India: Child abduction law may cover women’s interests


The aim is to put adequate safeguards to protect NRI parents, especially women, who remove a child from the lawful custody of their spouse.

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An NRI woman should have the right to refuse the return of her child to the spouse, from whom she separated on grounds of domestic violence, a high-level panel examining a draft law on civil aspects of International Child Abduction bill is likely to suggest.

Sources in the committee said they were considering introducing the option with an aim to put adequate safeguards to protect NRI parents, especially women, who remove a child from the lawful custody of their spouse.

India can become a signatory to the Hague convention on civil aspects of international child abduction only after a domestic law is in place. Signing the treaty will make inter-parental child abduction an offence punishable with one-year jail.

The Justice Rajesh Bindal -led panel is of the view that in draft law, domestic violence should be made a ground for refusing the return of child to the lawful custody of their spouse from whom they have been separated.

“Many countries, who are signatory to the treaty, have this clause in their domestic law. If a woman says she faces a risk of domestic violence, the government can stop the child from being sent back. We are seeing if this can be part of our domestic law also,” said a panel member on the condition of anonymity.

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India: Ministry of WCD seeks suggestions issues related to civil aspects of “International Child removal”


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NEW DELHI: The ministry for women and child development has put out in the public domain a “concept note” on issues related to civil aspects of International Child Removal. A multi member committee led Chairmanship Justice Rajesh Bindal, Judge Punjab and Haryana High Court was set-up in February to study all aspects of the matter pertaining to Hague Convention on Child Abduction in detail and make its recommendation. Before it gives the final report the Committee has sought suggestions on the concept note and the various concerns raised by July 31.

The report once ready will steer further deliberations of the WCD ministry to recommend to the government of India on whether India should ratify the Hague convention and if it does how to ensure that the rights of the parents and child are not compromised in any way.

The Ministry in a press statement issued on Tuesday pointed that with the rise in trans-national marriages and complexities involved in modern day relationships, the protection of rights of parents and children involved is a critical issue of National and International importance.

The Committee has said in the concept note that “the instances of an Indian citizen marrying an NRI or a person of Indian origin having citizenship of a foreign nation, popularly referred to as ‘transnational marriages’ are frequent and in abundance”. “However, many a times, it so happens that the spouses fall apart and the marriage breaks down irretrievably. In many such cases, the spouses return to the net of their families/extended families in India, seeking mental comfort for themselves and their children. However, such instances often land such estranged spouse in a situation of being perceived as abductors of their children in light of The Hague convention provisions,” it is pointed.

The Committee has further stated that “in another situation where both the spouses may be Indians, residing in India, one of the spouses may move out of India along with the child born out of such wedlock after breakdown of marriage. In such situation, the issue of getting the child back from the foreign land assumes importance, in the process of redressing the grievance of the left behind spouse”.

 “In such cases, the signatory countries of the Hague convention can avail access to the Central authorities of the other contracting states to resolve such issues. Another factor that deserves consideration, is that many a times, on account of the broken marriages, often the complaint of child abduction is alleged against each other by the estranged spouse, to settle their personal scores,” it is explained in the concept note.

In the backdrop the Committee states that “since the matter is likely to have large scale ramifications, it is desirable and in the fitness of things to put the same in public domain and invite suggestions from various quarters.” The Committee may even hold meetings with different stake-holders. The committee has sought suggestions which may be sent by e-mail to the Committees Member Secretary, Meenaxee Raj.
The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction is a multilateral treaty on custodial issues of children. The Convention seeks to protect children from the harmful effects of abduction and retention across international boundaries by providing a procedure to ensure their prompt return.

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India: Govt may propose caveat to Hague treaty on child abduction


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The Centre is deliberating on proposing a caveat to the Hague convention dealing with international child custody issues to secure the rights of NRI women. The Ministry of Women and Child Development (WCD) on Tuesday sought suggestions from all stakeholders on the Hague Convention on Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction (1980) as part of a concept note on its website. The deadline for submissions is July 31, a ministry official said.

“Our mandate is to suggest changes to the law so that it is more suitable to the Indian situation. When a victim of domestic abuse returns to India from abroad, we should not ask her to go back,” said a member of a committee set up by the ministry. The Hague Convention is a multilateral treaty developed by the Hague Conference on Private International Law (HCCH) that provides an expeditious method to return a child abducted by a parent from one member country to another.

India had refused to ratify the convention in the past, arguing that it would have mandated the government to send back women, who have escaped bad marriages abroad and brought their child along with them to India, to the country of their husbands’ residence. The concept note by the WCD ministry has been prepared by the committee set up to look into trans-national custody issues and deliberate upon a 2016 draft law prepared by the ministry– the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction Bill, 2016.

“The (committee) has to look into all aspects of the (Hague) Convention and figure out how to modify the treaty to address Indian concerns,” a ministry official said, adding that India was unlikely to sign the convention in its current form. The Hague Convention came into force in 1983 to ensure that any child ‘wrongfully’ removed or retained from the ‘habitual residence’ is returned. Under this, the burden of proof rests with the “abducting parent”, who is required to provide “clear and convincing evidence” of abuse of the child.

Countries like the USA and UK are signatories to the the convention. Though the Japanese government deliberated for years about signing the convention, it finally inked the pact in 2014 with a caveat that children exposed to adult domestic violence would be considered at “grave risk” in that country. This could set a precedent for India and other countries.

NRI women have opposed the convention saying that most of them have had to flee foreign lands to escape abuse and violence. The WCD committee member said that the panel was deliberating on certain terminologies like “child’s habitual residence” in the convention and seeking to redefine them in the Indian context.

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Mother’s arrest at D/FW Airport shows difficulties of international custody disputes


19 September , 2014

Source: DallasNews 

Like many divorces, Padmashini and Dean Drees’ breakup in 2004 was bitter.

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There were mutual allegations of abuse, suspicions of infidelity and a nasty fight over custody of the couple’s toddler son, Drew.

But when Padmashini Drees traveled with Drew to India seven years ago and didn’t return, the family’s problems reached the U.S. State Department and the FBI.

Though custody battles tend to be messy, international cases like the one involving the Dreeses can drag on for years. The U.S. Supreme Court has wrestled with at least two disputes since 2012. Clashing legal systems become hurdles for the parents.

The parent left behind has little recourse if a U.S. court order is not recognized in another country. The parent who takes the child abroad in violation of a custody order could face criminal prosecution should he or she ever return to U.S. soil.

The North Texas case appeared to have a movie-script ending July 9, when Dean Drees reunited with Drew, who is now 10. A McKinney police photo showed a smiling father embracing his son.

Officers arrested Padmashini Drees when her flight landed at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport. They accused her of abducting her son and put her in jail.

The case is not settled.

Padmashini Drees was released from the Collin County Jail on Sept. 2. Her felony charge of interference with child custody is pending. If convicted, she faces up to two years in state jail.

“Today, Padma has the option of making a comfortable life anywhere in the world,” said her attorney, Scott Mackenzie, in a written statement. “She has chosen to stay in the United States to fight for her son and get the justice that she truly deserves.”

Neither Padmashini Drees nor Dean Drees would speak with a reporter except through their lawyers.

The mother

Padmashini Drees’ life in the U.S. began in the early 2000s as her first marriage, an arranged union, crumbled, her attorney said.

Trained as an architect, she enrolled in a computer-aided design class where she met Dean Drees. The couple married in August 2003 and started a family in a middle-class neighborhood in McKinney.

Dean Drees filed for divorce in October 2004, nine months after Drew’s birth.

In 2006, a court in Collin County granted Padmashini and Dean Drees joint custody of Drew. It also set the boy’s primary residence with his father and ordered his mother to pay child support.

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Mackenzie said Padmashini Drees, a green-card holder, lived under her husband’s constant threats of deportation.

“In light of that, I can understand why she felt the need to run,” Mackenzie said.

Dean Drees’ attorney, Tiffany Haertling, denied the allegations. She lamented that Padmashini Drees “would choose to continue to inflict hurt and grief on an already unfortunate situation.”

Drew was about 3 years old when his mother took him overseas. They lived in India and also traveled to England, France, Switzerland, Italy, Indonesia and Thailand, according to a court document.

The father

Dean Drees told a Collin County court that he made “continuous efforts” to get his son back for the seven years he was away. He hired private investigator Danny Russell to track down Drew. Russell worked with federal agencies and others to locate the boy.

Dean Drees missed Drew “immensely” and was desperate to find him, Russell said.

“He was a very polite father who was fearful of the worst because he didn’t know what had happened to his son,” Russell said. “He had no contact.”

India is a haven for parental child abductions, said Jeremy Morley, a New York attorney and former co-chairman of the International Family Law Committee of the American Bar Association.

The Asian nation hasn’t signed the Hague Abduction Convention, a treaty that encourages the safe return of children taken from their home countries.

“There is no consistency in the approaches of the Indian courts in these cases,” Morley said, “and the Indian legal system is extremely slow and can be corrupt.”

The U.S. State Department reported 702 parental child abductions from the U.S. to another country in 2013. India accounted for 28 cases, trailing only Mexico and Canada.

Coming home

In December, Padmashini Drees restored Drew’s contact with Dean Drees through video chats. Dean Drees asked his ex-wife to come back with Drew so they could both parent the boy, Mackenzie said.

“Despite the warnings given to her by Indian authorities and other people … she kind of hoped Dean would have mercy on her and try to work with her,” the attorney said.

On July 16, a Collin County court suspended Padmashini Drees’ access to her son as part of the civil custody case.

Her legal team wants to resolve the felony case before pursuing visitation with Drew, Mackenzie said. Padmashini Drees has no intention of taking her son back to India, the attorney said.

Parents should seek proper legal advice instead of trying to resolve custody issues themselves, said Morley, the New York attorney.

“She took the law into her own hands,” he said of Padmashini Drees. “Now she’s paying the price.”

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Judge blocks Leicester woman’s holiday in India over child abduction fear


August 9 , 2014

Source: Leicester-mercury

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A mother has been forbidden from going on holiday by a judge after her ex-husband and father of her six-year-old son objected, saying he feared he might never see them again.

The woman, who is in her 30s, insisted she had absolutely no intention of abducting her British-born son and keeping him in India, where she was born.

However, Judge Clifford Bellamy has come down in favour of the father and banned the mother’s trip.

The father, also in his 30s, was born in Leicester and the mother has lived in the city for nine years since their arranged marriage.

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However, the mother is now living alone with her son.

The Family Court heard the father was engaged in a running battle with his ex-wife over contact with their little boy.

All three have UK passports.

The mother told Judge Bellamy she was desperate to take her son to India to meet his wider family and “explore his cultural roots”.

Denying any intention not to return to Britain, she said she no longer viewed India as her home.

The judge was told her son was doing well in an English school and that, for 18 months, she had been in a new relationship with a man who had a steady job in the UK.

He was also told that divorced single mothers were disapproved of in India.

However, Judge Bellamy said India had not signed up to the Hague Convention – which enshrines the international ban on child abduction.

If the mother failed to return to Britain with his son, the father would face a formidable challenge fighting his case through the Indian courts, the court heard.

Experts had reported that it was in the boy’s best interests, culturally and emotionally, to form a strong relationship with his father.

Despite her new relationship and her British citizenship, the mother had no family ties in the UK and spoke only broken English, the court was told.

Blocking her holiday plans, the judge said there was “a risk” that she might try to keep her son in India.

 

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Goldman Act bolsters fight for return of abducted children


August 5, 2014

Source: The Hub

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Capt. Paul Toland (from left), whose daughter was kidnapped in Japan; Bindu Philips, of Plainsboro, whose two sons were abducted to India; and David Goldman, whose son was abducted to Brazil and returned after a five-year ordeal, joined Rep. Chris Smith in calling for passage of the Goldman Act to help families who have been victimized by international abductions.

A bill empowering the U.S. State Department to aggressively pursue the return of internationally abducted children is headed to the president’s desk after being approved by Congress.

The Sean and David Goldman International Child Abduction Prevention and Return Act, the fourth bill of its kind introduced by U.S. Rep. Chris Smith (R-4), was drafted after Smith became involved with David Goldman’s fight to be reunited with his son, Sean.

According to Jeff Sagnip, the congressman’s press secretary, Goldman’s wife absconded with Sean from the family’s Tinton Falls home in June 2004, bringing him to Brazil when he was 4 years old without seeking custody of Sean or legally divorcing Goldman in a U.S. court.

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She subsequently died in childbirth, Sagnip said, and the Brazilian government held that her partner at the time of her death should maintain custody of Sean.

Brazil is a signatory of the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, but chose to ignore the policies outlined by the international agreement, Sagnip said.

“Previously, the State Department would say ‘… There’s nothing that we can do,” Sagnip said. “[For a parent] trying to get a foreign court to award custody, it’s very difficult and returns are rare.”

The Sean and David Goldman Act (H.R. 3212) would allow U.S. embassies to apply pressure in incremental phases to dissuade governments from ignoring international law and sheltering abductors.

“[This bill] provides a series of tools which vary in their severity, from mild to strong,” Sagnip said. “The State Department is able to start with a little pressure and then build the pressure [on foreign governments refusing to return abducted American children to their homes.]”

Those tools include a private diplomatic protest called a demarche, a public condemnation of the foreign government, the withholding of economic aid and, eventually, demands for the extradition of the abductor.

Goldman, who was reunited with his son after five years of heavy investment both financial and emotional, said the passage of the bill provides hope for parents facing the same struggle he did.

“It was a long road, nearly five years, thanks to a tremendous effort of Congressman Smith and his staff,” Goldman said. “It was a great thing to do. It was the right thing to do. It’s another step closer to reuniting families. Next step: the White House.”

For victims of international child abduction and their parents, Smith said the Sean and David Goldman Act represents a shift in U.S. policy that will benefit separated family members.

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“Many children and parents have tragically lost years separated from each other in violation of U.S. and international law,” Smith said. “They have missed birthdays, holidays, and family time that they can never get back. H.R. 3212 ensures that they will now receive significant help from the U.S. government in their fight to recover their children.”

According to Sagnip, the bill allows the State Department to use the leverage already at its disposal in international abduction cases — leverage that is invaluable to an individual parent who only has so many resources to expend.

“How can a parent in Rutherford, New Jersey … fight a battle that’s halfway across the world? How do they pay for it?” Sagnip said. “It’s a tremendous expense, it’s a tremendous undertaking, and this [bill] puts the State Department in their corner.”

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Builder refuses to pay extortion, gets shot at


June 1, 2013

Source: mid-day.com

In yet another incident of gangsters calling the shots from inside the jail, two unknown assailants, after allegedly receiving instructions from a gangster lodged in jail, fired at a city-based builder in Borivli (E) yesterday after he refused to bow down to the monetary demands.


A policeman inspects the bullet-riddled car. Four rounds were fired at 62-year-old developer Rajaram Manjawkar while he was on his way to work. He and his driver escaped unhurt. Pics/Nayan Shahane

The assailants fired four rounds at 62-year-old developer Rajaram Manjawkar while he was on his way to work, but he and his driver escaped unhurt. Police are treating the incident as an extortion case after the builder, who was implementing slum rehabilitation projects in the area, had received an extortion call from an unknown person wherein he stated he was calling on behalf of Yusuf Bachkana, an aide of Chhota Rajan, and threatened to kill him if he did not pay up.


Police officers conduct a panchnama at the turn where the incident occurred near Suvidya High School, Devi Pada in Borivli (E)

Bachkana, who was arrested in 1998 by DCP Ambadas Pote in a murder case, is presently lodged in a jail in Karnataka. According to Borivli police, the two assailants fired at the Manjawkar’s vehicle at 11 am near Suvidya High School, Devi Pada in Borivli (E). The incident took place just a stone’s throw (200 metres) from the builder’s apartment after he left his residence for his office. A resident of Sahyadri Complex, Manjawkar was travelling in a Skoda, driven by his driver Dinesh Mandarkar (39).

Warning shots?
Police said that when the vehicle was making a turn, the attackers who were waiting at the corner of the road showed up and sprayed bullets at the car. Two bullets hit the back windshield of the car, while there were two bullet holes on both sides of the vehicle’s back doors. Three spent shell casings and one cartridge were later found at the spot. “Based on the bullet shells, we believe that a pistol has been used in the attack. The assailants, however, managed to escape from the spot. And there is no CCTV coverage in the area,” said Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP) Mahesh Patil.

SRA project
Police said Manjawkar has developed five buildings under the SRA scheme, and on May 20, he received a phone call asking to make a payment. Cops, however, refused to divulge how much money was demanded. Soon after the call, a terrified Manjawkar had approached the Kasturba Marg police with a written complaint. The police were probing the complaint but no case was registered at the time.

One of the suspects arrested by the Kasturba Marg police is Parshuram Nalavde, who was serving a murder sentence in Nashik jail, but had recently come out on parole. Nalavde’s parole was to end on May 31. Police said that they would also question Bachkana.

Sunil Deshmukh, assistant commissioner of police (Dahisar division), said, “We are in the process of recording the victim’s statement and ascertaining if he is involved in any property disputes. We have registered a case under Section 307 of the IPC and relevant section of the Arms Act. We are also checking call details from Manjawkar’s mobile phone.”

Sunil Paraskar, additional commissioner (north region), said, “We have arrested Parshuram Nalavde (26), who was in Nashik jail after being convicted in 2008 for a murder by the Kasturba Marg police. We believe he has conspired with others to carry out the attack, as he knew certain things the extortionists had mentioned on phone to Manjawkar. We are searching for his other three associates.”

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