifestyle and imposes the same on
the   couple,   which   even   caused   chronic   backache   to   the
respondent   since   she   was   forced   to   sleep   on   a   hard   eco­
friendly mattress. She claim that all her day to day affairs
were influenced by the lifestyle of her mother in law, such as
not   using   plastic   products,   non   stick   cookware,   personal
care   products   etc.   The   respondent   had   no   voice   in   the
matter.   The   petitioner   took   minimal   interest   in   household
affairs, while his mother interfered in the lives of the parties

by tracking their schedules. The petitioner and his mother
did not respect the respondents privacy and the plan of the
parties   to   bear   a   child   were   disclosed   to   the   petitioner’s
mother in advance. She even imposed lifestyle changes upon
the respondent. The petitioner’s mother also did not permit
the   respondent   to   maintain   a   secular   household.   She   was
not permitted to celebrate both Sikh and Hindu festivals and
the petitioner insisted that they celebrate only Sikh festivals.

Respondent   no.2   states   that   she   was   diagnosed   with   a
grave’s   disease   in   October   2014.   The   petitioner   and   his
mother   insisted   that   the   respondent   undergoes   surgery
rather than taking medication, since medication would have
made it difficult for her to conceive in future. She claims that
the petitioner even threatened her with divorce in case she
prioritised   her   own   health   at   the   cost   of   expanding   their
family.   The   respondent   makes   several   other   allegations
against the petitioner and his mother complaining of cruelty
and indifference on their part towards her. 

115. The above allegations per se do not suggest any grave
undesirable conduct or deviant behavior on the part of the
petitioner, or his mother qua the child M – even if they were
to be assumed to be true for the time being. The allegations
even remotely, not such as to suggest that the minor child M
may   be   exposed   to   any   adversity,   harm,   undesirable
influence, or danger if she were to be allowed to meet them
or spend time with them in USA. There is nothing to suggest
that the petitioner – father of M, or her grandmother would
leave   a   bad   and   undesirable   influence   on   M.   These
allegations   are   not   such   as   to   persuade   this   Court   not   to
send  the  child  M  back  to her  country  of  origin  and  initial
upbringing. On the contrary, the petitioner appears to be an
educated   person   who   is   gainfully   managing   his   business,
and   the   photographs   on   record   show   healthy   bonding
between M and her father. He also appears to have actively
participated in the upbringing of M – if the averments made
by him in his petition are to be believed. In fact, respondent
no.2   had   also   expressed   her   willingness   to   let   M   interact
with the petitioner and to allow him visitation rights, which

would not have been the case if she considered him to be a
bad influence on, or a potential threat to her daughter. The
fact that the petitioner’s mother is a pediatrician, in fact, is a
reassuring fact that M would be taken good care of medically
in her tender years. The photographs filed by the petitioner
along with the petition show M to be having a healthy and
normal   upbringing   while   she   was   in   USA.   She   is   seen
enjoying   the   love,   care   and   company   of   her   parents   and
others   –   including   children   of   her   age.   There   is   no  reason
why   she   should   be   allowed   to   be   uprooted   from   the
environment in which she was naturally growing up, and to
be retained in an environment where she would not have the
love,   care   and   attention   of   her   father   and   paternal
grandparents,   apart   from   her   peers,   teachers,   school   and
other care givers who were, till recently, with her. 

116.   From   the   allegations   made   by   respondent   No.2,   it
appears   that   she   may   have   had   issues   of   living   with   and
adjusting with the petitioner and his parents – particularly
the   mother­in­law.   However,   there   is   absolutely   nothing
placed on record to even remotely suggest that so far as the
petitioner is concerned, his conduct qua M and his presence
with M, or for that matter, even the grandparents, could be
said   to   be   detrimental   to   or   harmful   for   M.   It   certainly
cannot be said that if M were to be returned to her place of
origin   where   she   spent   the   initial   three   years   of   her   life   –
considering   that   those   three   years   constitute   more   than
3/4th of her entire existence on this planet till date, would
be detrimental to her interest in any manner whatsoever. 

117.   The   parties  started   their   married  life  in  USA,  and  as
clearly   appears   from   their   conduct,   their   mutual
commitment   was   to   spend   their   married   life   and   to   raise
their children in USA. There is absolutely nothing to suggest
that the parties mutually ever agreed to or intended to shift
from   their   place   of   residence   to   a   place   in   India,   though
respondent no.2 may have unilaterally so desired. In such a
situation,  in  our   view,  respondent  No.2  cannot  breach her
maternal   commitment   without   any   valid   justification   and

remain   in   return   to   India   with   M   –   who   is   an   American
citizen and would, obviously, be attached to her father and
grandparents;   her   home;   her   Nanny;   her   teachers  
instructors   and   her   peers   and   friends,   all   of   whom   are   in

17. After   having   said   this,   the   High   Court   considered   the

argument of the appellant that she was the primary care giver

qua M but disregarded the same by observing that that alone

cannot be made the basis to reject the prayer for return of the

minor girl child to her native country, and more so, when the

minor girl child deserves love, affection and care of her father

as well. The Court found that nothing prevents the appellant

from returning to the USA if she so desires. Further, the fact

that   the   minor   girl  child   would  make  new   friends   and  have

new care givers and teachers in India at a new school, cannot

be the basis to deny her the love and affection of her biological

father   or   parenting   of   grandparents   which   was   equally

important for the grooming and upbringing of the child.   The

Court then went on to notice that the expression “best interest

of child” is wide in its connotation and cannot be limited only

to love and care of the primary care giver i.e. the mother. It

then adverted to the provisions of the Juvenile Justice (Care

and   Protection  of   Children)  Act, 2015, while making  it clear

that   it  was   conscious   of  the   fact  that   the  said  Act   may   not

strictly apply to the case on hand for examining the issue of

best   interest   of   the   child.   In   paragraphs   124   to   126   of   the

impugned judgment, it went on to observe thus:    

“124. Thus, all decisions regarding the child should be based
on primary consideration that they are in the best interest of
the child and to help the child to develop to full potential.
When involvement of one of the parents is not shown to be
detrimental to the interest of the child, it goes without saying
that to develop full potential of the child, it is essential that
the child should receive the love, care and attention of both
his/ her parents, and not just one of them, who may have
decided on the basis of his/ her differences with the other
parent,   to   re­locate   in   a   different   country.   Development   of
full potential of the child requires participation of both the
parents. The child, who does not receive the love, care and
attention   of   both   the   parents,   is   bound   to   suffer   from
psychological and emotional trauma, particularly if the child
is small and of tender age. The law also recognizes the fact
that   the   primary   responsibility   of   care,   nutrition   and
protection of the child falls primarily on the biological family.
The “biological family” certainly cannot mean only one of the
two parents, even if that parent happens to be the primary
care giver. 

125. The JJ Act encourages restoration of the child to be re­
united with his family at the earliest, and to be restored to
the same socio­economic and cultural status that he was in,
before   being   removed   from   that   environment,   unless   such

restoration   or   repatriation   is   not   in   his   best   interest.   The
present is not a case where respondent No.2 fled from USA
or   decided   to   stay   back   in   India   on   account   of   any   such
conduct of the petitioner which could be said to have been
detrimental to her own interest, or the interest of the minor
child   M.   The   decision   of   respondent   No.2   to   stay   back   in
India   is   entirely   personal   to   her,   and   her   alone.   It   is   not
based on consideration of the best welfare of the minor child
M. In fact, the best interest of the child M has been sidelined
by respondent no.2 while deciding to stay back in India with

126.   Pertinently,   respondent   No.2   in   her   statement   in
response to the missing person report made by the petitioner
on   14.01.2017   vide   DD   No.20B   dated   14.01.2017   at   PS   –
Vasant Kunj (South), New Delhi, inter alia, stated that ‘the
parties came to New Delhi, India with their daughter M on
20.12.2016.   She   further   stated   that   during   this   time,   I
realized that I do not want to continue with his suppressed
marriage and file for divorce and custody petition against K
G   in   the   Hon’ble   Court   Sh.   Arun   Kumar   Arya,   Principle
Judge,   Family   Courts,   Patiala   House,   New   Delhi   via   HMA
No.27/17……’.   Thus,   it   appears   from   the   statement   of
respondent No.2 that the realization that she did not want to
continue in her marriage dawned upon her only when she
came to India, and it is not that when she left the shores of
USA in December 2016, she left with a clear decision in her
mind that she would not return to USA for any specific and
justifiable reason.” 

18. Reference   was   then   made   to   the   provisions   of   the

Convention on the Rights of the Child adopted by the General

Assembly   of   the   United  Nations  dated 20 th  November,  1989,

which   was   ratified   by   the   Government   of   India   on   11 th

December,   1992,   and   the   resolution   by   the   Government   of

India issued by the Ministry of Human Resource Development

vide   Resolution   No.6­15/98   C.W.,   dated   9 th  February,   2004

framing   the   “National   Charter   for   Children,   2003”   and   the

Court observed in paragraph 138  as follows:

“138. Thus, best welfare of the child, normally, would lie in
living   with   both   his/   her   parents   in   a   happy,   loving   and
caring   environment,   where   the   parents   contribute   to   the
upbringing of the child in all spheres of life, and the child
receives emotional, social, physical and material support ­ to
name a few. In a vitiated marriage, unfortunately, there is
bound  to   be   impairment   of   some   of   the   inputs  which   are,
ideally, essential for the best interest of the child. Then the
challenge posed before the Court would be to determine and
arrive   at   an   arrangement,   which   offers   the   best   possible
solution in the facts and circumstances of a given case, to
achieve the best interest of the child.”

19. On a perusal of the impugned judgment, it is noticed that

the   High   Court   has   taken   note   of   all   the   relevant   decisions

including the latest three­Judge Bench decision of this Court

in  Nithya Anand Raghavan’s case, (supra), which has had

occasion to exhaustively analyse the earlier decisions on the

subject   matter   under   consideration.   The   exposition   in   the

earlier   decisions   has   been   again   restated   and   re­affirmed   in

the subsequent decision of this Court in  Prateek Gupta Vs.

Shilpi Gupta  Ors., (supra).  Let us, therefore, revisit these

two   decisions.     In   paragraph   40   of   the  Nithya   Anand

Raghavan’s case, (supra), this Court observed thus:

“40. The Court has noted that India is not yet a signatory to
the   Hague   Convention   of   1980   on   “Civil   Aspects   of
International   Child   Abduction”.  As   regards   the   non­
Convention   countries,   the   law  is   that  the   court   in   the
country   to   which   the   child   has   been   removed   must
consider   the   question   on   merits   bearing   the   welfare   of
the   child   as   of   paramount   importance   and   reckon   the
order  of the  foreign court as only a factor  to  be  taken
into   consideration,   unless   the   court   thinks   it   fit   to
exercise   summary   jurisdiction   in   the   interests   of   the
child and its prompt return is for its welfare.  In exercise
of summary jurisdiction, the court must be satisfied and of
the  opinion  that   the  proceeding   instituted  before  it  was in
close   proximity   and   filed   promptly   after   the   child   was
removed   from   his/her   native   state   and   brought   within   its
territorial   jurisdiction,   the   child   has   not   gained   roots   here
and further that it will be in the child’s welfare to return to
his native state because of the difference in language spoken
or   social  customs  and  contacts  to which  he/she  has been
accustomed or such other tangible reasons. In such a case
the   court   need   not   resort   to   an   elaborate   inquiry   into   the
merits of the paramount welfare of the child but leave that
inquiry to the foreign court by directing return of the child.

Be   it   noted   that   in   exceptional   cases   the   court   can   still
refuse   to   issue   direction   to   return   the   child   to   the   native
state and more particularly in spite of a pre­existing order of
the   foreign   court   in   that   behalf,   if   it   is   satisfied   that   the
child’s return may expose him to a grave risk of harm. This
means that the courts in India, within whose jurisdiction the
minor   has   been   brought   must   “ordinarily”   consider   the

question on merits, bearing in mind the welfare of the child
as   of   paramount   importance   whilst   reckoning   the   pre­
existing order of the foreign court if any as only one of the
factors and not get fixated therewith. In either situation—be
it a summary inquiry or an elaborate inquiry—the welfare of
the   child   is   of   paramount   consideration.  Thus,   while
examining   the   issue   the   courts   in   India   are   free   to
decline the relief of return of the child brought within its
jurisdiction, if it is satisfied that the child is now settled
in its new environment or 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
mature   and   objects   to   its   return.  We   are   in   respectful
agreement with the aforementioned exposition.”
(emphasis supplied)

Again in paragraph 42, the Court observed thus:

“42. The consistent view of this Court is that if the child has
been brought within India, the courts in India may conduct:

(a)   summary   inquiry;   or   (b)   an   elaborate   inquiry   on   the
question of custody. In the case of a summary inquiry, the
court may deem it fit to order return of the child to the
country   from   where   he/she   was   removed   unless   such
return   is   shown   to   be   harmful   to   the   child.  In   other
words, even in the matter of a summary inquiry, it is open to
the court  to decline the relief of return of the child to the
country   from   where   he/she   was   removed   irrespective   of   a
pre­existing order of return of the child by a foreign court. In
an   elaborate   inquiry,   the   court   is   obliged   to   examine   the
merits as to where the paramount interests and welfare of
the child lay and reckon the fact of a pre­existing order of
the foreign court for return of the child as only one of the
circumstances.  In either case, the crucial question to be
considered   by   the   court   (in   the   country   to   which   the
child is removed) is to answer the issue according to the
child’s welfare. That has to be done bearing in mind the
totality   of   facts   and   circumstances   of   each   case
independently.   Even   on   close   scrutiny   of   the   several
decisions pressed before us,  we do not find any contra
view   in   this   behalf.  To   put   it   differently,   the   principle   of
comity of courts cannot be given primacy or more weightage

for deciding the matter of custody or for return of the child to
the native State.”
(emphasis supplied)

It will be apposite to also advert to paragraphs 46  47 of the

reported decision, which read thus:

“46.  The   High   Court   while   dealing   with   the   petition   for
issuance   of   a   writ   of   habeas   corpus   concerning   a   minor
child,   in   a   given   case,   may   direct   return   of   the   child   or
decline to change the custody of the child keeping in mind
all   the   attending   facts   and   circumstances   including   the
settled legal position referred to above. Once again, we may
hasten   to   add   that   the   decision   of   the   court,   in   each
case,   must   depend   on   the   totality   of   the   facts   and
circumstances   of   the   case   brought   before   it   whilst
considering   the   welfare   of   the   child   which   is   of
paramount consideration. The order of the foreign court
must   yield   to   the   welfare   of   the   child.   Further,   the
remedy of writ of habeas corpus cannot be used for mere
enforcement of the directions given by the foreign court
against a person within its jurisdiction and convert that
jurisdiction into that of an executing court. Indubitably,
the writ petitioner can take recourse to such other remedy as
may   be   permissible   in   law   for   enforcement   of   the   order
passed   by   the   foreign   court   or   to   resort   to   any   other
proceedings as may be permissible in law before the Indian
Court for the custody of the child, if so advised.

47.  In   a   habeas   corpus   petition   as   aforesaid,   the   High
Court must examine at the threshold whether the minor
is   in   lawful   or   unlawful   custody   of   another   person
(private   respondent   named   in   the   writ   petition).   For
considering that issue, in a case such as the present one,
it   is   enough   to   note   that   the   private   respondent   was
none other than the natural guardian of the minor being
her  biological  mother.  Once  that  fact  is  ascertained,  it
can   be   presumed   that   the   custody   of   the   minor   with
his/her   mother   is   lawful.   In   such   a   case,   only   in

exceptionable   situation,   the   custody   of   the   minor   (girl
child) may be ordered to be taken away from her mother
for   being   given   to   any   other   person   including   the
husband   (father   of   the   child),   in   exercise   of   writ
jurisdiction.  Instead,   the   other   parent   can   be   asked   to
resort to a substantive prescribed remedy for getting custody
of the child.”
(emphasis supplied)

Again in paragraph 50, the Court expounded as under: 

“50.  The High Court in such a situation may then examine
whether   the   return   of   the   minor   to   his/her   native   state
would be in the interests of the minor or would be harmful.

While doing so, the High Court would be well within its
jurisdiction if satisfied, that having regard to the totality
of   the   facts   and   circumstances,   it   would   be   in   the
interests and welfare of the minor child to decline return
of the child to the country from where he/she had been
removed;   then   such   an   order   must   be   passed   without
being fixated with the factum of an order of the foreign
court directing return of the child within the stipulated
time, since the order of the foreign court must yield to
the welfare of the child. For answering this issue, there
can   be   no   straitjacket   formulae   or   mathematical
exactitude.  Nor   can   the   fact   that   the   other   parent   had
already   approached   the   foreign   court   or   was   successful   in
getting an order from the foreign court for production of the
child,   be   a   decisive   factor.   Similarly,   the   parent   having
custody   of   the   minor   has   not   resorted   to   any   substantive
proceeding for custody of the child, cannot whittle down the
overarching principle of the best interests and welfare of the
child to  be  considered by  the Court.  That ought  to be the
paramount consideration.”
(emphasis supplied)

In paragraphs 67 and 69, the Court propounded thus: 

“67.  The facts in all the four cases primarily relied upon by
Respondent   2,   in   our   opinion,   necessitated   the   Court   to
issue direction to return the child to the native state. That
does not mean that in deserving cases the courts in India are
denuded from declining the relief to return the child to the
native   state   merely   because   of   a   pre­existing   order   of   the
foreign  court   of  competent  jurisdiction.  That,  however,  will
have   to   be   considered   on   case   to   case   basis   —   be   it   in   a
summary inquiry or an elaborate inquiry. We do not wish to
dilate   on   other   reported   judgments,   as   it   would   result   in
repetition of similar position and only burden this judgment.

xxx xxx xxx

69.  ……………  The   summary   jurisdiction   to   return   the
child   be   exercised   in   cases   where   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 be exercised only if the court to which the child
has   been   removed   is   moved   promptly   and   quickly.   The
overriding consideration must be the interests and welfare of
the child.”
(emphasis supplied)

20. At   this   stage,   we   deem   it   apposite   to   reproduce

paragraphs 70 and 71 of the reported judgment, which may

have some bearing on the final order to be passed in this case.

The same read thus:

“70.  Needless to observe that after the minor child (Nethra)
attains the age of majority, she would be free to exercise her

choice to go to the UK and stay with her father. But until she
attains   majority,   she   should   remain   in   the   custody   of   her
mother unless the court of competent jurisdiction trying the
issue of custody of the child orders to the contrary. However,
the father must be given visitation rights, whenever he visits
India. He can do so by giving notice of at least two weeks in
advance  intimating   in writing   to the  appellant  and  if  such
request is received, the appellant must positively respond in
writing to grant visitation rights to Respondent 2 Mr Anand
Raghavan (father) for two hours per day twice a week at the
mentioned   venue   in   Delhi   or   as   may   be   agreed   by   the
appellant,   where   the   appellant   or   her   representatives   are
necessarily present at or near the venue. Respondent 2 shall
not be entitled to, nor make any attempt to take the child
(Nethra) out from the said venue. The appellant shall take all
such steps to comply with the visitation rights of Respondent
2, in its letter and spirit. Besides, the appellant will permit
Respondent 2 Mr Anand Raghavan to interact with Nethra
on   telephone/mobile   or   video   conferencing,   on   school
holidays between 5 p.m. to 7.30 p.m. IST.

71. As mentioned earlier, the appellant cannot disregard the
proceedings   instituted   before   the   UK   Court.   She   must
participate in those proceedings by engaging solicitors of her
choice to espouse her cause before the High Court of Justice.
For that, Respondent 2 Anand Raghavan will bear the costs
of litigation and expenses to be incurred by the appellant. If
the appellant is required to appear in the said proceeding in
person   and   for   which   she   is   required   to   visit   the   UK,
Respondent   2   Anand   Raghavan   will   bear   the   air   fares   or
purchase the tickets for the travel of appellant and Nethra to
the   UK   and   including   for   their   return   journey   to   India   as
may be required. In addition, Respondent 2 Anand Raghavan
will make all arrangements for  the comfortable stay  of the
appellant   and   her   companions   at   an   independent   place   of
her choice at reasonable costs. In the event, the appellant is
required to appear in the proceedings before the High Court
of   Justice   in   the   UK,   Respondent   2   shall   not   initiate   any
coercive   process   against   her   which   may   result   in   penal
consequences for the appellant and if any such proceeding is
already   pending,   he   must   take   steps   to   first   withdraw   the
same   and/or   undertake   before   the   court   concerned   not   to
pursue   it   any   further.   That   will   be   condition   precedent   to

pave   way   for   the   appellant   to   appear   before   the   court
concerned in the UK.” 

21. In the subsequent judgment of two Judges of this Court

in  Prateek   Gupta  (supra),   after   analysing   all   the   earlier

decisions, in paragraphs 49 to 51 the Court noted thus:

“49.  The   gravamen   of   the   judicial   enunciation   on   the
issue of repatriation of a child removed from its native
country   is   clearly   founded   on   the   predominant
imperative   of   its   overall   well­being,   the   principle   of
comity of courts, and the doctrines of “intimate contact
and   closest   concern”   notwithstanding.  Though   the
principle   of   comity   of   courts   and   the   aforementioned
doctrines qua a foreign court from the territory of which a
child is removed are factors which deserve notice in deciding
the issue of  custody  and repatriation of  the  child, it  is  no
longer res integra that the ever­overriding determinant would
be the welfare and interest of the child. In other words, the
invocation of these principles/doctrines has to be judged on
the touchstone of myriad attendant facts and circumstances
of each case, the ultimate live concern being the welfare of
the   child,   other   factors   being   acknowledgeably   subservient
thereto.  Though   in   the   process   of   adjudication   of   the
issue   of   repatriation,   a   court   can   elect   to   adopt   a
summary enquiry and order immediate restoration of the
child   to   its   native   country,   if   the   applicant/parent   is
prompt   and   alert   in   his/her   initiative   and   the   existing
circumstances ex facie justify such course again in the
overwhelming exigency of the welfare of the child, such
a   course   could   be   approvable   in   law,   if   an   effortless
discernment  of   the   relevant  factors  testify  irreversible,
adverse  and prejudicial impact on its physical, mental,
psychological, social, cultural existence, thus exposing it
to   visible,   continuing   and   irreparable   detrimental   and
nihilistic   attenuations.  On   the   other   hand,   if   the
applicant/parent   is   slack  and   there   is  a   considerable   time
lag between the removal of the child from the native country

and   the   steps   taken   for   its   repatriation   thereto,   the   court
would prefer an elaborate enquiry into all relevant aspects
bearing on the child, as meanwhile with the passage of time,
it   expectedly   had   grown   roots   in   the   country   and   its
characteristic   milieu,   thus   casting   its   influence   on   the
process of its grooming in its fold.

50.  The   doctrines   of   ‘intimate   contact’   and   ‘closest
concern’ are of persuasive relevance, only when the child
is uprooted from its native country and taken to a place
to encounter alien environment, language, custom, etc.
with the portent of mutilative bearing on the process of
its overall growth and grooming.

51.  It   has   been   consistently   held   that   there   is   no   forum
convenience   in   wardship   jurisdiction   and   the   peremptory
mandate   that   underlines   the   adjudicative   mission   is   the
obligation to  secure  the  unreserved  welfare  of the child as
the paramount consideration.”
(emphasis supplied)

Again, in paragraph 53 of the judgment, the Court observed


“53.  ….  The   issue   with   regard   to   the   repatriation   of   a
child,   as   the   precedential   explications   would
authenticate has to be addressed not on a consideration
of   legal   rights   of   the   parties   but   on   the   sole   and
preponderant   criterion   of   the   welfare   of   the   minor.   As
aforementioned,   immediate   restoration   of   the   child   is
called   for  only   on   an  unmistakable   discernment  of   the
possibility of immediate and irremediable harm to it and
not   otherwise.   As   it   is,   a   child   of   tender   years,   with
malleable   and   impressionable   mind   and   delicate   and
vulnerable   physique   would   suffer   serious   set­back   if
subjected  to  frequent  and  unnecessary  translocation  in
its formative years. It is thus imperative that unless, the
continuance of the child in the country to which it has
been   removed,   is   unquestionably   harmful,   when   judged

on   the   touchstone   of   overall   perspectives,   perceptions
and   practicabilities,   it   ought   not   to   be   dislodged   and
extricated from the environment and setting to which it
had got adjusted for its well­being.”
(emphasis supplied)

22. After these decisions, it is not open to contend that the

custody of the female minor child with her biological mother

would be unlawful, for there is presumption to the contrary. In

such   a   case,   the   High   Court   whilst   exercising   jurisdiction

under Article 226 for issuance of a writ of habeas corpus need

not   make   any   further   enquiry   but   if   it   is   called   upon   to

consider the prayer for return of the minor female child to the

native   country,   it   has   the   option   to   resort   to   a   summary

inquiry  or  an elaborate inquiry, as may be necessary  in the

fact situation of the given case.  In the present case, the High

Court noted that it was not inclined to undertake a detailed

inquiry.   The   question   is,  having   said  that   whether   the   High

Court   took   into   account   irrelevant   matters   for   recording   its

conclusion that the minor female child, who was in custody of

her   biological   mother,   should   be   returned   to   her   native

country.   As   observed   in  Nithya   Anand   Raghavan’s   case

(supra), the Court must take into account the totality of the

facts  and  circumstances whilst ensuring  the best interest of

the minor child. In  Prateek Gupta’s case  (supra), the Court

noted that the adjudicative mission is the obligation to secure

the   unreserved   welfare   of   the   child   as   the   paramount

consideration.   Further,   the   doctrine   of   “intimate   and   closest

concern” are of persuasive relevance, only when the child is

uprooted   from   its   native   country   and   taken   to   a   place   to

encounter alien environment, language, custom etc. with the

portent   of   mutilative     bearing   on   the   process   of   its   overall

growth   and   grooming.   The   High   Court   in   the   present   case

focused primarily on the grievances of the appellant and while

rejecting   those   grievances,   went   on   to   grant   relief   to

respondent No.2 by directing return of the minor girl child to

her   native   country.  On   the   totality   of   the   facts   and

circumstances   of   the   present   case,   in   our   opinion,   there   is

nothing  to indicate  that the native language (English) is not

spoken or the child has been divorced from the social customs

to which she has been accustomed. Similarly, the minor child

had   just   entered   pre­school   in   the   USA   before   she   came   to

New Delhi along with her mother. In that sense, there was no

disruption   of   her   education   or   being   subjected   to   a   foreign

system of education likely to psychologically disturb her. On

the other hand, the minor child M is under the due care of her

mother and maternal grand­parents and other relatives since

her arrival in New Delhi. If she returns to US as per the relief

claimed   by   the   respondent   No.2,   she   would   inevitably   be

under the care of a Nanny as the respondent No.2 will be away

during the day time for work and no one else from the family

would be there at home to look after her. Placing her under a

trained Nanny may not be harmful as such but it is certainly

avoidable.   For,   there   is   likelihood   of   the   minor   child   being

psychologically   disturbed   after   her   separation   from   her

mother, who is the primary care giver to her. In other words,

there   is   no   compelling   reason   to   direct   return   of   the   minor

child M to the US as prayed by the respondent No.2 nor is her

stay   in   the   company   of   her   mother,   along   with   maternal

grand­parents and extended family   at New Delhi, prejudicial

to her in any manner, warranting her return to the US.  

23. As expounded in the recent decisions of this Court, the

issue   ought   not   to   be   decided   on   the   basis   of   rights   of   the

parties   claiming   custody   of   the   minor   child   but   the   focus

should   constantly   remain   on   whether   the   factum   of   best

interest  of the minor child is to return to the native country or

otherwise.   The   fact   that   the   minor   child   will   have   better

prospects upon return to his/her   native country, may be a

relevant   aspect   in   a     substantive   proceedings   for   grant   of

custody   of   the   minor   child   but   not   decisive   to   examine   the

threshold issues in a habeas corpus petition.  For the purpose

of   habeas   corpus   petition,   the   Court   ought   to   focus   on   the

obtaining   circumstances   of   the   minor   child   having   been

removed   from   the   native   country   and   taken   to   a   place   to

encounter alien environment, language, custom etc. interfering

with   his/her   overall   growth   and   grooming   and   whether

continuance   there   will   be   harmful.     This   has   been   the

consistent view of this Court as restated in the recent three­

Judge   Bench   decision   in  Nithya  Anand   Raghavan  (supra),

and the two­Judge Bench decision in Prateek Gupta (supra).

It   is   unnecessary   to   multiply   other   decisions   on   the   same


24. In the present case, the minor child M is a US citizen by

birth. She has grown up in her native country for over three

years before she was brought to New Delhi by her biological

mother (appellant) in December 2016. She had joined a pre­

school in the USA. She had healthy bonding with her father

(respondent   No.2).   Her   paternal   grand­parents   used   to   visit

her in the USA at some intervals. She was under the care of a

Nanny   during   the   day   time,   as   her   parents   were   working.

Indeed,   the   work   place   of   her   father   is   near   the   home.   The

biological father  (respondent No.2) of the minor  child M has

acquired US citizenship. Both father and mother of the minor

child M were of Indian origin but domiciled in the USA after

marriage.  The  mother  (appellant)  is a permanent  resident of

the   USA­Green   Card   holder   and   has   also   applied   for   US

citizenship. In her affidavit filed before the Delhi High Court

dated 30th  November, 2017, she admits that her legal status

was complicated as she has ceased to be an Indian citizen and

her status of citizenship of the USA is in limbo. 

25. Be that as it may, the father filed a writ petition before

the Delhi High Court for issuance of a writ of Habeas Corpus

for   production   of   the   minor   child   and   for   directions   for   her

return to USA without any loss of time. Given the fact that the

parties performed a civil marriage on 19 th March, 2011 in the

USA   and   cohabited   in   the   native   country   and   gave   birth   to

minor child M who grew up in that environment for at least

three years, coupled with the fact that the father and minor

child M are US citizens and mother is a permanent resident of

USA, the closest contact and jurisdiction is possibly that of the

Circuit Court of Cook County, Illinois, USA. However, we may

not be understood to have expressed any final opinion in this

regard. At the same time, it is indisputable that the appellant

and respondent No.2   first got married on 31 st  October, 2010

as per Sikh rites, i.e. Anand Karaj ceremony, and Hindu Vedic

rites and that marriage was solemnised in New Delhi at which

point of time the appellant was admittedly a citizen of India.

Presently,   she   is   only   a   Green   Card   holder   (permanent

resident)   of   the   US.   It   is,   therefore,   debatable   whether   the

Family Court at New Delhi, where the appellant has already

filed a petition for dissolution of marriage, has jurisdiction in

that behalf including to decide on the question of custody and

guardianship in respect of the minor child M. For that reason,

it  may  be  appropriate that the said proceedings are decided

with utmost promptitude in the first place before the appellant

is called upon to appear before the US Court and including to

produce the minor child M before that Court. 

26. It is not disputed that the appellant and minor child are

presently in New Delhi and the appellant has no intention to

return to her matrimonial home in the U.S.A. The appellant

has apprehensions and serious reservations on account of her

past   experience   in   respect   of   which   we   do   not   think   it

necessary to dilate in this proceedings. That is a matter to be

considered by the Court of Competent Jurisdiction called upon

to decide the issue of dissolution of marriage and/or grant of

custody of the minor child, as the case may be. For the time

being,   we   may   observe   that   the   parties   must   eschew   from

pursuing parallel proceedings in two different countries.  For,

the first marriage between the parties was performed in New

Delhi as per Anand Karaj Ceremony and Hindu Vedic rites on

31st October, 2010 and the petition for dissolution of marriage

has   been   filed   in   New   Delhi.   Whereas,   the   civil   marriage

ceremony   on   19th  March,   2011   at   Circuit   Court   of   Cook

County,   Illinois,   USA,   was   performed   to   complete   the

formalities for facilitating the entry of the appellant into the US

and to obtain US Permanent Resident status.  It is appropriate

that the proceedings pending in the Family Court at New Delhi

are   decided   in   the   first   place   including   on   the   question   of

jurisdiction  of  that  Court. Depending  on the outcome of the

said proceedings, the parties will be free to pursue such other

remedies   as   may   be   permissible   in   law   before   the   Court   of

Competent Jurisdiction. 

27. As   aforesaid,   it   is   true   that   both   respondent   No.2   and

also the minor child M are US citizens. The minor girl child

has a US Passport and has travelled to India on a tenure Visa

which has expired. That does not mean that she is in unlawful

custody   of   her   biological   mother.     Her   custody   with   the

appellant   would   nevertheless   be   lawful.   The   appellant   has

already instituted divorce proceedings in the Family Court at

Patiala House, New Delhi. The respondent No.2 has also filed

proceedings   before   the   Court   in   the   US   for   custody   of   the

minor   girl   child,   directing   her   return   to   her   natural

environment in the US. In such a situation, the arrangement

directed   by   this   Court   in   the   case   of  Nithya   Anand

Raghavan (supra), as exposited in paragraphs 70­71, may be

of some help to pass an appropriate order in the peculiar facts

of this case, instead of directing the biological mother to return

to   the   US   along   with   the   minor   girl   child,   so   as   to   appear

before the competent court in the US.  In that, the custody of

the minor girl child M would remain with the appellant until

she   attains   the   age   of   majority   or   the   Court   of   competent

jurisdiction,   trying   the   issue   of   custody   of   the   minor   child,

orders to the contrary, with visitation and access rights to the

biological   father   whenever   he   would   visit   India   and   in

particular   as   delineated   in   the   interim   order   passed   by   us

reproduced in paragraph 11 (eleven) above.  

28. A  fortiori, dependant on the outcome of the proceedings,

before the Family Court at New Delhi, the appellant may then

be legally obliged to participate in the proceedings before the

US   Court   and   must   take   all   measures   to   effectively   defend

herself   in   the   said   proceedings  by   engaging   solicitors   of   her

choice   in   the   USA   to   espouse   her   cause   before   the   Circuit

Court   of   Cook   County,   Illinois,   USA.   In   that   event,   the

respondent No.2 shall bear the cost of litigation and expenses

to   be   incurred   by   the   appellant   to   pursue   the   proceedings

before   the   Courts   in   the   native   country.   In   addition,   the

respondent No.2 will bear the air fares or purchase the tickets

for the travel of the appellant and the minor child M to the

USA and including their return journey for India, as may be

required.   The   respondent   No.2   shall   also   make   all   suitable

arrangements for the comfortable stay of the appellant and her

companions   at   an   independent   place   of   her   choice,   at   a

reasonable   cost.   Further,   the   respondent   No.2   shall   not

initiate any coercive/penal action against the appellant and if

any   such   proceeding   initiated   by   him   in   that   regard   is

pending, the same shall be withdrawn and not pursued before

the   concerned   Court  any  further. That   will  be  the   condition

precedent   to   facilitate   the   appellant   to   appear   before   the

Courts in the USA to effectively defend herself on all matters

relating to the matrimonial dispute and including custody and

guardianship of the minor child. 


29. The   appellant   and   respondent   No.2   must   ensure   early

disposal of the proceedings for grant of custody of the minor

girl child to the appellant, instituted and pending before the

Family   Court   at   Patiala   House,   New   Delhi.   All   contentions

available to the parties in that regard will have to be answered

by the Family Court on its own merits and in accordance with


30. We,   accordingly, set aside the  impugned  judgment  and

orders of the High Court and dispose of the writ petition in the

aforementioned terms. The appeals are allowed with no order

as to costs. 


(Dipak Misra)


          (A.M. Khanwilkar)


         (Dr. D.Y. Chandrachud)
New Delhi;

July 20, 2018. 

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