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The Supreme Court has suggested that parents who have visitation rights can use electronic media to interact with children staying apart during the COVID-19 lockdown.
The Court has noted that this arrangement can be "mutually acceptable by the parent" and that if there is an aggrieved party, then they should "approach the family court." The order states,
"If they have visitation rights, we suggest that electronic contact instead of physical visits can be substituted in these times. The parties can arrive at a mutually acceptable arrangements in this behalf. If there is an aggrieved party, the same can approach the Family Court."
The order was passed by a Bench of Justices NV Ramana, SK Kaul and BR Gavai in a plea by the Dr Tanuj Dhawan, an Assistant Professor of Physics at Delhi University.
The petition raised issues faced by those parents having visitation rights but who are unable to exercise the same during the lockdown. The situation restrains such parents from exercising their rights, and more importantly, "affects the mental health of their children due to the inability to interact with their parents and vice-versa".
"Many couples who are either separated or divorced are having Visitation Rights for their children from court but due to movement restrictions they are unable to exercise same which would cause serious concerns over the mental well being of the child concerned."
Plea filed in Supreme Court
During the hearing, Justice Kaul observed that general directions may only lead to a lot of contempt cases in the future. He said,
"If we pass such orders and the custodial parent does not follow it, we will be flooded with contempt cases. How can we issue nationwide directions? We won't know whether visitation is taking place or not taking place. It's a non-workable direction. We pass an order, if it's not implemented we have no way to enforce the order. Let these issues be taken up by the family courts."
However, the Court ultimately suggested "electronic contact" during these times, if the parties agree on mutual terms.
[Read the order]