NEW DELHI – Despite international pressure, the Centre is likely to junk the bill on inter-parental child abduction, which deals with child custody issues for NRI couples and would have paved the way for India’s accession to the Hague Convention.
The Law Commission, though, recently submitted its report to the Law Ministry and stuck to its 2007 stand advising the government to accede to the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspect of International Child Abduction (1980).
“We are very clear that we are not signing the Hague Convention. This is a decision collectively arrived at by the Women and Child Development (WCD) Ministry, Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) and the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA),” said a senior WCD Ministry official.
On June 22, 2016, the WCD Ministry had uploaded on its website a proposal to enact a draft of the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction Bill, 2016. Subsequently, the draft bill was placed on the website seeking comments.
The draft bill was prepared following a reference made by the Punjab and Haryana High Court to the Law Commission of India and the WCD Ministry to examine the issue and consider whether recommendations should be made to enact a suitable law and for signing the Hague Convention.
However, the bill has since been removed from the ministry’s website.
The draft envisaged “prompt return of children wrongfully removed or retained in a contracting state, and to ensure that rights of custody and of access under the law of one contracting state are respected in other contracting states.”
It also proposed a central authority to discover the whereabouts of the child, to prevent further harm to any such child and to secure the voluntary return of the child to the signatory nation.
WCD Minister Maneka Gandhi has expressed apprehension over acceding to the Convention at several forums, primarily on two grounds – that taking such a decision will not be in the interest of aggrieved women and because the government maintains that there are fewer instances of Indian children being abducted and taken abroad.
At an event last month she had said, “Personally, in the beginning, when I was new, I thought we should join the Convention because we get protection. But with time and after interacting with women who have been abandoned by their husbands abroad, had their passports snatched from them, been beaten up, and have somehow scraped the money and are in terrible fear, I wonder whether we should join or not.”