Norway custody row: Children to remain with mother, says court
The Calcutta High Court on Thursday granted the custody of two siblings - brought from Norway after a legal and diplomatic fight last year - to their mother till the final disposal of the case.
Kolkata: The Calcutta High Court on Thursday granted the custody of two siblings - brought from Norway after a legal and diplomatic fight last year - to their mother till the final disposal of the case.
Two days back, the Burdwan police officials gave custody of Abhigyan and Aishwarya to their mother Sagarika Bhattacharya following a directive from the district child welfare committee.
But within hours, the Calcutta High Court, after hearing an appeal by their foster parent-cum-uncle Arunabhas Bhattacharya, returned the children to his custody.
In an interim order Thursday, Justice Dipankar Dutta said while separation from the children might be painful for the uncle, it was in the interest of the toddlers. Arunabhas was taking care of the two children for over eight months.
The court, however, allowed visitation rights to Arunabhas for two hours every Saturday in the chamber of the lawyer appointed by the court.
The visitation hours could be increased after observing how the children gelled with their uncle.
Responding to Arunabhas' concern that one of the children was afflicted with some ailments, Justice Dutta said the child should be given medical help from a psychriatist.
Abhigyan and Aishwarya, aged three and one, were taken under emergency foster care in May 2011 by the Norwegian child welfare agency, on grounds of alleged negligence by their parents - then residing in the Scandinavian nation.
The issue led to a furore in India, and sensing the public mood, the Indian government activated the diplomatic channels.
After the Indian government's intervention, a Norway court ordered that the children be placed in the custody of their uncle following which they were brought to their home in West Bengal's Burdwan district in April last year.
Sagarika, who now has an estranged relationship with her husband Anurup, then moved the CWC which November last year gave custody of the children to their mother.
The child panel, responding to the petition, said the interests of the children would be well preserved with their mother, who had also undergone medical tests in Mumbai to prove that she was mentally sound.
In pursuance of the order, the Burdwan police Tuesday accompanied the child panel members to Arunabhas's house in Kulti - about 250 km from the city - and took the children to hand them over to Sagarika.
But a little latter, the high court directed upholding of the order of the Norway court which had ruled that the children's custody be given to their uncle.
Elated after the order, Sagarika said the two children would now get mother's love and care, of which they were deprived for a long time.
Should the Indian government have paused to understand the Norwegian system better before rushing in to support the Bhattacharyas?
The parents of the two children have signed an agreement asking for the custody of their children to be transferred to an uncle. The Norwegian child welfare services is still to reply to it.
The Indian government said it would not be sending an official to attend the court hearing in Norway on 23 March and while it would continue to view developments, it would not intervene for now.