India: 18 month old in parental custody tussle


HYDERABAD: An 18-month-old boy is caught in a bitter custodial battle that is being played out in US and Indian courts.
The father Naga Raja Rao M (36), an engineer, approached courts in US after his wife returned to Warangal with their boy Kireeti. The US court even issued warrants against his wife Pooja Peetha (32), who has approached the judiciary here to retain custody of the boy. The battle between the parents is nowhere near resolution considering divergent laws and protocols in the US and India.

India has not yet signed the Hague Convention, 1980 which provides for the sending back of children between signatory countries. Owing to this, the orders of the US courts on parental custody are not binding in India, and vice-versa. If India signs the Convention on the Civil Aspects of Rights of International Child Abduction, the case will have to be heard in the country where the child is born.

Problems started when Pooja came to India on September 30, 2014 and sent a mail to the US court saying that she had filed a divorce case and that though her son was born in Georgia, he was an Indian by origin (PIO card holder), Hindu by religion and was governed by the Hindu Minor Guardian Act.

Pooja, a resident of Balasamudram, Hanamkonda, Warangal, approached a family court in Warangal and got custody of the child but ‘subject to orders in the US court’ on February 4, 2016.

Rao, for his part, initiated civil action in the Superior Court of Spalding County, State of Georgia, which passed an order on June 23, 2016. The court issued a warrant for the arrest of Pooja for ‘willfully and intentionally’ retaining the minor child in India. In a letter to Pooja, the court said, “a Spalding Court Grant Jury has indicted you on felony charges. There are two active warrants for your arrest. In an effort to resolve the matter without criminal extradition I would implore you to consider negotiations regarding your son’s custody and visiting rights.”

A resident of Panjagutta, Rao who now lives in the US has written a letter to Union minister of women and child development Maneka Gandhi to solve the parental ‘abduction case’. “I look forward to your intervention in helping restore my child and wife,” he said in the letter on January 27, 2017.

The US Department of State in response to Rao said it had submitted to the Indian government an application for Kireeti’s return. It further stated that US embassy officials are in regular contact with Indian officials.
The US court issued warrants against his wife who has approached the judiciary in India to retain custody of the baby boy

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