Bill to curb parental abduction


August 14, 2016

Source: www.telegraphindia.com

One day two years ago, my wife left for India taking our two-year-old son. I’m now fighting a long court battle for custody in India.

– A US-based Indian father to The Telegraph

Cheerful Rural Indian Children

Cheerful Rural Indian Children

New Delhi, July 29: A bill the government is drafting makes it an offence for a parent to take her child away from his overseas home without her spouse’s consent and retain him in India without custody rights.

After the bill is passed, a parent accused of such “abduction” will not be able to get an Indian court to grant her custody of the child. Instead, the child will be sent back to his home abroad.

For years, the US and several other countries had prodded India to sign the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction of 1980, which requires child custody cases to be adjudicated in the country of the child’s “habitual residence”.

New Delhi had resisted, saying such a law would force abused Indian wives abroad to stay on in such relationships rather than flee.

Officials in the women and child development ministry said the proposed bill, whose draft has been sent to related ministries for their opinion, would try to treat such abused women with sympathy.

Although India has not signed the Hague Convention, the UN Convention on Child Rights, which it has signed, says child abduction in any form must be prevented.

“In the absence of a domestic law so far, a parent who managed to get the child to India got the child’s custody,” a ministry official said.

The Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction Bill, 2016, applies to children under 16 who have been “wrongfully removed to or retained in other State (country) which is not his/her habitual residence”.

It mandates the formation of a central authority, with the powers of a civil court, with which complaints can be lodged in lieu of a court and which can decide all such cases.

“The law will not say which parent should have custody. It will return the child if he has been found to be wrongfully brought and retained in India. Then legal proceedings in that country will continue,” the official said.

The bill will not provide penal provisions against the parent found to have abducted the child. But the errant parent must bear the expenses incurred by the central authority to locate the child, the legal costs of the litigating parent, and the expenditures in returning the child.

The ministry had been in undated with complaints from Indian fathers and mothers based abroad whose spouses had brought their children to India by force or without their knowledge.

Recently, a petition begun by Bring Our Kids Home, or BOKH — a coalition of such parents in the US — requested Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Barack Obama to sign a bilateral agreement on the subject.

BOKH says India is among the top five countries for international parent-child abductions, with 173 such kidnappings between 2010 and 2014.

The draft of the bill was prepared after Punjab and Haryana High Court asked the ministry and the Law Commission to examine the issue. The law panel recommended that India frame a domestic law and sign the Hague Convention.

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Parents of abducted kids seek justice from US President Barack Obama


April 20, 2016

Source: oneindia.com

Washington, Apr 20: Parents of abducted kids, including Indian-Americans, will converge in the US capital this week to meet lawmakers and hold a candle light vigil near the White House to seek justice for their children some of whom are allegedly taken to India following their kidnapping.
Obama-White-House
Parent-led groups ‘Bring Our Kids Home’ and ‘Coalition to Stop International Parental Child Abduction’ will reach out to lawmakers to advocate the US and foreign governments, including that of India, to address the growing issue of International Parental Child Abductions, a report said.
Each year over 1,000 cases of American children abducted to other nations are reported and many more go unreported. “India is the top non-Hague signatory destination of child abductions from the United States and top three overall from the US,” the report said yesterday.
Last year, the US State Department cited India as one of the 22 nations showing patterns of non-cooperation in resolution of child abduction cases originating from America. “This is the second year we will be participating in advocacy efforts along with other parent groups from all over the United States,” said Ravi Parmar, one of the parents whose kid has been abducted to India. “We want to impress upon our governments that parental child abduction is not a ‘child custody’ issue, and just because a parent wrongfully removes their children from the United States, it does not make it right,” he said. “India does not recognise parental child abduction as a crime, despite decades of evidence that show the detrimental impact on victimised children and left behind families, children rights groups, and legal experts urging India to do so,” he added.
The coalition will conduct a Congressional briefing for on April 20, urging legislative changes to address gaps in the US laws and enhancing Congressional oversight on key Federal agencies, including the US Justice Department for its failure to fully implement the International Parental Child Kidnapping Crime Act, which makes parental child abduction a federal felony.
Later in the evening, the parent-led coalition will hold a Candle Light Vigil at the White House, to urge Obama to intervene and seek cooperation from nations, including India, who have shown patterns of non-cooperation in return of abducted American children, the statement said. On April 22, Bring Our Kids Home will join other coalition partners on the 3rd annual Embassy Walk in Washington, DC for a peaceful march to protest the lack of concerted action by foreign governments where US children have been abducted to.
It will also meet with Indian embassy officials to discuss updates since their last meeting in November 2015 and make a humanitarian appeal to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, requesting urgent action to give left behind parents in the US access to their abducted children in India.

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Indian-American mother seeks return of her abducted children


March 30, 2015

Source: timesofindia

Recounting her heartrending tale of woe, an Indian-American mother turned to US lawmakers for help to get back her two children allegedly abducted to India by her ex-husband six years ago.

Parental_Abduction_India

“Help me to make my voice heard in a way that shall be meaningful and allow me to be reunited with my children who need the love and nurturing of their mother,” said Bindu Philips testifying before a House panel with a few other parents of abducted children.

A subcommittee of the House Foreign Affairs committee was reviewing Obama Administration’s implementation of the Goldman Act to Return abducted American Children at a hearing last week.

Besides lobbying on the Capitol Hill to make their case, about 25 parents of abducted children representing five organizations also held a candlelight vigil before the White House.

India Political Maps

“Tragically, my world and that of my innocent children, was violently disrupted by my ex-husband, Sunil Jacob in December of 2008,” said Philips, a mother of twin boys, Albert Philip Jacob and Alfred William Jacob, both 14 now.

Accusing Jacob of orchestrating the kidnapping of the children during a vacation to India, she told the panel: “On reaching India I was not only physically and emotionally abused by my ex-husband but also by his parents.”

She was not only “very cruelly separated from my children” but also not allowed to see or communicate with them after her husband transferred them to another school with strict orders not to let the mother or any of the maternal relatives see them.

“Unable to communicate with the children,” Philips returned to the US in April, 2009 to find their residence in Plainsboro, New Jersey, stripped of everything by her ex-husband’s friends “leaving me with not even a single photograph of my children.”

In Dec 2009, the Superior Court Family Part in New Jersey, “not only granted me sole custody of the children” but also “demanded their immediate return to the US,” said Philips.

In turn, her ex-husband filed for custody of the children in Indian Courts after the US child custody was filed, Philips alleged. The case is currently pending in the Supreme Court of India.

“My children have lost 6 years of their mother’s love and care and I have lost 6 years of my children’s childhood that neither of us can ever get back,” she said imploring “the Congress to assist me in righting the wrongs that have been done to the children and me.”

Susan Jacobs, Special Advisor for Children’s Issues at the State Department, told the panel the US was committed to finding a viable solution for resolving each and every abduction case.

It was also committed to advocate for membership in the international treaty on the issue, and to create safeguards that will minimise the occurrence of international parental child abduction, she said.

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U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry quizzed on child abductions to India


March 1, 2015

Source: Thehindu.com

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry faced sharp questions on Capitol Hill this week on international child abductions to India, with lawmakers asking him whether he had brought up the subject with Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his recent visit to New Delhi.

U.S. Secretary of State Kerry speaks about the Ukraine crisis after his meetings with other foreign ministers in Paris

“Did you raise child abduction with an emphasis on specific cases, like Bindu Philips, when you met with [Mr.] Modi in early January? What was Mr. Modi’s response,” Republican Congressman Chris Smith of New Jersey asked, referring to a long-running abduction case here involving an Indian-American family.

An account of the hearing on Capitol Hill on Wednesday noted that Mr. Kerry replied that as a matter of course, he regularly raised cases of “missing Americans,” although he reportedly did not directly comment on the Philips case.

However, Mr. Kerry said: “We have a caseload of about a thousand international parental abduction cases, and we are trying to expand the Hague abduction convention to efforts throughout the world.” “We have approximately 75 professionals who are full-time, assisting parents with respect to this horrendous plight that they face,” he added.

International child abductions re-entered the spotlight a few months ago when President Barack Obama signed the Sean and David Goldman International Child Abduction Prevention and Return Act. The law authorises the State Department to take a series of calibrated measures against India or any other country that does not facilitate the prompt return of an American child held there. The focus of this debate on India was spurred on by cases such as that of Ms. Philips, who has won custody of her twin sons in U.S. courts, though the Indian justice system has not seen fit to send them back to the U.S. from the custody of her father, Sunil Jacob, who allegedly took them to India in 2008 during a bitter divorce.

In July last, another major case involving India was in the spotlight, when U.S. authorities arrested Padmashini Devi Drees as soon as she landed in the country after allegedly fleeing the U.S. in 2006 with her son, Drew Drees, after divorcing his father Dean Drees.

A few years ago, Congressman Smith had described India as “a source of immense frustration and grief for American parents” and said “Although Indian courts make Hague-like decisions to return some children, returns are at best uneven,” and parents attempting to utilise India’s courts for the return of abducted children reported corruption and incessant delays.

The State Department’s website highlights the fact that India is not party to the 1983 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction and also not a U.S. Treaty Partner under the convention.

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