NEW DELHI: India on Friday opened ground at a consultation of all stakeholders for reconsidering its refusal to joining an international agreement that makes parental child abduction a punishable offence. The consultation organised by the ministry of women and child development was inconclusive in terms of taking a stand on the issue, but it set the course for decision making. The Chandigarh Judicial Academy Chandigarh along with NRI Commission of Punjab have been asked to examine in detail the legal issues involved and report back with their recommendations within four months. The matter under review pertains to India’s position on the “Hague Convention on Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction.”
The expert Committee will give recommendations as to how the problems of parents and children involved in such situations can be addressed. “They will also study the draft Protection of Children (Inter-Country Removal and Retention) Bill, 2016 . It was also decided that if a model legislation is required to safeguard the interests of parents and children, the same will be drafted,” WCD ministry officials elaborated.
A cautious ministry of women and child development has made it clear that any possibility of agreement to sign the Hague Convention will follow only after “necessary safeguards” including a legislation to ensure the welfare of affected women and children is not compromised.
The women and child development (WCD) ministry on Friday held a meeting of all stakeholders, including judges, representatives from from home ministry, external affairs ministry, Law Commission, Chairman of Punjab NRI Commission and representatives from NCPCR, NHRC and NCW among others to discuss the Hague Convention. The affected parents also attended the consultation to share their experiences.
Addressing the participants, WCD minister Maneka Gandhi said that a large number of women married to Indians abroad are compelled to return to India with their children when they undergo violence in their marriages. She expressed concern at the difficulties being faced by the affected parent, whether men or women and their children as a result of breakdown of marriages abroad. However, the women who have suffered from violence in marriages abroad far exceed men, she added. “A model legislation to safeguard not only the interests of the child but also of the parents, especially women must also be developed,” Gandhi concluded.
Hague Convention is a multilateral treaty which seeks to protect children from the harmful effects of abduction and retention across international boundaries by providing a procedure to bring about their prompt return. It seeks to return children abducted or retained overseas by a parent to their country of habitual residence for the courts of that country to decide on matters of residence and contact.
Currently, there is no specific Indian legislation addressing issues related to abduction of children from and into India. However Law Commission of India had submitted the 218th Report titled “Need to accede to the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction 1980” on 30th March, 2009. In view of this report, before acceding to the Convention, the Ministry of Women and Child Development prepared a draft Bill titled “The Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction Bill, 2016”. The draft Bill was placed on the Ministry’s website for comments and suggestions from various stakeholders. The Law Commission of India has recently suggested some modifications in the above mentioned Bill and re-named it as the “The Protection of Children (Inter-country Removal and Retention) Bill, 2016.”