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Parents who forcibly take their children to a foreign land following a marital discord can be jailed for a year, if Law Commission has its way. In a proposed draft law on 'parental abduction', the Commission, which advises the government on legal reform, has said, "When such a kind of diverse family unit breaks down, children (sometimes babies) suffer, as they are dragged into international legal battle between their parents". The panel, which had already examined the issue of parental adbuction in 2009, has rewritten the draft bill prepared by the Women and Child Development Ministry after the Punjab and Haryana High Court in February asked it to examine "multiple issues involved in inter-country, inter-parental child removal amongst families". Inter-spousal child removal, it noted, can be termed as most unfortunate as the children are abducted by their own parents to India or to other foreign jurisdiction in violation of court orders. The law panel said whoever wrongfully removes or retains a child either himself or through other person from the custody of a parent can be imprisoned for a term which may extend to one year or with fine which may extend to Rs 10,000 or with both. For those who wilfully misrepresent facts or conceal information related to the location of the child will be guilty of an offence punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to three months or with fine which may extend to Rs 5,000 or with both, it has recommended. The draft bill has also proposed setting up of a central authority to discover the whereabouts of a child who has been wrongfully removed. It will also prevent further harm to any such child and secure his or her voluntary return to the habitual residence. It said the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, 1980, came into force on December 1, 1983 and it would be necessary to implement it in so far as they relate to an expeditious return of a child who has been wrongfully removed or retained in violation of the custody rights or access rights. "In such an eventuality, the child is taken to a state with a different legal system, culture and language.
The child loses contact with the other parent and is transplanted in an entirely different society having different traditions and norms of life," the report submitted to the government today said. More than three crore Indians live in foreign countries, having cross-border matrimonial relationships.
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