Supreme Court of India
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[COVID-19 Lockdown] Secure visitation rights for children to non-custodial parents through technology: Petition in Supreme Court

The petition seeks that an alternative system be put in place to secure the visitation rights of children to see their non-custodial parents.

Debayan Roy

A letter petition has been sent to the Supreme Court stating that the rights of children alienated from their non-custodial parents are being violated due to the nationwide COVID-19 lockdown.

The plea states that in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and the consequent nationwide lockdown, non-custodial parents “are locked in homes”. As a result, despite having received visiting orders from courts, children are unable to maintain contact with their non-custodial parents.

The petition thus seeks that an alternative system be put in place to secure the visitation rights of children to see their non-custodial parents.

In this regard, activist Kumar Ratna has asked the Court to allow teleconference access between children and non-custodial parents. Accordingly, it has been urged that the Court direct the concerned courts, police and other authorities to enable such arrangements to facilitate access between the child and the non-custodial parent.

Further, prayers have also been made to allow district and subordinate courts to grant permission to alienated parents approaching the respective courts by email "to enable them to video call their children and know about their present physical and mental health conditions in this current hour of crisis in the State.

"Many parents have filed visitation rights for their child but due to the nationwide lockdown, the court proceedings could not take place. The children and the parents have comparatively plenty of free time during the lockdown and this time should be taken as an opportunity to build emotional bonds between child and parent. Under these exceptional circumstances, there are no guideline issues to allow maintaining uninterrupted contact between child and noncustodial parent."

Letter petition to Supreme Court

Substantiating the need for the Court’s intervention in the matter, the plea states that the “regulation in early development is deeply embedded in the child’s relations with others”. The plea states,

In caring for infants, parents are acting as extensions of their internal regulatory systems. Establishing the connection between parent and child can be seen as the basic task of the early months of life. Making that connection is not always easy, however. It requires the ability to read and understand the baby’s needs and the knowledge, energy, and resources to respond in ways that are helpful."

The questions of law in the plea include:

  • Whether this is a violation of the Constitution of India, that there is no clear guidelines for the children to maintain contact with the non-custodial parent in the present situation, when the child need their parents more than anything?

  • Whether it is violation of the international instruments to which India is a signatory, that children unable to maintain contact with their non-custodial parents?

  • Whether the State has the responsibility to protect the personhood, childhood and life of every child, while parents are under separation?

  • Whether or not it is violation of the Rights of Child and the principle of “Children are the first to get relief”, to ignore parenting rights during lockdown?

  • Whether allowing direct and uninterrupted access between the child and non-custodial parents is in the “Best Interest of Child” which UNCRC strongly states in various articles?

[READ THE PETITION]

ChilVisitatonPIL_LOCKDOWN_MEDIACOPY.pdf
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