Lockdown has not just hampered professional commitments, but also impacted personal equations, especially when children are living with separated parents. Physical visitation has taken a break due to lockdown guidelines. The Supreme Court on Thursday directed that couples may resort to electronic means for ensuring contact of children with the parent who does not reside with them.
Therefore, all the parents having visitation rights can now avail electronic visitations via Video Calls etc. instead of Physical Visitations during this period.
The order was passed in a PIL filed by Dr Tanuj Dhawan, Assistant Professor with University of Delhi, who raised concerns regarding the Mental Health of Children due to impossibility of maintaining contact with their parents having due visitation rights. Dr Dhawan told court,
Many couples who are either separated or divorced are having Visitation Rights for their children from court but due to movement restrictions they are unable to exercise same which would cause serious concerns over the mental well being of the child concerned.
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The petitioner had also submitted that,
The issue of mental health amid lockdown is amongst the important aspects in this unprecedented situation due to this many NGOs and Mental Health institutions have been acting round the clock, needless to say the Psychological changes which would be observed during and post pandemic period amongst people since this scenario has created lot of anxiety and depression in the society, especially children.
Based on his representation, the Supreme Court bench of Justice NV Ramana, Justice SK Kaul and Justice BR Gavai agreed to convert Physical Visitations into Electronic visitations during these times. The order read,
The grievance of the petitioner is that because of lockdown, the children are unable to interact with their parents even though they have visitation rights for the purpose. If they have visitation rights, we suggest that electronic contact instead of physical visits can be substituted in these times.
The parties can arrive at a mutually acceptable arrangements in this behalf. If there is an aggrieved party, the same can approach the Family Court.
The matter was accordingly disposed of.
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‘Mutually acceptable’ is an open ended phrase in the order, since many separated fathers have been complaining of no response on calls/messages by separated women, deliberately cutting off ties between the father and his children. While the order can be comforting at a legal level, practically, it still remains a challenge for several men to get access to their own children during the lockdown period.
Do check out the conversation below by Amit Lakhani, President – Men Welfare Trust with Dr Dhawan with regards to today’s Supreme Court order.
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