Bombay HC rules in favour of woman 'confined' to home for week by in-laws, separated from her children

On 12 March, the Bombay High Court ruled in favour of a woman who was allegedly confined to her matrimonial home for almost a week with no food, no access to outsiders, had her SIM card blocked and was separated from her children. The order was passed in response to a Habeas Corpus writ petition filed by the woman's cousin. The petition was filed on 7 March and the court took cognisance of it on the next day —  International Women's Day — 8 March. The high court passed the order on 12 March.

Rachna Doshi, married to industrialist and diamantaire Vishal Doshi of Shrenuj and Co, is a Belgian citizen and is an Overseas Citizen of India (OCI); her parents live in Antwerp in Belgium.

Bombay HC rules in favour of woman confined to home for week by in-laws, separated from her children

File image of the Bombay High Court. CNN-News18

Rachna married Vishal in 2003 and became parents of two children: Aman (born in 2010) and Aria (born in 2014).

In 2016, Vishal and his firm Shrenuj and Co were found guilty of racketeering and were charged with defaulting and diversion of funds. According to a report by Live Mint, Bank of India approached the bankruptcy court stating Shrenuj and Co owed them Rs 226 crore. In addition, 17 lenders gave the century-old company — among the first diamond houses that went public in 1989 — Rs 1,113 crore.

Over the years, seeing her husband involved in criminal and fraudulent activities, Rachna felt concern for her and her children's future, as per the filed in the Bombay High Court. Her concern and unease regarding the type of business Vishal and his family were in led to marital discord, as per the petition. "Rachna was reminded that she was married into the Doshi family and that they would expect her to put up with whatever they did, demanded and treated her badly if she wanted to be with the children," as per the petition. This continued till 2018 until their families intervened and both Vishal and Rachna signed a Memorandum of Understanding on 8 September, 2018, as per the petition.

On 17 October, it was reported that ICICI Bank's New York branch filed a lawsuit against Shrenuj and Co accusing them of defaulting $12 million under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization (RICO) Act.

The situation turned grave when on 1 March, 2019, when Rachna's children left their home with Vishal on a tour to Tadoba National Park for a five-day trip. Rachna also went out with her friends for a weekend getaway. While returning from her trip, she received a message from Vishal stating that the latter had filed a petition for divorce and that he is suing for custody of their children. Upon returning to her house (at a building named Neelamber in Mumbai's posh Dr Gopalrao Deshmukh Marg), on 3 March, the petition stated that "Rachna was locked out of her shared/ matrimonial home and could only re-enter her shared/ matrimonial home with the assistance of the police. Now that Rachna managed to re-enter her own shared/matrimonial home on Sunday 3 March, 2019, where she has now been confined to it with private security guards stationed outside the main door preventing ingress and egress to her and her family member who comes to see her, any food deliveries, medical professionals etc. whilst denying her basic essentials at the shared/ matrimonial home."

When Rachna tried to call Vishal multiple times and send text messages to know whereabouts of her children, there was no reply. On 4 March, she called the lodge resort where Vishal, the two children and some of Vishal's friends were supposed to be staying in Tadoba. The hotel authorities said they'd checked out a day earlier and had no idea where they were. The next day, Vishal replied to her text message saying the children were fine, but didn't divulge any details of their whereabouts, according to the petition.

"Given the tender age of Aman and Aria, the early check out from Tadoba, the absence of information about this location and conditions, the attempts to throw her out of the shared/ matrimonial home, the various criminal cases against Respondent No 3-5 [Vishal Doshi, the father-in-law, the mother-in-law respectively] in India and overseas cumulatively left her completely distraught and she feared for the life and safety of her minor children and her own," the petition added. It also stated that when Rachna sought a blood test — she was suffering from thyroid and anaemia — the pathologists weren't allowed to enter the house. Rachna had to give blood samples at the door in front of the private security/ bouncers.

Rachna's cousin Sohil Premkumar Kothari, who tried to get in touch with her and was denied access, finally considered legal proceeding to be the only recourse. On 7 March, a writ petition of Habeas Corpus was filed before the high court. In the petition, Sohil apprehended that Rachna's in-laws "may unilaterally send the children abroad with a mala fide intention to deprive Rachna of accessing and looking after them... this unilateral separation from the mother will cause an immeasurable and irreparable lifelong trauma to them which may show itself in different ways."

The court on 12 March directed the Doshi family to provide uninhibited access to Rachna in her matrimonial home and that she should also be provided with a set of keys of the house. The order stated: "...we direct the respondent Nos 4 [father-in-law] and 5 [in-laws] to hand over a copy of key of the main entrance to the respondent No 9 [Rachna] by this evening [12 March] in order to enable her entry and exit from the house as per her need." As far as the custody of the children is concerned, the high court doesn't have the jurisdiction to grant it. A family court was approached to decide on this, and it has directed Rachna to maintain status quo.

The Gamdevi Police Station was directed to provide assistance to Rachna in case she finds difficulty in sorting any of these above directions. The order stated: "We also note herein that in the event respondent No.9 faces any difficulty, she may contact the local police station, who shall provide her necessary assistance to ensure the compliance of our directions. Respondents Nos 4 to 5 have the liberty to approach the local Gamdevi Police Station if any unwarranted situation arises. However, we hope and trust that the parties concerned being directly related to each other as father-­in-­law, mother­-in-­law as well as daughter-­in-­law, they should respect each other's dignity and ensure that no difficulty is caused to the right of residence of the respondent No 9 till the matter is adjudicated by the competent family court."

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Updated Date: Mar 16, 2019 19:01:07 IST

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