The children had been brought to India on the pretext of attending social functions but never taken back.
An NRI couple’s acrimonious custody battle over their children came to an end this week when the Gujarat high court ruled that the father should take their three children back to the mother in New Zealand before March 25.
The father, who had been living in New Zealand since 2002, had brought the children to India on false pretences of attending social functions, enrolled them in Indian boarding schools and refused to take them back to their mother, despite an order issued by a New Zealand High Court.
According to case information available, the couple had married in India in 2010 after which his wife joined her husband in New Zealand and they were soon blessed with a son. The husband brought the child to India in 2015 for a family function but did not take him back.
Thereafter the couple had twins who were also taken away by the father to India in 2017. He entrusted his mother and sister with the children’s upbringing. Meanwhile, his wife kept begging to have her children back, but he refused. In fact, he enrolled the kids in a boarding school at Mehsana in Gujarat.
The mother tried her best to meet her children but never succeeded. She even approached a local court for help, but her application was rejected on the grounds that there was nothing illegal with regards to the children being in the custody of their grandmother and aunt.
In 2018, the hapless woman came to know that her husband had returned to New Zealand, so she followed him there. In a desperate bid to get her kids back, she moved the New Zealand high court. The court ruling that followed next year, ordered the father to return the children to New Zealand, declaring that their removal and retention in India was completely illegal and wrong.
Despite this ruling, the father decided not to heed the Court order and continued to keep the children in India, away from their mother and got them admitted in a Bengaluru boarding school. The woman finally approached the Gujarat High Court in 2020 and sought custody of her children.
Much to the mother’s relief, after so many years of struggle, the court order has gone in her favour and she can finally get her children back with her.
“Children would need both the parents and while spouses can cease to act as husband and wife, they cannot cease to be parents ever,” the High Court observed.
It has ordered the father to take the children to New Zealand within eight weeks or arrange for their return by providing air tickets. Additionally, the children’s custody needs to be handed over to the mother in the presence of a barrister appointed by the New Zealand High Court. The father has been told to disclose all details of travel, and once the children reach New Zealand, he has been instructed to follow the New Zealand High Court’s order regarding visitation and custody.
He has been ordered to take the children there before March 25. If, however, he does not furnish travel details to his wife’s lawyer, it will be assumed that he has no intention of travelling and in that case, handing over of custody to the mother will have to take place in the presence of the Gujarat High Court registrar (judicial) by February 25.
The High Court has also said that the mother, if she wishes, can come down to India to take custody but the father would have to bear the expenses. Further, the court added that if the mother wants, she could also appoint a trusted person to take the children back to New Zealand.