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The Calcutta High Court recently observed that amid the global pandemic of COVID-19 and the lockdown imposed as a result, virtual interaction between a child and their parents can also be taken part of visitation rights.
The High Court made the observation while hearing a PIL filed which sought the framing of guidelines in relation to children who are disassociated with the parents.
The High Court disposed of the plea while reposing its faith in the concerned Judges hearing visitation matters to be alive to the vulnerable condition of the children.
The Bench of Justices Soumen Sen and Harish Tandon observed that children are the worst affected to the separation of their parents and highlighted that parents have a statutory as well as a social right to interact with the child.
The Bench observed that at such a time when the country is under lockdown in order to contain the spread of COVID-19, and physical visitation and interaction with a child is not possible, virtual interaction may also be considered to be part of right of visitation. As observed by the Court in its order,
"The pandemic has caused a distance to be maintained, as the virus (Covid-19) is contagious. The physical distancing is the need of an hour and because of the restrictions on the movement of the vehicles and other means of commutation, it impedes visitation by physical interaction. The technology has been developed where the virtual interaction/visitation can also be taken as a part of the right of visitation."
The concept of social justice is not static and is in fact dynamic, the Court said. It added that like the society, justice also changes with the advancement in the technology and medium of education. Therefore, the Bench stated that an application filed by a parent seeking visitation virtually should have been activated by the concerned Court keeping in mind the welfare of the child.
The petitioner in the instant case had sought the framing of guidelines on the grounds that despite an order passed by the Civil Court for visitation, the same was not being permitted. He said that owing to the lockdown, an urgent application filed by the petitioner before the concerned Court was in "suspended animation".
Several attempts to contact the government instrumentalities for interaction with the child also were without any success and, therefore, certain specific guidelines for visitation were required.
The High Court recognised the need and importance of interaction with a child, observing that, "It is no doubt true that the welfare of the child is paramount and visitation is one of the integral parts of restoring the broken thread between the litigating parents."
However, the remedy lies in the law, the Court added and said that the grievance flagged by the petitioner cannot be solved by way of PIL litigation. The nature of the grievance is one under personal laws and an appropriate remedy for the same lies in the law.
As regards the concerned Court where the plea for visitation is filed by the petitioner, the Court said,
"We are confident that the concerned Judge is alive of the fact that the child being vulnerable and needs constant support both mentally and physically and the welfare being the paramount consideration, shall take up the issue as and when raised on an urgent basis depending upon the given facts and circumstances. (sic)"
The Court, thus, disposed of the PIL.
The Petitioner was represented by Advocates Sakya Sen and Rohit Banerjee. The State of West Bengal was represented by Advocate General Kishore Dutta and Advocate Srijib Chakraborty.
Read the Order: