If you all had watched a recent viral video of child custody battle from Nepal – where both side parents were fighting over their minor daughter – here is an update on the same.
The father Karan Goel (Indian origin) and minor daughter Meher Goel are both US Citizens. Mother Kanika Goel (Indian origin) is a Green Card Holder. After few years of child’s birth, mother returned to India with her and filed several cases against her husband.
The matter is subjudice, and thus we refrain from taking any position in this case. However, since every story has two sides, Men’s Day Out is putting out the matter from both angles. The article will also highlight why India has still not been a signatory to the Hague Convention on Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction.
First lets understand the recent matter in India
On April 22, 2022, the Delhi High Court directed the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to take steps for issuance of a red corner notice against Karan who has taken his minor daughter Meher to Nepal violating the conditions imposed by the court.
A division bench of Justice Siddharth Mridul and Justice Rajnish Bhatnagar issued the direction to the agency to take steps for issuance red corner notice against Karan who is currently said to be in Nepal, reported ANI.
The bench also directed Karan to produce the minor school-going daughter of the petitioner before the court on the next date of the hearing.
On March 28, 2022, the High Court granted interim custody of the child to the father. The Court had directed him to deposit his and his mother Jasleen’s passport with the Registrar General. The Court had directed him to collect the passports from the court after the child is returned to his mother Kanika Goel on April 24, 2022. Instead, they had taken the child to Nepal.
A petition of habeas corpus had been filed on Sunday, April 17, 2022, through Advocate Ramakant Sharma. The Advocate Malvika Rajkotia, Counsel for the petitioner, had submitted that Karan Goel and Jasleen Goel have taken the child to Nepal by road and they are trying to go to the USA.
After hearing the submission, the vacation bench directed Delhi Police to register FIR. An FIR for kidnapping too has been registered. The Court had also issued notices to Karan Goel, Jasleen Goel, Central Bureau of Investigation and Central Government.
The issue pertaining to the custody right is pending before the court. The Supreme Court of India 2017 had directed to decide the issue.
While the mother is pursuing cases in India, US Citizen father has objected to the jurisdiction, as he had already won custody of the daughter in the US Court earlier.
In the same matter, last month, couple of twitter verified journalists posted a video of an unpleasant fight between these parents, allegedly videogrpahed in Nepal.
Initially, Anand Singh, a journalist who works for The New Indian news portal, posted the video and tweeted,
An Indian mother trying to take custody of her 8 yr old daughter, who was abducted from Delhi to Nepal and from there being taken to US, with assistance of 3 US citizens. Case already filed at IGI PS in Delhi on instructions of HC on March 17. @TheNewIndian_in @IndiaInNepal
An Indian mother trying to take custody of her 8 yr old daughter, who was abducted from Delhi to Nepal and from there being taken to US, with assidtance of 3 US citizens. Case already filed at IGI PS in Delhi on instructions of HC on March 17. @TheNewIndian_in @IndiaInNepal 1/n pic.twitter.com/vWZUQeUHte— Anand Singh (@Anand_Journ) April 19, 2022
The journalist also emphasised how the girl was “Clearly saying love you mummy”. He tweeted,
See how the girl is clearly saying love you mummy. As no of ppl questioned, so the video is here.
See how the girl is clearly saying love you mummy. As no of ppl questioned, so the video is here. https://t.co/FTsTln4wVD pic.twitter.com/BpBLXXYRRo— Anand Singh (@Anand_Journ) April 21, 2022
Later, Singh also tweeted,
4 days after 8 yr old Mehar Kaur was kidnapped from Delhi and smuggled to Nepal by her father who is a US citizen, Interpol issues Yellow Notice. Delhi Police registered a case on Delhi HC orders for kidnapping. @TheNewIndian_in @AartiTikoo @IndiaInNepal @SherBDeuba @USAndIndia
4 days after 8 yr old Mehar Kaur was kidnapped from Delhi and smuggled to Nepal by her father who is a US citizen, Interpol issues Yellow Notice. Delhi Police registered a case on Delhi HC orders for kidnapping. @TheNewIndian_in @AartiTikoo @IndiaInNepal @SherBDeuba @USAndIndia https://t.co/FTsTln4wVD pic.twitter.com/ILszT6bzfN— Anand Singh (@Anand_Journ) April 21, 2022
Another Journalist, Aditya Raj Kaul, who works for TV9 Network, also posted the video and wrote:
Shocking! Indian mother fighting to get her 8 year old daughter who was kidnapped by US Citizen father from Delhi to Nepal without any legal document. Hope EAM @DrSJaishankar intervenes. Poor Kid screaming to go with her Ma, yet seen forcefully cornered.
Shocking! Indian mother fighting to get her 8 year old daughter who was kidnapped by US Citizen father from Delhi to Nepal without any legal document. Hope EAM @DrSJaishankar intervenes. Poor Kid screaming to go with her Ma, yet seen forcefully cornered. pic.twitter.com/IVsVOp37MJ— Aditya Raj Kaul (@AdityaRajKaul) April 21, 2022
Several Men’s Rights Activists posted endless tweets to both journalists asking them to post entire matter right from the case in US, however, in vain.
Media must be unbiased towards either parties, especially in sensitive cases where children are involved and in our opinion it may be totally wrong to create reactions on social media by posting 1-min video. Nonetheless, benefit of doubt could be given to them, that they were unable to contact any sources from the other side.
Now, while Indian media was publishing orders issued by Indian Courts, US media published the Other Side, where the mother and her accomplice had allegedly assaulted US Embassy Staff in Nepal. The article quoted:
Following five years of orders from the Circuit Court of Cook County, Illinois demanding the return of an abducted American child, Meher Goel, to her father and sole legal custodian in Chicago, the Nepal Supreme Court is expected to decide her fate at an official hearing in Kathmandu next week. On Saturday, April 16, when the girl’s father, Karan Goel, had visitation with his abducted daughter in India, he crossed the border to Nepal and traveled directly to the U.S. Embassy in Kathmandu.
The American Embassy swiftly issued a passport for Meher because the father is her sole guardian, as appointed by the Illinois court. When U.S. officials accompanied Karan and Meher to the Nepal Immigration Department on Tuesday, April 19 to obtain an immigration stamp for Meher, the girl’s mother and several men and women physically assaulted the U.S. Embassy personnel who escorted the family into the immigration office. U.S. Embassy staff was repeatedly stricken with blows and injured and Karan was bitten on the arm.
Karan Goel and his daughter are now in hiding with the support of U.S. diplomatic security provided by the U.S. Embassy in Kathmandu, which has intervened to provide assistance to the family. At the upcoming hearing, the Supreme Court of Nepal will decide whether to deport the girl to her country of citizenship, the U.S., or to India where she has no legal status. Meher Goel is a natural-born U.S. citizen born in Chicago, Illinois. Following her abduction, the child has lived as an illegal migrant in India for five years, after the expiration of her Indian tourist five years ago, and the expiration of her U.S. passport three years ago.
You can read the entire article by US Media by clicking here.
Now, in a recent update dated May 3, 2022, Jared Genser, Human Rights Lawyer representing the father, posted a US Court order, reaffirming that Karan Goel had the legal custody of daughter Meher. Genser, while posting the order also shared how the court in US issued an injunction barring mother Kanika Goel from blocking daughter’s return to United States. Genser wrote,
Yesterday, the #Illinois family court in #MeherGoel’s case declared the situation an #emergency, reaffirmed #KaranGoel has legal custody of his daughter, and issued an injunction barring #KanikaGoel from blocking Meher’s return to the #UnitedStates from #Nepal.
Yesterday, the #Illinois family court in #MeherGoel’s case declared the situation an #emergency, reaffirmed #KaranGoel has legal custody of his daughter, and issued an injunction barring #KanikaGoel from blocking Meher’s return to the #UnitedStates from #Nepal. pic.twitter.com/RXKKP7b01P— Jared Genser (@JaredGenser) May 3, 2022
Genser further added,
Only #Illinois has had jurisdiction on this case-for 5 years! Karan never agreed to #India. Kanika’s lawyers know this. That is why lots them attended Monday’s virtual hearing in Chicago! This is India’s record on returning #abducted #American kids from @StateDept @kapilchopra72
Only #Illinois has had jurisdiction on this case-for 5 years! Karan never agreed to #India. Kanika’s lawyers know this. That is why lots them attended Monday’s virtual hearing in Chicago! This is India’s record on returning #abducted #American kids from @StateDept. @kapilchopra72 pic.twitter.com/2Guu26HpvI— Jared Genser (@JaredGenser) May 4, 2022
The matter has been posted for May 11, 2022 at the Illinois Court in the US.
Now, it is very important for all social media users to understand the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspect of International Child Abduction (1980) that pertains to moving children from their country of residence to India by one parent, without the approval of the other.
The Convention of 25 October 1980 on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction (HCCH 1980 Child Abduction Convention) is a multilateral treaty, which seeks to protect children from the harmful effects of wrongful removal and retention across international boundaries by providing a procedure to bring about their prompt return and ensuring the protection of rights of access.
The “Child Abduction Section” provides information about the operation of the Convention and the work of the Hague Conference in monitoring its implementation and promoting international co-operation in the area of child abduction.
Around 90 countries are signatories to the convention that protects children under 16 from “wrongful removal or retention” by a parent. It also mandates that the country to which the parent flees with the child has to send back both to the child’s “habitual place of residence”.
India is not a signatory to the Convention and it does not have a law or a judicial forum to treat parental abduction as an offence or to register a complaint, therefore it becomes a battle of custody.
As per a report by Hindustan Times in 2018, there has been a steady rise in parental abductions as more and more Indians go abroad to work or study. Children bear the brunt of parents’ marital disputes and are often forced to return to India by one of the quarrelling parents. In most cases, it is the mother who returns with the child.
Modi Government Junked Inter-Parental Child Abduction Bill
Despite international pressure, then Women and Child Development minister Maneka Gandhi refused to become party to the Bill on inter-parental child abduction that deals with child custody issues for Non-Resident Indian (NRI) couples, and which could have paved the way for India’s accession to the Hague Convention. In November 2016, a senior WCD ministry official said,
We are very clear that we are not signing the Hague Convention. This is a decision collectively arrived at by the women and child development (WCD) ministry, ministry of external affairs (MEA) and the ministry of home affairs (MHA).
WCD Minister Maneka Gandhi then expressed apprehension over acceding to the Convention at several forums, primarily on two grounds— that taking such a decision will not be in the interest of aggrieved women and because the government maintains that there are fewer instances of Indian children being abducted and taken abroad.
At one of the events she had said,
Personally, in the beginning, when I was new, I thought we should join the Convention because we get protection. But with time and after interacting with women who have been abandoned by their husbands abroad, had their passports snatched from them, been beaten up, and have somehow scraped the money and are in terrible fear, I wonder whether we should join or not.
Signing the Hague convention on civil aspects of international child abduction would be against the interest of women who flee bad marriages, they said.
Speaking with Men’s Day Out, Rakesh Kapoor, Co-Founder: BambooTree Children’s Foundation gave an insight to the matter and shared,
To protect children caught in inter-country custody battles, more than 90 countries signed the Hague Convention (1980) which essentially states that country where the children habitually reside will have the jurisdiction to adjudicate on child custody disputes and member countries shall return the children to their country of origin or habitual residence forthwith.
Law Commission of India vide its 218th report (dated March, 2009 – Need to accede to the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, 1980) and again vide its 263rd report (dated October, 2016) recommended that India should sign the Hague convention.
However, surprisingly, in 2017 Ministry of Women & Child Welfare (MoWCD) decided to formulate a committee (Rajesh Bindal Committee) to re-look at it and within a short time submitted a report with a recommendation to not sign Hague Convention.
The primary reason given for not signing the report was that mostly it is Indian origin mothers escaping domestic violence who ‘abduct’ their children and therefore it is not appropriate to send these children back. Unfortunately, Rajesh Bindal Committee’s report suffered from 3 glaring omissions / errors:
- Most domestic violence allegations have been found to be untrue and made with oblique motive to harass or gain an upper hand.
- Even if the allegations have some substance, the alleged incidents of domestic abuse would have taken place in the host country or the country from where the child is abducted. Therefore, it stands to reason that only law enforcement authorities of that country can possibly investigate the same, summon witnesses or collect evidence. The sham of an investigation by Indian law enforcement agencies is such cases only serve to increase acquittal rates and delay adjudication.
- The committee lost sight of cardinal principle that best interests and welfare of the child is of paramount importance and not rights of parents. Jurisdictions across the world have categorically concluded that abduction, contact-blocking and false allegations of abuse are typical tools or strategies used by a parent to alienate the child, a phenomenon known as “Parental Alienation”, which leads to outcomes worse than sexual or physical abuse of children.
MDO: To put it in simpler words for our readers:
- Indian origin parents reside in a foreign country after marriage and acquire a new citizenship
- A child is born to them who becomes citizen of that foreign country by birth
- If there is any matrimonial dispute, one of the parents (often the mother), returns to India on pretext of family holiday and does not go back to the country of child’s residence
- After spending 6-months in India, the parent who has abducted the child, files several cases in Indian courts, which are admitted and the parent left back in the foreign country is expected to be party to the Indian Court trial, that goes on for several years
- As rightly pointed out by Dr Kapoor above, the alleged cases of Domestic Violence happen in a foreign country, however, Indian courts by admitting the case, expect Indian Police Officers to investigate the matter that never happened in India
- By the time, any final verdict is given by the court, child has been totally alienated from non-custodial parent
Note: MDO totally believes in following the law of the land and hopes that a solution can be worked out in the best interest of children.
Leave your thoughts below, at a macro level, why India should sign the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspect of International Child Abduction (1980).
Karan Goel Child Custody Case (Nepal) | US Court Affirms Legal Custody Of Minor Daughter To Father— Men’s Day Out (@MensDayOutIndia) May 6, 2022
▪️@JaredGenser: US Court issues injunction barring Mother from blocking daughter's return from Nepal
▪️Must Read: Hague Convention Intl Child Abductionhttps://t.co/oEUGp9u9MX
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