In March this year, as a war raged between Russia and Ukraine, a Ukrainian mother had a bigger worry on her mind – her three-year-old child, who she had with an Indian national, had been kidnapped by the man.
The war is still underway, and so is the 40-year-old’s battle to find her son.
On Wednesday, the Delhi High Court directed the Delhi Police to locate the boy as well as her husband (44), after she moved the court alleging that he had brought him to India after kidnapping the child.
A division bench of Justice Siddharth Mridul and Justice Amit Sharma also issued notice to the Centre, represented by the Ministry of Home Affairs and the Ministry of External Affairs, as well the Central Bureau of Investigation, Delhi Police and her ex-husband. The court granted time to the Centre and Delhi government to seek instructions in the matter, and listed the matter for November 14.
The Centre submitted before the court that they were trying to ascertain from immigration authorities whether the man had entered India. “All that you need to tell us if he has entered India,” the HC told central government standing counsel Ajay Digpaul, who appeared for the Ministry of External Affairs.
The High Court further issued notice to the man “by all permissible modes including email” and said, “In the meantime, the Delhi Police is directed to locate the man and his three-year-old minor son and request them to appear before this court at the earliest.”
The court also questioned if it can direct the child to be sent back to the mother in such turbulent times. During the course of the hearing, the mother joined through video-conferencing from Ukraine along with her translator. The court asked her if she is certain her former husband is in India, to which she replied through that she is confident that her child is in Indian territory. Responding to her, the High Court said, “The first priority is to locate your son. We will hear you thereafter.”
The woman, a school teacher, also submitted before the HC that there are police cases against the man in Ukraine, and although a Ukrainian court had already ruled the child’s custody in her favour after their divorce in 2021, the man took him away without her consent.
She has alleged that he took their son for a walk on March 27 and did not return. She said that although he had been granted visitation rights by authorities, the court in Ukraine had decided that the “kid will stay with the mother as he is just three years old and is born in Ukraine”.
She also submitted that she came to know that the man was sighted in Guwahati and Bihar and was regularly changing locations. The HC asked the woman’s counsel why, when they had information about this, they did not approach the court concerned.
The plea, filed through advocate Sravan Kumar, states that the man took advantage of the war in Ukraine, crossed the border into Moldova, then went to Romania, and subsequently purchased flight tickets to India.
“That the respondent number 5 (the father) has illegally and wilfully made false statement before the Indian authorities to illegally take the child out of Ukraine,” the plea states. The woman has alleged that the father, at various checkposts and borders of Moldova and Romania, including airports of Romania, Doha and New Delhi, has shown a fabricated Indian passport of her son to enable him to enter India.