NRI couple - Decree of divorce granted by US Court - Joint custody of minor child given to couple - Wife brought the child to India, depriving joint custody to father - Supreme Court directed the wife to return to USA alongwith child

Supreme Court - NRI couple - Decree of divorce granted by U.S. Court - Joint custody of minor child given to couple - Wife brought the child to India, depriving joint custody to father - Supreme Court directed the wife to return to USA. alongwith child

SUPREME COURT OF INDIA

Before :- Tarun Chatterjee, R.M. Lodha and Dr. B.S. Chauhan, JJ.
Writ Petition (Crl.) No. 112/2007. D/d. 17.11.2009.

Dr. V. Ravi Chandran - Petitioner
Versus
Union of India & Ors. - Respondents


IMPORTANT
NRI couple - Decree of divorce granted by U.S. Court - Joint custody of minor child given to couple - Wife brought the child to India, depriving joint custody to father - Supreme Court directed the wife to return to U.S.A. alongwith child.

A. Hindu Minority and Guardianship Act, 1956, Section 13 - Constitution of India, Articles 32 and 226 - Custody of Child - NRI couple - Divorce granted by US Court - Joint custody of child given to the couple - Wife came to India bringing the child with her - Husband filed Writ of Habeas Corpus in Supreme Court of India claiming custody of child - Supreme Court directed wife to go back to America with the child -

    (1) Objection raised by wife that American Courts had no jurisdiction to pass the order concerning custody of child and such order cannot be executed in India Contention repelled as without any merit.
    (2) Due weight should be given to order of a foreign court as to the custody of child - Weight and persuasive effect of a foreign judgement must depend on the circumstances of each case.

B. Hindu Minority and Guardianship Act, 1956, Section 13 - Custody of Child - While dealing with a case of custody of child removed by a parent from one country to another in contravention to the orders of the court where parties had set up their matrimonial home - The court in the country to which child has been removed must consider the following :-

    (1) Whether court could conduct an elaborate enquiry on the question of custody or by dealing with the matter summarily order a parent to return custody of child to the country from which child was removed.
    (2) Court is bound to consider the welfare and happiness of the child as paramount consideration.
    (3) Court should give weight to the order of foreign court as to the custody of child - Weight and persuasive effect of a foreign judgment must depend on the circumstances of each case.
    (4) Where court decides to exercise its jurisdiction summarily to return the child to his own country - Keeping in view the jurisdiction of court in the native country, the court may leave the aspects relating to the welfare of the child to be investigated by the court in his own native country.

Cases referred :

In re B's Settlement, {1940} Ch. 54.
Mark T. Mc.Kee v. Eyelyn McKee, {1951} A.C. 352.
Harben v. Harben, {1957}1. W.L.R. 261.
Kernot v. Kernot, {1965} Ch. 217.
In re H. (Infants), (1966)1 W.L.R. 381 : (1966)1 All.E.R. 886.
In re. L (minors), (1974)1 All ER 913.
Smt. Surinder Kaur Sandhu v. Harbax Singh Sandhu, (1984)3 SCC 698.
Mrs. Elizabeth Dinshaw v. Arvand M. Dinshaw, (1987)1 SCC 42.
Re H. (infants) [(1966)1 All ER 886].
Dhanwanti Joshi v. Madhav Unde, 1998(1) RCR(Civil) 190 : (1998)1 SCC 112.
J v. C (1970 AC 668).
Khamis v. Khamis [(1978)4 Fam LR 410 (Full Court) (Aus)].
E. (an infant), Re [(1967)1 All ER 881].
L. (minors) (wardship : jurisdiction), Re [(1974)1 All ER 913, CA].
R. (minors) (wardship : jurisdiction), Re [(1981)2 FLR 416 (CA)].
Sarita Sharma v. Sushil Sharma, 2000(2) RCR(Criminal) 194 : 2000(2) RCR(Civil) 367 : (2000)3 SCC 14

JUDGMENT


R.M. Lodha, J. - Adithya is a boy of seven, born on July 1, 2002, in the United States of America. He is a foreign national. The petition before us is by the father - Dr. V. Ravi Chandran - praying for a writ of habeas corpus for the production of his minor son Adithya and for handing over the custody and his passport to him.
2. On August 28, 2009, this Court passed an order requesting Director, Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to trace minor Adithya and produce him before this Court. The necessity of such order arose as despite efforts made by the police officers and officials of different states, Adithya and his mother - respondent no. 6 - Vijayasree Voora - could not be traced and their whereabouts could not be found for more than two years since the notice was issued by this Court. In pursuance of the order dated August 28, 2009, CBI issued look out notices on all India basis through heads of police of States, Union Territories and Metropolitan Cities and also alert notices through Deputy Director, Bureau of Immigration (Immigration), Ministry of Home Affairs, New Delhi and flashed photographs of the child Adithya and his mother Vijayasree Voora. Ultimately with its earnest efforts, CBI traced Adithya and his mother Vijayashree Voora in Chennai on October 24, 2009 and brought them to Delhi and produced the child along with his mother at the residential office of one of us (Tarun Chatterjee, J.) on October 25, 2009. On that day, the CBI authorities were directed to keep the child under their custody and produce him before the Court on October 27, 2009. Respondent no. 6 was also directed to be produced on that date. On October 27, 2009, the matter was adjourned for November 4, 2009 since respondent no.6 wanted to engage a lawyer and file a counter affidavit. On November 4, 2009, matter was adjourned to November 10, 2009 and then to November 12, 2009. The petitioner was permitted to meet the child for one hour on November 10, 2009 and November 12, 2009. In the meanwhile, respondent no. 6 has filed counter affidavit in opposition to the habeas corpus petition and petitioner has filed rejoinder affidavit to the counter affidavit filed by respondent no. 6.
3. We heard Ms. Pinky Anand, learned senior counsel for the petitioner and Mr. T.L.V. Iyer, learned senior counsel for respondent no. 6. Now since minor Adithya has been produced, the only question that remains to be considered is with regard to the prayer made by the petitioner for handing over the custody of minor Adithya to him with his passport.
4. But before we do that, it is necessary to notice few material facts. Dr. V. Ravi Chandran - petitioner - is an American citizen. He and respondent no. 6 got married on December 14, 2000 at Tirupathi, Andhra Pradesh according to Hindu rites. On July 1, 2002, Adithya was born in United States of America. In the month of July 2003, respondent no. 6 approached the New York State Supreme Court for divorce and dissolution of marriage. A consent order governing the issues of custody and guardianship of minor Adithya was passed by the New York State Supreme Court on April 18, 2005. The Court granted joint custody of the child to the petitioner and respondent no. 6 and it was stipulated in the order to keep the other party informed about the whereabouts of the child. On July 28, 2005, a Separation Agreement was entered between the petitioner and respondent no.6 for distribution of marital property, spouse maintenance and child support. As regards custody of the minor son Adithya and parenting time, the petitioner and respondent no. 6 consented to the order dated April 18, 2005. On September 8, 2005, the marriage between the petitioner and respondent no.6 was dissolved by the New York State Supreme Court. Child custody order dated April 18, 2005 was incorporated in that order.
5. Upon the petition for modification of custody filed by the petitioner and the petition for enforcement filed by him and upon the petition for enforcement filed by respondent no.6 before the Family Court of the State of New York, on June 18, 2007, upon the consent of both parties, inter-alia, the following order came to be passed :
    "ORDERED, the parties shall share joint legal and physical custody of the minor child; and it is further
    ORDERED, that commencing during August 2007, Adithya shall reside in Allen, Texas; and it is further
    ORDERED, that the parties acknowledge that it is the intention of the parties to reside within the same community. As such, it is the mother's current intention to relocate to Texas, within a forty (40) mile radius of the father's residence. If the mother does relocate to a forty (40) mile radius of the father's residence (which shall be within a twenty (20) mile radius from the child's school), the parties shall equally share physical custody of Adithya. The parties shall alternate physical custody on a weekly basis, with the exchange being on Friday, at the end of the School day, or at the time when school would ordinarily let out in the event that there is no school on Friday; ................

    ......... ........... ............... ......... ..............
      ORDERED, that in the event that the mother does not relocate within forty (40) miles from the father's residence located in Allen, Texas (and within twenty (20) miles of Adithya's school), the mother shall have custodial time with the minor child, as follows :
      A. On Alternating weekends from Friday, at the end of the school day until Monday, prior to the beginning of school, commencing during the first week of September, 2007. Such periods of custodial time shall take place within forty (40) miles from the father's residence located in Allen, Texas. In the event that there is no school on the Friday of the mother's weekend, she shall have custodial time with the child beginning at 7.00 a.m. on Friday morning, and, in the event that there is no school on Monday of the mother's custodial weekend, she shall have custodial time until 5.00 p.m. on Monday, and
      B. For ten (10) consecutive days during Spring vacation from school; and
      C. For the entirety of the Christmas recess from School, except for Christmas Eve and Christmas day, which shall be with the father. In the event that the school recess is prior to Christmas Eve, the mother shall have the right to have custodial time during those recessed days to long as she produces the child at the father's residence for Christmas Eve and Christmas day; and
      D. During the following holidays :
      i) Mother's birthday, which is on April 25;
      ii) Mother's Day;
      iii) Hindu Festival of Diwali and Deepavali;
      iv) Adithya's birthday (July 1) in alternating years;
      v) Thanks giving in alternating years (so that the mother has custodial time during even - numbered years and the father has custodial time during odd - numbered years);
      vi) New Year's Day in alternating years (so that the mother has custodial time during even - numbered years and the father has custodial time during odd -numbered years) ;............
      ............. ................ ......... ......................
      ORDERED, that the parties shall share the summer recess from school so that the mother has custodial time for a total of up to fifty (50) days on a schedule so that each party has custodial time for 4 consecutive weeks, with the mother's custodial time commencing on the Monday following the final day of school..........
      ORDERED, for the summer of 2007, the mother shall have custodial time from June 18 until June 20; the father shall have custodial time from June 20 until June 24; the mother shall have custodial time from June 25 until July 1; the father shall have custodial time from July 1 until July 6; and the mother shall then have custodial time from July 6 until August 3 and she shall be solely responsible for transporting the child to the father's residence in Allen, Texas on August 3. The father shall have custodial time until the commencement of school. Thereafter the father shall continue to have custodial time until such time as the mother either a) returns from India and/or begins her alternating weekly schedule as set froth herein, or b) moves within 40 miles of the father's residence in Allen, Texas and commences her custodial time during alternating weeks;....................................
      ............... ................... ............. ..............
      ORDERED, that each party agrees that they shall provide the other parent with a phone number and address where the child will be located at all time, and that the other parent shall have reasonable and regular telephone communication with the minor child; and it is further
      ORDERED, that each party agrees to provide the other party with the child's passport during each custodial exchange of the minor child, and that each party shall sign and deliver to the other, whatever written authorization may be necessary for travel with the child within the Continental United States or broad;"..........................................
    6. On June 28, 2007 respondent no. 6 brought minor Adithya to India informing the petitioner that she would be residing with her parents in Chennai. On August 08, 2007, the petitioner filed the petition for modification (Custody) and Violation Petition (Custody) before the Family Court of the State of New York on which a show cause notice came to be issued to respondent no.6. On that very day, the petitioner was granted temporary sole legal and physical custody of Adithya and respondent no. 6 was directed to immediately turn over the minor child and his passport to the petitioner and further her custodial time with the minor child was suspended and it was ordered that the issue of custody of Adithya shall be heard in the jurisdiction of the United States Courts, specifically, the Albany County Family Court. 7. It transpires that the Family Court of the State of New York has issued child abuse non-bailable warrants against respondent no. 6. 8. In the backdrop of the aforenoticed facts, we have to consider - now since the child has been produced - what should be the appropriate order in the facts and circumstances keeping in mind the interest of the child and the orders of the courts of the country of which the child is a national. 9. In re B's Settlement, {1940} Ch. 54 Chancery Division was concerned with an application for custody by the father of an infant who had been made a ward of court. The father was a Belgian national and the mother a British national who took Belgian nationality on marriage to him. The infant was born in Belgium. The mother was granted a divorce by a judgment of the Court in Belgium, but the judgment was reversed and the father became entitled to custody by the common law of Belgium. The mother, who had gone to live in England, visited Belgium and was by arrangement given the custody of the infant for some days. She took him to England and did not return him. The infant had been living with mother in England for nearly two years. The father began divorce proceedings in Belgium, and the Court appointed him guardian. Pending the proceedings, the Court gave him the custody and ordered the mother to return the infant within twenty-four hours of service of the order on her. She did not return the infant. The Correctional Court in Brussels fined her for disobedience and sentenced her to imprisonment should the fine be not paid. The Correctional Court also confirmed the custody order. In the backdrop of these facts, the summons taken out by the father that custody of the infant be given to him came up before Morton, J. who after hearing the parties and in view of the provisions of the Guardianship of Infants Act, 1925 observed thus:
      "...At the moment my feeling is very strong that, even assuming in the father's favour that there is nothing in his character or habits which would render him unfitted to have the custody of the child, the welfare of the child requires, in all the circumstances as they exist, that he should remain in England for the time being..............................
      In the present case the position is that nearly two years ago, when the child was already in England, an interlocutory order was made by the Divorce Court in Belgium giving the custody of the child to the father I do not know how far, if at all, the matter was considered on the footing of what was best for the child at that time, or whether it was regarded as a matter of course that the father, being the guardian by the common law of Belgium and the applicant in the divorce proceedings and the only parent in Belgium, should be given the custody. I cannot regard that order as rendering it in any way improper or contrary to the comity of nations if I now consider, when the boy has been in this country for nearly two years, what is in the best interests of the boy. I do not think it would be right for the Court, exercising its jurisdiction over a ward who is in this country, although he is a Belgian national, blindly to follow the order made in Belgium on October 5, 1937. I think the present case differs from Nugent v. Vetzera {FN10}, the case that was before Page Wood V.C., and it is to be observed that even in that case, and in the special circumstances of that case, the Vice-Chancellor guarded himself against anything like abdication of the control of this Court over its wards. It does not appear what the Vice-Chancellor's view would have been if there had been evidence, for example, that it would be most detrimental to the health and well-being of the children if they were removed from England and sent to Austria.................................
      ........I ought to give due weight to any views formed by the Courts of the country whereof the infant is a national. But I desire to say quite plainly that in my view this Court is bound in every case, without exception, to treat the welfare of its ward as being the first and paramount consideration, whatever orders may have been made by the Courts of any other country.".................. ..................
    10. In Mark T. Mc.Kee v. Eyelyn McKee, {1951} A.C. 352 the Privy Council was concerned with an appeal from the Supreme Court of Canada. That was a case where the parents of the infant were American citizens. They were married in America and to whom a son was born in California in July 1940. They separated in December 1940 and on September 4, 1941, executed an agreement which provided, inter-alia, that neither of them should remove the child out of the United States without the written permission of the other. By a judgment of December 17, 1942, in divorce proceedings before the Superior Court of the State of California, the custody of the child was awarded to the father. On August 1, 1945, following applications by the father and the mother, the previous order as to custody was modified to provide full custody of the child to the mother with right of reasonable visitation to the father. Thereafter, and without the consent or knowledge of the mother, the father went from the United States of America with the child into the Province of Ontario. The mother thereupon instituted habeas corpus proceedings in the Supreme Court of Ontario seeking to have the child delivered to her. Wells, J., before whom the matter came held that infant's best interests would be served in the custody of his father. The Court of Appeal for Ontario dismissed the appeal preferred by the mother. However, the Supreme Court of Canada by majority judgment allowed the appeal of the mother and set aside the order of custody of child to the father. On appeal from the Supreme Court of Canada at the instance of the father, the Privy Council held as follows :
      "..........For, after reaffirming "the well established general rule that in all questions relating to the custody of an infant the paramount consideration is the welfare of the infant", he observed that no case had been referred to which established the proposition that, where the facts were such as he found them to exist in the case, the salient features of which have been stated, a parent by the simple expedient of taking the child with him across the border into Ontario for the sole purpose of avoiding obedience to the judgment of the court, whose jurisdiction he himself invoked, becomes "entitled as of right to have the whole question retried in our courts and to have them reach a anew and independent judgment as to what is best for the infant". and it is, in effect, because he held that the father had no such right that the judge allowed the appeal of the mother, and that the Supreme Court made the order already referred to. But with great respect to the judge, this was not the question which had to be determined. It is possible that a case might arise in which it appeared to a court, before which the question of custody of an infant came, that it was in the best interests of that infant that it should not look beyond the circumstances in which its jurisdiction was invoked and for that reason give effect to the foreign judgment without further inquiry. But it is the negation of the proposition, from which every judgment in this case has proceeded, namely, that the infant's welfare is the paramount consideration, to say that where the trial judge has in his discretion thought fit not to take the drastic course above indicated, but to examine all the circumstances and form an independent judgment, his decision ought for that reason to be overruled. Once it is conceded that the court of Ontario had jurisdiction to entertain the question of custody and that it need not blindly follow an order made by a foreign court, the consequence cannot be escaped that it must form an independent judgment on the question, though in doing so it will give proper weight to the foreign judgment. What is the proper weight will depend on the circumstances of each case. It may be that, if the matter comes before the court of Ontario within a very short time of the foreign judgment and there is no new circumstance to be considered, the weight may be so great that such an order as the Supreme Court made in this case could be justified. But if so, it would be not because the court of Ontario, having assumed jurisdiction, then abdicated it, but because in the exercise of its jurisdiction it determined what was for the benefit of the infant.
      It cannot be ignored that such consequences might follow as are suggested by Cartwright, J. The disappointed parent might meet stratagem by stratagem and, taking the child into the Province of Manitoba, invoke the protection of its courts, whose duty it would then be to determine the question of custody. That is a consideration which, with others, must be weighed by the trial judge. It is not, perhaps, a consideration which in the present case should have weighed heavily.
      It has been said that the weight or persuasive effect of a foreign judgment must depend on the circumstances of each case. In the present case there was ample reason for the trial judge, in the first place, forming the opinion that he should not take the drastic course of following it without independent inquiry and, in the second place, coming to a different conclusion as to what was for the infant's benefit."...................................
    11. The aforesaid two cases came up for consideration in Harben v. Harben, {1957}1. W.L.R. 261 wherein Sachs J. observed as follows :
      "It has always been the practice of this court to ensure that a parent should not gain advantage by the use of fraud or force in relation to the kidnapping of children from the care of the other spouse, save perhaps where there is some quite overwhelming reason in the children's interest why the status quo should not be restored by the court before deciding further issues. In the present case I am concerned with three young children, two of whom are girls and the youngest is aged only three. It is a particularly wicked thing to snatch such children from the care of a mother, and, in saying that, I have in mind not merely the mother's position but the harm that can be done to the children. No affidavit of the husband tendering either his regrets or any vestige of excuse for his action has been proffered. Further, as I have already mentioned, when first I asked Mr. Syms what was the nature of the case which he might wish to make, if so minded, for depriving these children of a mother's care, he only spoke of her association with a certain man and never suggested that she had in any way whatsoever failed to look after the children properly."
    12. In Kernot v. Kernot, {1965} Ch. 217, the facts were thus: In May 1961, the plaintiff mother, an Italian lady, married an English man in Italy where both were residents. A boy was born there on March 29, 1962. On October 19, 1963, they obtained in Italian Court a separation order by consent providing therein that custody of the child would remain with father, with rights of access to the mother . On October 29, 1963, the father brought the infant to England with intention to make England his home. The mother commenced wardship proceedings in which she brought a motion for an order that the father return the infant to her in Italy. She also prayed for restraint order against him from taking the infant out of her care. Buckley, J. in these facts held thus :
      "So that even where a foreign court has made an order on the merits - which is not the present case, because the only order which has been made was a consent order without any investigation of the merits by the Italian court - that domestic court before whom the matter comes (the Ontario court in the case to which I have just referred, or this court in the case before me) is bound to consider what is in the best interests of the infant; and although the order of the foreign court will be attended to as one of the circumstances to be taken into account it is not conclusive one way or the other. How much stronger must the duty of this court be to entertain the case where the foreign court has not made any order based on any investigation of the case on its merits."
    13. In re H. (Infants), (1966)1 W.L.R. 381 : (1966)1 All.E.R. 886 the Court of Appeal was concerned with two American boys whose divorced parents were both citizens of United States of America. On December 11, 1964, the Supreme Court of New York State made a consent order directing that the two boys whose custody had been given to the mother should be maintained in her apartment in New York and not be removed from a 50 miles' radius of Peekskill without the prior written consent of the father. However, the mother in March 1965 brought these boys to England and bought a house for herself and children in June 1965. On June 15, 1965, the New York Court ordered the children to be returned to New York. The mother started wardship proceedings in the English court. The father took out motion asking the mother that the two children should be delivered into his care, that he should be at liberty to convey them to New York and that the wardship of the children should be discharged. The Trial Judge held that the justice of the case required the children to be returned without delay to the jurisdiction of the New York court, so that the question of where and with whom they should live might be decided as soon as possible by that court. The mother appealed to the Court of Appeal. Willmer L.J. and Harman L.J. by their separate judgments affirmed the view of the Trial Judge and held that the proper order was to send these two boys back to their State of New York, where they belong (and where the Supreme Court is already seized of their case), and more especially so having regard to the fact that they have been kept in flagrant contempt of New York Court's order. Willmer L.J. agreed with the remark of Cross J. where he said :
      "The sudden and unauthorized removal of children from one country to another is far too frequent nowadays, and as it seems to me it is the duty of all courts in all countries to do all they can to ensure that the wrongdoer does not gain an advantage by his wrongdoing."
      Willmer L.J. went on to hold :
      "The judge took the view (and I think it was the right view) that in a case such as the present it was not necessary to go into all the disputed questions between the parents, but that he ought to send these boys back to their own country to be dealt with by the court of their own country, provided that he was satisfied (as he was satisfied, having seen the father himself, and having had the benefit of the view expressed on behalf of the Official Solicitor) that they would come to no harm if the father took them back to the United States; and that this was so, even though it might subsequently turn out, after all the merits of the case had been thoroughly thrashed out in the court in New York, that it would perhaps be better after all for the boys to reside in England and see little or nothing of their father."
      Harman L.J. in his separate judgment held thus :
      ".......But if he chose to take the course which the judge here took in the interests of the children , as he thought, of sending them back to the United States with no more inquiry into the matter than to ensure, so far as he could, that there was no danger to their moral or physical health in taking that course, I am of opinion that he was amply justified, and that that was the right way in which to approach the issue.
      These children had been the subject of an order (it is true made by consent) made in the courts of their own country in December, 1964. It was only three months later that the mother flouted that order, deceived her own advisers and deceived the court , and brought the children here with the object of taking them right out of their father's life and depriving him altogether of their society. The interval is so short that it seems to me that the court inevitably was bound to view the matter through those spectacles; that is to say, that the order having been made so shortly before, and there being no difference in the circumstances in the three months which had elapsed, there was no justification for the course which the mother had taken, and that she was not entitled to seek to bolster her own wrong by seeking the assistance of this court in perpetuating that position, and seeking to change the situation to the father's disadvantage."
    14. In re. L (minors), (1974)1 All ER 913 the Court of Appeal was concerned with the custody of the foreign children who were removed from foreign jurisdiction by one parent. That was a case where a German national domiciled and resident in Germany married an English woman. Their matrimonial home was Germany and the two children were born out of the wedlock and brought up in Germany. The lady became unhappy in her married life and in August, 1972, she brought her children to England with an intention of permanently establishing herself and the children in England. She obtained residential employment in the school in England and the children were accommodated at the school. The children not having returned to Germany, the father came to England to find them. On October 25, 1972, the mother issued an originating summons making them wards of court. The trial judge found that the children should be brought up by their mother and treating the case as a 'kidnapping' class of case, approached the matter by observing that in such a case where the children were foreign children, who had moved in a foreign home, their life should continue in what were their natural surroundings, unless it appeared to the court that it would be harmful to the children if they were returned. He concluded that in view of the arrangements which their father could make for them, the children would not be harmed by being returned. He, accordingly, ordered that they be returned to Germany and that they remain in their father's custody until further order. The mother appealed, contending that in every case the welfare of the child was the first and paramount consideration and that the welfare of the children would be best served by staying with their mother in England. Buckley, LJ in his detailed consideration of the matter, wherein he referred to the aforenoticed decisions and few other decisions as well, held as follows :
      ".......Where the court has embarked on a full-scale investigation of that facts, the applicable principles, in my view, do not differ from those which apply to any other wardship case. The action of one party in kidnapping the child is doubtless one of the circumstances to be taken into account, any may be a circumstance of great weight; the weight to be attributed to it must depend on the circumstances of the particular case. The court may conclude that notwithstanding the conduct of the 'kidnapper' the child should remain in his or her care (McKee v. McKee, Re E (an infant) and Re. T.A. (infants), where the order was merely interim); or it may conclude that the child should be returned to his or her native country or the jurisdiction from which he or she has been removed. Where a court makes a summary order for the return of a child to a foreign country without investigating the merits, the same principles, in my judgment apply, but the decision must be justified on somewhat different grounds.
      .......... ............... ........... ...............
      The judge may well be persuaded that it would be better for the child that those merits should be investigated in a court in his native country than that he should spend in this country the period which must necessarily elapse before all the evidence can be assembled for adjudication here. Anyone who has had experience of the exercise of this delicate jurisdiction knows what complications can result from a child developing roots in new soil, and what conflicts this can occasion in the child's own life. Such roots can grow rapidly. An order that the child should be returned forthwith to the country from which he has been removed in the expectation that any dispute about his custody will be satisfactorily resolved in the courts of that country may well be regarded as being in the best interests of the child......"
    15. In re. L. (minors), the Court of Appeal has made a distinction between cases, where the court considers the facts and fully investigates the merits of a dispute, in a wardship matter in which the welfare of the child concerned is not the only consideration but is the first and paramount consideration, and cases where the court do not embark on a full-scale investigation of the facts and make a summary order for the return of a child to a foreign country without investigating the merits. In this regard, Buckley, L.J. noticed what was indicated by the Privy Council in McKee v. McKee2 that there may be cases in which it is proper for a court in one jurisdiction to make an order directing that a child be returned to a foreign jurisdiction without investigating the merits of the dispute relating to the care of the child on the ground that such an order is in the best interest of the child. 16. This Court in Smt. Surinder Kaur Sandhu v. Harbax Singh Sandhu and Another, (1984)3 SCC 698 was concerned with the custody of a child - British citizen by birth - to the parents of Indian citizens, who after their marriage settled in England. The child was removed by the husband from the house when the wife was in the factory where she was working and brought him to India. The wife obtained an order under Section 41 (English) Supreme Court Act, 1981 whereby the husband was directed to handover the custody of the boy to her. The said order was later on confirmed by the High Court in England. The wife then came to India and filed a writ petition under Article 226 in the High Court praying for production and custody of the child. The High Court dismissed her writ petition against which the wife appealed before this Court. Y.V. Chandrachud, C.J. (as he then was) speaking for the Court held thus :
      "The modern theory of Conflict of Laws recognises and, in any event, prefers the jurisdiction of the State which has the most intimate contact with the issues arising in the case. Jurisdiction is not attracted by the operation or creation of fortuitous circumstances such as the circumstance as to where the child, whose custody is in issue, is brought or for the time being lodged. To allow the assumption of jurisdiction by another State in such circumstances will only result in encouraging forum-shopping. Ordinarily, jurisdiction must follow upon functional lines. That is to say, for example, that in matters relating to matrimony and custody, the law of that place must govern which has the closest concern with the well-being of the spouses and the welfare of the offsprings of marriage. The spouses in this case had made England their home where this boy was born to them. The father cannot deprive the English Court of its jurisdiction to decide upon his custody by removing him to India, not in the normal movement of the matrimonial home but, by an act which was gravely detrimental to the peace of that home. The fact that the matrimonial home of the spouses was in England, establishes sufficient contacts or ties with that State in order to make it reasonable and just for the courts of that State to assume jurisdiction to enforce obligations which were incurred therein by the spouses. (See International Shoe Company v. State of Washington which was not a matrimonial case but which is regarded as the fountainhead of the subsequent developments of jurisdictional issues like the one involved in the instant case.) It is our duty and function to protect the wife against the burden of litigating in an inconvenient forum which she and her husband had left voluntarily in order to make their living in England, where they gave birth to this unfortunate boy."
    17. In Mrs. Elizabeth Dinshaw v. Arvand M. Dinshaw and Another, (1987)1 SCC 42 this Court held that it was the duty of courts in all countries to see that a parent doing wrong by removing children out of the country does not gain any advantage by his or her wrongdoing. In para 9 of the report, this Court considered the decision of the Court of Appeal in re H.5 and approved the same in the following words :
      "9. In Re H. (infants) [(1966)1 All ER 886] the Court of Appeal in England had occasion to consider a somewhat similar question. That case concerned the abduction to England of two minor boys who were American citizens. The father was a natural- born American citizen and the mother, though of Scottish origin, had been resident for 20 years in the United States of America. They were divorced in 1953 by a decree in Mexico, which embodied provisions entrusting the custody of the two boys to the mother with liberal access to the father. By an amendment made in that order in December 1964, a provision was incorporated that the boys should reside at all times in the State of New York and should at all times be under the control and jurisdiction of the State of New York. In March 1965, the mother removed the boys to England, without having obtained the approval of the New York court, and without having consulted the father; she purchased a house in England with the intention of remaining there permanently and of cutting off all contacts with the father. She ignored an order made in June 1965, by the Supreme Court of New York State to return the boys there. On a motion on notice given by the father in the Chancery Division of the Court in England, the trial Judge Cross, J. directed that since the children were American children and the American court was the proper court to decide the issue of custody, and as it was the duty of courts in all countries to see that a parent doing wrong by removing children out of their country did not gain any advantage by his or her wrongdoing, the court without going into the merits of the question as to where and with whom the children should live, would order that the children should go back to America. In the appeal filed against the said judgment in the Court of Appeal, Willmer, L.J. while dismissing the appeal extracted with approval the following passage from the judgment of Cross, J. [(1965) 3 All ER at p. 912. (Ed. : Source of the second quoted para could not be traced.)] :
      "The sudden and unauthorised removal of children from one country to another is far too frequent nowadays, and as it seems to me, it is the duty of all courts in all countries to do all they can to ensure that the wrongdoer does not gain an advantage by his wrongdoing.
      The courts in all countries ought, as I see it, to be careful not to do anything to encourage this tendency. This substitution of self-help for due process of law in this field can only harm the interests of wards generally, and a Judge should, as I see it, pay regard to the orders of the proper foreign court unless he is satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that to do so would inflict serious harm on the child."
      10. With respect we are in complete agreement with the aforesaid enunciation of the principles of law to be applied by the courts in situations such as this."
    18. In the case of Dhanwanti Joshi v. Madhav Unde, 1998(1) RCR(Civil) 190 : (1998)1 SCC 112 this Court was again concerned with the matter relating to removal of a child from one country to another contrary to custody order of the court from where the child was removed. This court considered English decisions, inter alia, McKee v. McKee2 and H. (infants), re.5 and also noticed the decision of this Court in Mrs. Elizabeth Dinshaw8 and observed as follows :
      "28. The leading case in this behalf is the one rendered by the Privy Council in 1951, in McKee v. McKee [(1951) AC 352]. In that case, the parties, who were American citizens, were married in USA in 1933 and lived there till December 1946. But they had separated in December 1940. On 17-12-1941, a decree of divorce was passed in USA and custody of the child was given to the father and later varied in favour of the mother. At that stage, the father took away the child to Canada. In habeas corpus proceedings by the mother, though initially the decisions of lower courts went against her, the Supreme Court of Canada gave her custody but the said Court held that the father could not have the question of custody retried in Canada once the question was adjudicated in favour of the mother in the USA earlier. On appeal to the Privy Council, Lord Simonds held that in proceedings relating to custody before the Canadian Court, the welfare and happiness of the infant was of paramount consideration and the order of a foreign court in USA as to his custody can be given due weight in the circumstances of the case, but such an order of a foreign court was only one of the facts which must be taken into consideration. It was further held that it was the duty of the Canadian Court to form an independent judgment on the merits of the matter in regard to the welfare of the child. The order of the foreign court in US would yield to the welfare of the child. "Comity of courts demanded not its enforcement, but its grave consideration". This case arising from Canada which lays down the law for Canada and U.K. has been consistently followed in latter cases. This view was reiterated by the House of Lords in J v. C (1970 AC 668). This is the law also in USA (see 24 American Jurisprudence, para 1001) and Australia. (See Khamis v. Khamis [(1978)4 Fam LR 410 (Full Court) (Aus)].
      29. However, there is an apparent contradiction between the above view and the one expressed in H. (infants), Re [(1966)1 All ER 886] and in E. (an infant), Re [(1967)1 All ER 881] to the effect that the court in the country to which the child is removed will send back the child to the country from which the child has been removed. This apparent conflict was explained and resolved by the Court of Appeal in 1974 in L. (minors) (wardship : jurisdiction), Re [(1974)1 All ER 913, CA] and in R. (minors) (wardship : jurisdiction), Re [(1981)2 FLR 416 (CA)]. It was held by the Court of Appeal in L., Re [(1974) 1 All ER 913, CA] that the view in McKee v. McKee [1951 A.C. 352 : (1951) All ER 942] is still the correct view and that the limited question which arose in the latter decisions was whether the court in the country to which the child was removed could conduct (a) a summary inquiry or (b) an elaborate inquiry on the question of custody. In the case of (a) a summary inquiry, the court would return custody to the country from which the child was removed unless such return could be shown to be harmful to the child. In the case of (b) an elaborate inquiry, the court could go into the merits as to where the permanent welfare lay and ignore the order of the foreign court or treat the fact of removal of the child from another country as only one of the circumstances. The crucial question as to whether the Court (in the country to which the child is removed) would exercise the summary or elaborate procedure is to be determined according to the child's welfare. The summary jurisdiction to return the child is invoked, for example, if the child had been removed from its native land and removed to another country where, maybe, his native language is not spoken, or the child gets divorced from the social customs and contacts to which he has been accustomed, or if its education in his native land is interrupted and the child is being subjected to a foreign system of education, - for these are all acts which could psychologically disturb the child. Again the summary jurisdiction is exercised only if the court to which the child has been removed is moved promptly and quickly, for in that event, the Judge may well be persuaded that it would be better for the child that those merits should be investigated in a court in his native country on the expectation that an early decision in the native country could be in the interests of the child before the child could develop roots in the country to which he had been removed. Alternatively, the said court might think of conducting an elaborate inquiry on merits and have regard to the other facts of the case and the time that has lapsed after the removal of the child and consider if it would be in the interests of the child not to have it returned to the country from which it had been removed. In that event, the unauthorised removal of the child from the native country would not come in the way of the court in the country to which the child has been removed, to ignore the removal and independently consider whether the sending back of the child to its native country would be in the paramount interests of the child. (See Rayden & Jackson, 15th Edn., 1988, pp. 1477-79; Bromley, Family law, 7th Edn., 1987.) In R. (minors) (wardship : jurisdiction), Re [(1981) 2 FLR 416 (CA)] it has been firmly held that the concept of forum conveniens has no place in wardship jurisdiction.
      30. We may here state that this Court in Elizabeth Dinshaw v. Arvand M. Dinshaw [(1987)1 SCC 42 : 1987 SCC(Crl.) 13] while dealing with a child removed by the father from USA contrary to the custody orders of the US Court directed that the child be sent back to USA to the mother not only because of the principle of comity but also because, on facts, - which were independently considered - it was in the interests of the child to be sent back to the native State. There the removal of the child by the father and the mother's application in India were within six months. In that context, this Court referred to H. (infants), Re which case, as pointed out by us above has been explained in L. Re as a case where the Court thought it fit to exercise its summary jurisdiction in the interests of the child. Be that as it may, the general principles laid down in McKee v. McKee and J v. C and the distinction between summary and elaborate inquiries as stated in L. (infants), Re are today well settled in UK, Canada, Australia and the USA. The same principles apply in our country. Therefore nothing precludes the Indian courts from considering the question on merits, having regard to the delay from 1984 - even assuming that the earlier orders passed in India do not operate as constructive res judicata."
    However, in view of the fact that the child had lived with his mother in India for nearly twelve years, this Court held that it would not exercise a summary jurisdiction to return the child to United States of America on the ground that its removal from USA in 1984 was contrary to orders of U.S. Courts. It was also held that whenever a question arises before a court pertaining to the custody of a minor child, matter is to be decided not on considerations of the legal rights of the parties but on the sole and predominant criterion of what would best serve the interest of the minor. 19. In the case of Sarita Sharma v. Sushil Sharma, 2000(2) RCR(Criminal) 194 : 2000(2) RCR(Civil) 367 : (2000)3 SCC 14 this Court was seized with a matter where the mother had removed the children from U.S.A. despite the order of the American Court. It was held :
      "6. Therefore, it will not be proper to be guided entirely by the fact that the appellant Sarita had removed the children from U.S.A. despite the order of the Court of that country. So also, in view of the facts and circumstances of the case, the decree passed by the American Court though a relevant factor, cannot override the consideration of welfare of the minor children. We have already stated earlier that in U.S.A. respondent Sushil is staying along with his mother aged about 80 years. There is no one else in the family. The respondent appears to be in the habit of taking excessive alcohol. Though it is true that both the children have American citizenship and there is a possibility that in U.S.A they may be able to get better education, it is doubtful if the respondent will be in a position to take proper care of the children when they are so young. Out of them, one is a female child. She is aged about 5 years. Ordinarily, a female child should be allowed to remain with the mother so that she can be properly looked after. It is also not desirable that two children are separated from each other. If a female child has to stay with the mother, it will be in the interest of both the children that they both stay with the mother. Here in India also proper care of the children is taken and they are at present studying in good schools. We have not found the appellant wanting in taking proper care of the children. Both the children have a desire to stay with the mother. At the same time it must be said that the son, who is elder then the daughter, has good feelings for his father also. Considering all the aspects relating to the welfare of the children, we are of the opinion that in spite of the order passed by the Court in U.S.A. it was not proper for the High Court to have allowed the habeas corpus writ petition and directed the appellant to hand over custody of the children to the respondent and permit him to take them away to U.S.A. What would be in the interest of the children requires a full and thorough inquiry and, therefore, the High Court should have directed the respondent to initiate appropriate proceedings in which such an inquiry can be held. Still there is some possibility of the mother returning to U.S.A. in the interest of the children. Therefore, we do not desire to say anything more regarding entitlement of the custody of the children. The chances of the appellant returning to U.S.A. with the children would depend upon the joint efforts of the appellant and the respondent to get the arrest warrant cancelled by explaining to the Court in U.S.A. the circumstances under which she had left U.S.A. with the children without taking permission of the Court. There is a possibility that both of them may thereafter be able to approach the Court which passed the decree to suitably modify the order with respect to the custody of the children and visitation rights."
    20. While dealing with a case of custody of a child removed by a parent from one country to another in contravention to the orders of the court where the parties had set up their matrimonial home, the court in the country to which child has been removed must first consider the question whether the court could conduct an elaborate enquiry on the question of custody or by dealing with the matter summarily order a parent to return custody of the child to the country from which the child was removed and all aspects relating to child's welfare be investigated in a court in his own country. Should the court take a view that an elaborate enquiry is necessary, obviously the court is bound to consider the welfare and happiness of the child as the paramount consideration and go into all relevant aspects of welfare of child including stability and security, loving and understanding care and guidance and full development of the child's character, personality and talents. While doing so, the order of a foreign court as to his custody may be given due weight; the weight and persuasive effect of a foreign judgment must depend on the circumstances of each case. However, in a case where the court decides to exercise its jurisdiction summarily to return the child to his own country, keeping in view the jurisdiction of the Court in the native country which has the closest concern and the most intimate contact with the issues arising in the case, the court may leave the aspects relating to the welfare of the child to be investigated by the court in his own native country as that could be in the best interest of the child. The indication given in McKee v. McKee that there may be cases in which it is proper for a court in one jurisdiction to make an order directing that a child be returned to a foreign jurisdiction without investigating the merits of the dispute relating to the care of the child on the ground that such an order is in the best interest of the child has been explained in re. L (minors)6 and the said view has been approved by this Court in Dhanwanti Joshi9. Similar view taken by the Court of Appeal in re. H5 has been approved by this Court in Elizabeth Dinshaw8. 21. Do the facts and circumstances of the present case warrant an elaborate enquiry into the question of custody of minor Adithya and should the parties be relegated to the said procedure before appropriate forum in this country in this regard? In our judgment, this is not required. Admittedly, Adithya is an American citizen, born and brought up in United States of America. He has spent his initial years there. The natural habitat of Adithya is in United States of America. As a matter of fact, keeping in view the welfare and happiness of the child and in his best interest, the parties have obtained series of consent orders concerning his custody/parenting rights, maintenance etc. from the competent courts of jurisdiction in America. Initially, on April 18, 2005, a consent order governing the issues of custody and guardianship of minor Adithya was passed by the New York State Supreme Court whereunder the court granted joint custody of the child to the petitioner and respondent no. 6 and it was stipulated in the order to keep the other party informed about the whereabouts of the child. In a separation agreement entered into between the parties on July 28, 2005, the consent order dated April 18, 2005 regarding custody of minor son Adithya continued. In September 8, 2005 order whereby the marriage between the petitioner and respondent no. 6 was dissolved by the New York State Supreme Court, again the child custody order dated April 18, 2005 was incorporated. Then the petitioner and respondent no. 6 agreed for modification of the custody order and, accordingly, the Family Court of the State of New York on June 18, 2007 ordered that the parties shall share joint legal and physical custody of the minor Adithya and, in this regard, a comprehensive arrangement in respect of the custody of the child has been made. The fact that all orders concerning the custody of the minor child Adithya have been passed by American courts by consent of the parties shows that the objections raised by respondent no. 6 in counter affidavit about deprivation of basic rights of the child by the petitioner in the past; failure of petitioner to give medication to the child; denial of education to the minor child; deprivation of stable environment to the minor child; and child abuse are hollow and without any substance. The objection raised by the respondent no. 6 in the counter affidavit that the American courts which passed the order/decree had no jurisdiction and being inconsistent to Indian laws cannot be executed in India also prima facie does not seem to have any merit since despite the fact that the respondent no. 6 has been staying in India for more than two years, she has not pursued any legal proceeding for the sole custody of the minor Adithya or for declaration that the orders passed by the American courts concerning the custody of minor child Adithya are null and void and without jurisdiction. Rather it transpires from the counter affidavit that initially respondent no. 6 initiated the proceedings under Guardianship and Wards Act but later on withdrew the same. The facts and circumstances noticed above leave no manner of doubt that merely because the child has been brought to India by respondent no. 6, the custody issue concerning minor child Adithya does not deserve to be gone into by the courts in India and it would be in accord with principles of comity as well as on facts to return the child back to the United States of America from where he has been removed and enable the parties to establish the case before the courts in the native State of the child, i.e. United States of America for modification of the existing custody orders. There is nothing on record which may even remotely suggest that it would be harmful for the child to be returned to his native country. 22. It is true that child Adithya has been in India for almost two years since he was removed by the mother - respondent no. 6 - contrary to the custody orders of the U.S. court passed by consent of the parties. It is also true that one of the factors to be kept in mind in exercise of summary jurisdiction in the interest of child is that application for custody/return of the child is made promptly and quickly after the child has been removed. This is so because any delay may result in child developing roots in the country to which he has been removed. From the counter affidavit that has been filed by respondent no. 6, it is apparent that in last two years child Adithya did not have education at one place. He has moved from one school to another. He was admitted in school at Dehradun by respondent no. 6 but then removed within few months. In the month of June, 2009, the child has been admitted in some school at Chennai. As a matter of fact, the minor child Adithya and respondent no. 6 could not be traced and their whereabouts could not be found for more than two years since the notice was issued by this Court. The respondent no. 6 and the child has been moving from one State to another. The parents of respondent no. 6 have filed an affidavit before this Court denying any knowledge or awareness of the whereabouts of respondent no. 6 and minor child Adithya ever since they left in September, 2007. In these circumstances, there has been no occasion for the child developing roots in this country. Moreover, the present habeas corpus petition has been filed by the petitioner promptly and without any delay, but since the respondent no. 6 has been moving from one State to another and her whereabouts were not known, the notice could not be served and child could not be produced for more than two years. 23. In a case such as the present one, we are satisfied that return of minor Adithya to United States of America, for the time being, from where he has been removed and brought here would be in the best interest of the child and also such order is justified in view of the assurances given by the petitioner that he would bear all the traveling expenses and make living arrangements for respondent no. 6 in the United Sates of America till the necessary orders are passed by the competent court; that the petitioner would comply with the custody/parenting rights as per consent order dated June 18, 2007 till such time as the competent court in United States of America takes a further decision; that the petitioner will request that the warrants against respondent no. 6 be dropped; that the petitioner will not file or pursue any criminal charges for violation by respondent no. 6 of the consent order in the United States of America and that if any application is filed by respondent no. 6 in the competent court in United States of America, the petitioner shall cooperate in expeditious hearing of such application. The petitioner has also stated that he has obtained confirmation from Martha Hunt Elementary School, Murphy, Texas, 75094, that minor son Adithya will be admitted to school forthwith. 24. The learned Senior Counsel for respondent no. 6 sought to raise an objection regarding the maintainability of habeas corpus petition under Article 32 of the Constitution before this Court but we are not persuaded to accept the same. Suffice it to say that in the peculiar facts and circumstances of the case which have already been noticed above and the order that we intend to pass, invocation of jurisdiction of this Court under Article 32 cannot be said to be inappropriate. 25. We record our appreciation for the work done by the concerned officers/officials of CBI in tracing the minor child Adithya and producing him in less than two months of the order passed by this Court, although, the Police Officers and Officials of different States failed in tracing the child Adithya and respondent no. 6 for more than two years. But for the earnest efforts on the part of the CBI authorities, it would not have been possible for this Court to hear and decide this habeas corpus petition involving the sensitive issue concerning a child of seven years who is a foreign national. 26. In the result and for the reasons stated, we pass the following order :
      (i) The respondent no. 6 shall act as per the consent order dated June 18, 2007 passed by the Family Court of the State of New York till such time any further order is passed on the petition that may be moved by the parties henceforth and, accordingly, she will take the child Adithya of her own to the United States of America within fifteen days from today and report to that court.
      (ii) The petitioner shall bear all the traveling expenses of the respondent no. 6 and minor child Adithya and make arrangements for the residence of respondent no. 6 in the United States of America till further orders are passed by the competent court.
      (iii) The petitioner shall request the authorities that the warrants against respondent no. 6 be dropped. He shall not file or pursue any criminal charges for violation by respondent no. 6 of the consent order in the United States of America.
      (iv) The respondent no. 6 shall furnish her address and contact number in India to the CBI authorities and also inform them in advance the date and flight details of her departure along with child Adithya for United States of America.
      (v) In the event of respondent no. 6 not taking the child Adithya of her own to United States of America within fifteen days from today, child Adithya with his passport shall be restored to the custody of the petitioner to be taken to United States of America. The child will be a ward of the concerned court that passed the consent order dated June 18, 2007. It will be open to respondent no. 6 to move that court for a review of the custody of the child, if so advised.
      (vi) The parties shall bear their own costs.
    Order accordingly.
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