Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Child Custody Order/Decree Passed by Foreign Court Validity in India:

Recognition of decrees and orders passed by foreign courts(USA) in case of child custody.

The Supreme Court has held that jurisdiction of Indian courts is not barred while dealing with a case of custody of a child removed by a parent from a foreign country to India in contravention of the orders of the court where the parties had set up their matrimonial home.

Justice Thakur said: “Recognition of decrees and orders passed by foreign courts remains an eternal dilemma in as much as whenever called upon to do so. Courts in this country are bound to determine the validity of such decrees and orders keeping in view the provisions of Section 13 of the Cr.PC 1908 as amended by the Amendment Act of 1999 and 2002.”





(Arising out of SLP (C) No.9220 of 2010)

Ruchi Majoo ...Appellant


Sanjeev Majoo ...Respondents



(Arising out of SLP (Crl.) No.10362 of 2010)



Leave granted.

Conflict of laws and jurisdictions in the realm of private

international law is a phenomenon that has assumed greater

dimensions with the spread of Indian diasporas across the

globe. A large number of our young and enterprising

countrymen are today looking for opportunities abroad.

While intellectual content and technical skills of these

youngster find them lucrative jobs in distant lands, complete

assimilation with the culture, the ways of life and the social

values prevalent in such countries do not come easy. The

result is that in very many cases incompatibility of

temperament apart, diversity of backgrounds and inability to

accept the changed lifestyle often lead to matrimonial

discord that inevitably forces one or the other party to seek

redress within the legal system of the country which they

have adopted in pursuit of their dreams. Experience has also

shown that in a large number of cases one of the parties

may return to the country of his or her origin for family

support, shelter and stability. Unresolved disputes in such

situations lead to legal proceedings in the country of origin

as well as in the adoptive country. Once that happens issues


touching the jurisdiction of the courts examining the same

as also comity of nations are thrown up for adjudication.

The present happens to be one such case where legal

proceedings have engaged the parties in a bitter battle for

the custody of their only child Kush, aged about 11 years

born in America hence a citizen of that country by birth.

These proceedings included an action filed by the father-

respondent in this appeal, before the American Court

seeking divorce from the respondent-wife and also custody

of master Kush. An order passed by the Superior court of

California, County of Ventura in America eventually led to

the issue of a red corner notice based on allegations of child

abduction levelled against the mother who like the father of

the minor child is a person of Indian origin currently living

with her parents in Delhi. The mother took refuge under an

order dated 4th April, 2009 passed by the Addl. District Court

at Delhi in a petition filed under Sections 7, 8, 10, 11 of the


Guardians and Wards Act granting interim custody of the

minor to her. Aggrieved by the said order the father of the

minor filed a petition under Article 227 of the Constitution of

India before the High Court of Delhi. By the order impugned

in this appeal the High Court allowed that petition, set aside

the order passed by the District Court and dismissed the

custody case filed by the mother primarily on the ground

that the Court at Delhi had no jurisdiction to entertain the

same as the minor was not ordinarily residing at Delhi - a

condition precedent for the Delhi Court to exercise

jurisdiction. The High Court further held that all issues

relating to the custody of child ought to be agitated and

decided by the Court in America not only because that Court

had already passed an order to that effect in favour of the

father, but also because all the three parties namely, the

parents of the minor and the minor himself were American

citizens. The High Court buttressed its decision on the

principle of comity of courts and certain observations made


by this Court in some of the decided cases to which we shall

presently refer.

Three questions fall for determination in the above

backdrop. These are (i) Whether the High Court was justified

in dismissing the petition for custody of the minor on the

ground that the court at Delhi had no jurisdiction to

entertain the same, (ii) Whether the High Court was right in

declining exercise of jurisdiction on the principle of comity of

Courts and (iii) Whether the order granting interim custody

to the mother of the minor calls for any modification in

terms of grant of visitation rights to the father pending

disposal of the petition by the trial court. We shall deal with

the questions ad seriatim:

Re: Question No.1


There is no gainsaying that any challenge to the

jurisdiction of the court will have to be seen in the context of

the averments made in the pleadings of the parties and the

requirement of Section 9 of the Guardian and Wards Act,

1890. A closer look at the pleadings of the parties is,

therefore, necessary before we advert to the legal

requirement that must be satisfied for the Court to exercise

its powers under the Act mentioned above.

The appellant-mother had in her petition filed under the

Guardian and Wards Act, 1890 invoked the jurisdiction of

the Court at Delhi, on the assertion that the minor was, on

the date of the presentation of the petition for custody

ordinarily residing at 73 Anand Lok, August Kranti Marg,

New Delhi. The petition enumerated at length the alleged

acts of mental and physical cruelty of the respondent-

husband towards the appellant, including his alleged

addiction to pornographic films, internet sex and adulterous


behavior during the couple's stay in America. It traced the

sequence of events that brought them to India for a vacation

and the alleged misdemeanor of the respondent that led to

the appellant taking a decision to past company and to stay

back in India instead of returning to United States as

originally planned. In para (xxxviii) of the petition, the

appellant said :

"That the petitioner in no certain terms told the

respondent that considering his past conduct which was

cruel, inhuman and insulting as well as humiliating, the

petitioner has no plans to be with the respondent and

wanted to stay away from him. The petitioner even

proposed that since there was no (sic) possibility for

them to stay together as husband and wife and as a

result of which the petitioner has decided to settle in

India for the time being, therefore some interim

arrangement could be worked out. The arrangement

which was proposed by the petitioner was that the

petitioner will stay with her son for the time being in

India and make best arrangements for his schooling.

The petitioner had also conveyed to the respondent

that since he wanted to have visitation rights,

therefore, he must also contribute towards the

upbringing of the child in India. It was further

suggested that some cooling off period should be there

so that the matrimonial disputes could be sorted out



The appellant further alleged that she had informed the

respondent about a petition under the Guardian and Wards

Act being ready for presentation before the Guardian Court

at Delhi, whereupon the respondent is alleged to have

agreed to the appellant staying back in Delhi to explore

career options and to the minor continuing to stay with her.

The respondent eventually returned to America around 20th

July, 2008, whereafter he is alleged to have started

threatening the appellant that unless the later returned to

America with the minor, he would have the child removed

and put in the custody of the respondent's parents at

Udaipur. Apprehending that the respondent may involve the

appellant in some false litigation in America and asserting

that she was fit to be given the custody of the minor being

his mother and natural guardian, the appellant sought the

intervention of this Court and her appointment as sole

guardian of the minor.


Shortly after the presentation of the main petition, an

application under Section 12 of the Guardian and Wards Act

read with Section 151 of the Civil Procedure Code was filed

by the appellant praying for an ex-parte interim order

restraining the respondent and/or any one on his behalf

from taking away and/or physically removing the minor from

her custody and for an order granting interim custody of the

minor to the appellant till further orders. The application set

out the circumstances in brief that compelled the appellant

to seek urgent interim directions from the court and referred

to an e-mail received from the father of the minor by the

Delhi Public School (International) at R.K. Puram, where the

minor is studying, accusing the mother of abducting the

minor child and asking the school authorities to refuse

admission to him. The application also referred to an e-mail

which the Principal of the school had in turn sent to the

appellant and the order which the US Court had passed

granting custody of minor child to the respondent. The


appellant alleged that the US Court had no jurisdiction in the

matter and that the order passed by that Court was liable to

be ignored. On the presentation of the above application the

Guardian Court passed an ex-parte interim order on 16th

September, 2008 directing that the respondent shall not

interfere with the appellant's custody of the minor child till

the next date of hearing.

The respondent entered appearance in the above

proceedings and filed an application for dismissal of the

petition on the ground that the court at Delhi had no

jurisdiction to entertain the same. In the application the

respondent denied all the allegations and averments

suggesting habitual internet sex, womanizing, dowry

demand and sexual or behavioural perversity alleged against

him. The respondent also alleged that the family had

planned a vacation-cum-family visit to India and booked

return air tickets to be in America on 20th July, 2008. The


respondent's version was that the appellant along with the

respondent and their minor son, Kush had stayed with the

parents of the appellant at Delhi till 5th July, 2008.

Thereafter, they were supposed to visit Udaipur but since

the appellant insisted that she would stay at Delhi and

assured to send Kush after sometime to Udaipur, the

respondent left for Udaipur where he received a legal notice

on behalf of the appellant making false and imaginary

allegations. On receipt of the notice the respondent returned

to Delhi to sort out the matter. During the mediation the

respondent was allegedly subjected to enormous cruelty,

pressure and threat of proceedings under Section 498A IPC

so as to obstruct his departure scheduled on 20th July, 2008.

The respondent alleged that since any delay in his departure

could cost him a comfortable job in United States, he felt

coerced to put in writing a tentative arrangement on the

ground of appellant trying "career option of Dental medicine

at Delhi" and master Kush being allowed to study at Delhi


for the year 2008. This letter was, according to the

respondent, written under deceit, pressure, threat and

coercion. At any rate the letter constituted his consent to an

arrangement, which according to him stood withdrawn

because of his subsequent conduct. It was alleged that

neither the appellant nor Kush could be ordinarily resident of

Delhi so as to confer jurisdiction upon the Delhi Court.

Several other allegations were also made in the application

including the assertion that the interim order of custody and

summons issued by the Superior Court of California, County

of Ventura were served by e-mail on the appellant as also on

Advocate, Mr. Purbali Bora despite which the appellant

avoided personal service of the summon on the false pretext

that she did not stay at 73 Anand Lok, New Delhi.

It was, according to the respondent, curious that

instead of returning to USA to submit to the jurisdiction of

competent court at the place where both the petitioner and


respondent have a house to reside, jobs to work and social

roots and where Kush also normally resided, has friends and

school, the appellant wife had persisted to stay in India and

approach and seek legal redress. It was further stated that

the proceedings initiated by the appellant on or about 28th

August, 2008, with allegations and averments that were ex-

facie false and exaggerated, were not maintainable in view

of the proceedings before the Court in America and the

order passed therein. It was also alleged that in terms of

the protective custody warrant order issued on 9th

September, 2008, by the Superior Court of California,

County of Ventura, the appellant had been directed to

appear before the US Courts which the appellant was

evading to obey and that despite having information about

the proceedings in the US Court she had obtained an ex-

parte order without informing the respondent in advance.


The respondent also enumerated the circumstances

which according to him demonstrated that he is more

suitable to get the custody of Master Kush in comparison to

the appellant-mother of the child. The respondent husband

accordingly prayed for dismissal of the petition filed by the

appellant-wife and vacation of the ad-interim order dated 4th

April, 2009 passed by the Guardian Court at Delhi.

The Guardian and Wards Court upon consideration of

the matter dismissed the application filed by the respondent

holding that the material on record sufficiently showed that

the respondent-husband had consented to the arrangement

whereby the appellant-wife was to continue living in Delhi in

order to explore career options in dental medicine and that

the minor was to remain in the custody of his mother and

was to be admitted to a School in Delhi. The Court further

held that since there were serious allegations regarding the

conduct of the respondent-husband and his habits, the


question whether the interest of minor would be served

better by his mother as a guardian had to be looked into. It

is in the light of the above averments that the question

whether the Courts at Delhi have the jurisdiction to entertain

a petition for custody of the minor shall have to be


Section 9 of the Guardian and Wards Act, 1890 makes

a specific provision as regards the jurisdiction of the Court to

entertain a claim for grant of custody of a minor. While sub-

Section (1) of Section 9 identifies the court competent to

pass an order for the custody of the persons of the minor,

sub-sections (2) & (3) thereof deal with courts that can be

approached for guardianship of the property owned by the

minor. Section 9(1) alone is, therefore, relevant for our

purpose. It says :

"9. Court having jurisdiction to entertain

application - (1) If the application is with respect to

the guardianship of the person of the minor, it shall be


made to the District Court having Jurisdiction in the

place where the minor ordinarily resides."

It is evident from a bare reading of the above that the

solitary test for determining the jurisdiction of the court

under Section 9 of the Act is the `ordinary residence' of the

minor. The expression used is "Where the minor ordinarily

resides". Now whether the minor is ordinarily residing at a

given place is primarily a question of intention which in turn

is a question of fact. It may at best be a mixed question of

law and fact, but unless the jurisdictional facts are admitted

it can never be a pure question of law, capable of being

answered without an enquiry into the factual aspects of the

controversy. The factual aspects relevant to the question of

jurisdiction are not admitted in the instant case. There are

serious disputes on those aspects to which we shall

presently refer. We may before doing so examine the true

purpose of the expression `ordinarily resident' appearing in

Section 9(1) (supra). This expression has been used in


different contexts and statutes and has often come up for

interpretation. Since liberal interpretation is the first and the

foremost rule of interpretation it would be useful to

understand the literal meaning of the two words that

comprise the expression. The word `ordinary' has been

defined by the Black's Law Dictionary as follows:

"Ordinary (Adj.) :Regular; usual; normal; common;

often recurring; according to established order; settled;

customary; reasonable; not characterized by peculiar or

unusual circumstances; belonging to, exercised by, or

characteristic of, the normal or average individual."

The word `reside' has been explained similarly as


"Reside: live, dwell, abide, sojourn, stay, remain,

lodge. (Western- Knapp Engineering Co. V. Gillbank,

C.C.A. Cal., 129 F2d 135, 136.) To settle oneself or a

thing in a place, to be stationed, to remain or stay, to

dwell permanently or continuously, to have a settled

abode for a time, to have one's residence or domicile;

specifically, to be in residence, to have an abiding

place, to be present as an element, to inhere as quality,

to be vested as a right. (State ex rel. Bowden v. Jensen

Mo., 359 S.W.2d 343, 349.)"


In Websters dictionary also the word `reside' finds a

similar meaning, which may be gainfully extracted:

"1. To dwell for a considerable time; to make one's

home; live. 2. To exist as an attribute or quality with in.

3. To be vested: with in"

In Mrs. Annie Besant v. Narayaniah AIR 1914 PC 41

the infants had been residing in the district of Chingleput in

the Madras Presidency. They were given in custody of Mrs.

Annie Besant for the purpose of education and were getting

their education in England at the University of Oxford. A

case was, however, filed in the district Court of Chingleput

for the custody where according to the plaintiff the minors

had permanently resided. Repeating the plea that the

Chingleput Court was competent to entertain the application

their Lordships of the Privy Council observed:

"The district court in which the suit was instituted had

no jurisdiction over the infants except such jurisdiction

as was conferred by the Guardians and Wards Act


1890. By the ninth Section of that Act the jurisdiction of

the court is confined to infants ordinarily residing in the


It is in their Lordship's opinion impossible to hold that

the infants who had months previously left India with a

view to being educated in England and going to

University had acquired their ordinary residence in the

district of Chingleput."

In Mst. Jagir Kaur and Anr. v. Jaswant Singh AIR

1963 SC 1521, this Court was dealing with a case under

Section 488 Cr.P.C. and the question of jurisdiction of the

Court to entertain a petition for maintenance. The Court

noticed a near unanimity of opinion as to what is meant by

the use of the word "resides" appearing in the provision and

held that "resides" implied something more than a flying

visit to, or casual stay at a particular place. The legal

position was summed up in the following words:

".......Having regard to the object sought to be achieved,

the meaning implicit in the words used, and the

construction placed by decided cases there on, we

would define the word "resides" thus: a person resides

in a place if he through choice makes it his abode


permanently or even temporarily; whether a person has

chosen to make a particular place his abode depends

upon the facts of each case....."

In Kuldip Nayar & Ors. v. Union of India & Ors.

2006 (7) SCC 1, the expression "ordinary residence" as used

in the Representation of People Act, 1950 fell for

interpretation. This Court observed:

"243. Lexicon refers to Cicutti v. Suffolk County
Council (1980) 3 All ER 689 to denote that the word
"ordinarily" is primarily directed not to duration but to
purpose. In this sense the question is not so much
where the person is to be found "ordinarily", in the
sense of usually or habitually and with some degree of
continuity, but whether the quality of residence is
"ordinary" and general, rather than merely for some
special or limited purpose.

244. The words "ordinarily" and "resident" have been
used together in other statutory provisions as well and
as per Law Lexicon they have been construed as not to
require that the person should be one who is always
resident or carries on business in the particular place.

245. The expression coined by joining the two words
has to be interpreted with reference to the point of time
requisite for the purposes of the provision, in the case
of Section 20 of the RP Act, 1950 it being the date on
which a person seeks to be registered as an elector in a
particular constituency.

246. Thus, residence is a concept that may also be
transitory. Even when qualified by the word "ordinarily"
the word "resident" would not result in a construction
having the effect of a requirement of the person using a
particular place for dwelling always or on permanent
uninterrupted basis. Thus understood, even the


requirement of a person being "ordinarily resident" at a
particular place is incapable of ensuring nexus between
him and the place in question."

Reference may be made to Bhagyalakshmi and Anr.

v. K.N. Narayana Rao AIR 1983 Mad 9, Aparna Banerjee

v. Tapan Banerjee AIR 1986 P&H 113, Ram Sarup v.

Chimman Lal and Ors. AIR 1952 All 79, Smt. Vimla Devi

v. Smt. Maya Devi & Ors. AIR 1981 Raj. 211, and in re:

Dr. Giovanni Marco Muzzu and etc. etc. AIR 1983 Bom.

242, in which the High Courts have dealt with the meaning

and purport of the expressions like `ordinary resident' and

`ordinarily resides' and taken the view that the question

whether one is ordinarily residing at a given place depends

so much on the intention to make that place ones ordinary


Let us now in the light of the above, look at the rival

versions of the parties before us, to determine whether the

Court at Delhi has the jurisdiction to entertain the

proceedings for custody of master Kush. As seen earlier,


the case of the appellant mother is that Kush is ordinarily

residing with her in Delhi. In support of that assertion she

has among other circumstances placed reliance upon the

letter which the respondent, father of the minor child wrote

to the appellant on 19th July, 2008. The letter is to the

following effect:


As you wish to stay in India with Kush and try

career option of Dental medicine at Delhi, I give

my whole-hearted support and request you to put

Kush in an Indo-American school or equivalent at

Delhi this year.

Please let me know the expenses involved for

education of Kush and I would like to bear


Sd/- Sanjeev

July 19, 2008"

The appellant's case is that although the couple and

their son had initially planned to return to U.S.A. that

decision was taken with the mutual consent of the parties

changed to allow the appellant to stay back in India and to

explore career options here. Master Kush was also according


to that decision of his parents, to stay back and be admitted

to a school in Delhi. The decision on both counts, was free

from any duress whatsoever, and had the effect of shifting

the "ordinary residence" of the appellant and her son Kush

from the place they were living in America to Delhi. Not

only this the respondent father of the minor, had upon his

return to America sent E-mails, reiterating the decision and

offering his full support to the appellant. This is according to

the appellant clear from the text of the E-mails exchanged

between the parties and which are self-explanatory as to the

context in which they are sent.

The respondent's case on the contrary is that he was

coerced to put in writing a tentative arrangement on the

ground of appellant trying career options in dental medicine

at Delhi and minor Kush allowed to stay at Delhi for the year

2008. This letter was, according to the respondent, obtained

under deceit, pressure, threat and coercion. In his

application challenging the jurisdiction of the Delhi Court the


respondent further stated that even if it be assumed that the

appellant and Kush had stayed back in India with the

permission of the respondent, the same stood withdrawn. To

the same effect was the stand taken by the respondent in

his petition under Article 227 filed before this Court.

It is evident from the statement and the pleadings of

the parties that the question whether the decision to allow

the appellant and Kush to stay back in Delhi instead of

returning to America was a voluntary decision as claimed by

the appellant or a decision taken by the respondent under

duress as alleged by him was a seriously disputed question

of facts, a satisfactory answer to which could be given either

by the District Court where the custody case was filed or by

the High Court only after the parties had been given

opportunity to adduce evidence in support of their respective



In the light of the above, we asked Mr. Pallav

Shishodia, learned senior counsel for the respondent

whether the respondent would adduce evidence to

substantiate his charge of duress and coercion as vitiating

circumstances for the Court to exclude the letter in question

from consideration. Mr. Shishodia argued on instructions

that the respondent had no intention of leading any evidence

in support of his case that the letter was obtained under

duress. In fairness to him we must mention that he

beseeched us to decide the question regarding jurisdiction of

the Court on the available material without remanding the

matter to the Trial Court for recording of evidence from

either party. Mr. Shishodia also give us an impression as

though any remand on the question of duress and coercion

would be futile because the respondent father was not

willing to go beyond what he has already done in pursuit of

his claim to the custody of the minor. In that view of the

matter, therefore, we are not remanding the case for


recording of evidence as we were at one stage of hearing

thought of doing. We are instead taking a final view on the

question of jurisdiction of the Delhi Court, to entertain the

application on the basis of the available material. This

material comprises the letter dated 19th July, 2008 written

by the respondent and referred to by us earlier and the e-

mails exchanged between the parties. That the letter in

question was written by the respondent is not in dispute.

What is argued is that the letter was written under duress

and coercion. There is nothing before us to substantiate that

allegation, and in the face of Mr. Shishodia's categoric

statement that the respondent does not wish to adduce any

evidence to prove his charge of coercion and duress, we

have no option except to hold that the said charge remains


More importantly the E-mails exchanged between the

parties, copies whereof have been placed on record,


completely disprove the respondent's case of any coercion or

duress. The first of these E-mails is dated the 17th July,

2008 sent by the respondent to his friend in America,

pointing out that the appellant was staying back in India

with the minor for the present. The text of the E-mail is as


"Hi Joanne,

Hope all is well.

I got your voicemail, actually we recently

changed our service provider for home phone, please

see below our updated contact information.


Sanjay mobile - 8054100872, this works in India

Ruchi's mobile remains the same, however it will not

work since we are currently in India. I will be back in LA

on Jul 2-, however Ruchi wants to stay in Delhi

alongwith Kush for now.



On 21st July, 2008 i.e. a day after the respondent

reached America the appellant sent him an e-mail which

clearly indicates that the minor was being admitted to a


school in Delhi and by which the respondent was asked to

send American School's record for that purpose. The e-mail

is to the following effect.


Also please call up Red Oak elementary and inform

them that Kush will be starting American schooling in

India for now and request personal recommendation

from Mrs. Merfield and Mrs. Johnson, they know Kush v

well..Also we need 2 yrs of official school records (one

from sumac and other from red oak) Please send $$

asap. I will find if they have a direct deposit at school,

to make it easy on u..thanks


In response to the above, the respondent sent an E-

mail which does not in the least, give an impression that

the decision to allow master Kush to stay back in Delhi and

to get admitted to a School here was taken under any kind

of duress or coercion as is now claimed. The E-mail is to

the following effect:

`Hi Ruchi,


I checked out website for both American and British

schools, the fees for these schools is extremely high

between $ 20000 - $ 25000 per annum, this will deduct

from Kush's college fund which I have worked hard to

create. Also realize that if we take out $ 25,000 from

his college fund now, we loose the effect of

compounding when he needs $ for college 11 years

from now. $ 25000 now will be worth $ 60000-70000

11 yrs from now. I really and honestly feel that we

should not deplete Kush's college fund so much at

grade 2m rather leave most of it for higher education.

Also I see a benefit for him to get into a logical high

equality English medium school, he can learn a bit of

Hindi. I would be happy to talk to Kush and make sure

he is comfortable. Let me know your thoughts."

Equally important is another E-mail which the

respondent sent to the appellant regarding surrender of the

appellant's car and payment of the outstanding lease

money, a circumstance that shows that the parties were ad-

idem on the question of the appellant winding up her affairs

in America.

"Hi Ruchi,

I checked with Acura regarding breaking your lease,

they said that you can surrender the car to them for

repossession and then they will try to sell it in private

action. You will then need to pay the difference

between money raised from private auction and pay off

amount. Also this repossession will damage your credit

history. Let me know your thoughts.


Hope you are feeling better.


Two more E-mails one dated 24.7.2008 and the other

dated 19.8.2008 exchanged between the parties on the

above subject also bear relevance to the issue at hand and

may be extracted:

"Hi Ruchi,

I did more digging for you on this.

See below information from a broker who may be able

to help transfer the lease to another buyer in exchange

for the fees mentioned. Let me know how you want to



"Hi Sanjeev

Please proceed with the plan, sell my acura with least

damages...this seems like a better option.



It is difficult to appreciate how the respondent could in

the light of the above communications still argue that the

decision to allow the appellant and master Kush to stay back


in India was taken under any coercion or duress. It is also

difficult to appreciate how the respondent could change his

mind so soon after the above E-mails and rush to a Court in

U.S. for custody of the minor accusing the appellant of

illegal abduction, a charge which is belied by his letter dated

19th July, 2008 and the E-mails extracted above. The fact

remains that Kush was ordinarily residing with the appellant

his mother and has been admitted to a school, where he has

been studying for the past nearly three years. The unilateral

reversal of a decision by one of the two parents could not

change the fact situation as to the minor being an ordinary

resident of Delhi, when the decision was taken jointly by

both the parents.

In the light of what we have stated above, the High

Court was not, in our opinion, right in holding that the

respondent's version regarding the letter in question having

been obtained under threat and coercion was acceptable.


The High Court appeared to be of the view that if the letter

had not been written under duress and coercion there was

no reason for the respondent to move a guardianship

petition before U.S. Court. That reasoning has not appealed

to us. The question whether or not the letter was obtained

under duress and coercion could not be decided only on the

basis of the institution of proceedings by the respondent in

the U.S. Court. If the letter was under duress and coercion,

there was no reason why the respondent should not have

repudiated the same no sooner he landed in America and

the alleged duress and coercion had ceased. Far from doing

so the respondent continued to support that decision even

when he was far away from any duress and coercion alleged

by him till the time he suddenly changed his mind and

started accusing the appellant of abduction. The High Court

failed to notice these aspects and fell in error in accepting

the version of the respondent and dismissing the application

filed by the appellant. In the circumstances we answer


question no.1 in the negative.

Re: Question No.2

Recognition of decrees and orders passed by foreign

courts remains an eternal dilemma in as much as whenever

called upon to do so, Courts in this country are bound to

determine the validity of such decrees and orders keeping in

view the provisions of Section 13 of the Code of Criminal

Procedure 1908 as amended by the Amendment Act of 1999

and 2002. The duty of a Court exercising its Parens Patraie

jurisdiction as in cases involving custody of minor children is

all the more onerous. Welfare of the minor in such cases

being the paramount consideration; the court has to

approach the issue regarding the validity and enforcement of

a foreign decree or order carefully. Simply because a foreign

court has taken a particular view on any aspect concerning

the welfare of the minor is not enough for the courts in this


country to shut out an independent consideration of the

matter. Objectivity and not abject surrender is the mantra in

such cases. That does not, however, mean that the order

passed by a foreign court is not even a factor to be kept in

view. But it is one thing to consider the foreign judgment to

be conclusive and another to treat it as a factor or

consideration that would go into the making of a final

decision. Judicial pronouncements on the subject are not on

virgin ground. A long line of decisions of the court has

settled the approach to be adopted in such matters. The

plentitude of pronouncements also leaves cleavage in the

opinions on certain aspects that need to be settled

authoritatively in an appropriate case.

A survey of law on the subject would, in that view, be

necessary and can start with a reference to the decision of

this Court in Smt. Satya V. Shri Teja Singh, (1975) 1 SCC

120. That was a case in which the validity of a decree for


divorce obtained by the husband from a Court in the State of

Naveda (USA) fell for examination. This Court held that the

answer to the question depended upon the Rules of private

International Law. Since no system of Private International

Law existed that could claim universal recognition, the

Indian Courts had to decide the issue regarding the validity

of the decree in accordance with the Indian law. Rules of

Private International Law followed by other countries could

not be adopted mechanically, especially when principles

underlying such rules varied greatly and were moulded by

the distinctive social, political and economic conditions

obtaining in different countries. This Court also traced the

development of law in America and England and concluded

that while British Parliament had found a solution to the

vexed questions of recognition of decrees granted by foreign

courts by enacting "The recognition of Divorces and Legal

Separations Act, 1971" our Parliament had yet to do so. In

the facts and circumstances of that case the Court held that


the husband was not domiciled in Naveda and that his brief

stay in that State did not confer any jurisdiction upon the

Naveda Court to grant a decree dissolving the marriage, he

being no more than a bird of passage who had resorted to

the proceedings there solely to find jurisdiction and obtain a

decree for divorce by misrepresenting the facts as regards

his domicile in that State. This Court while refusing to

recognize the decree observed:

"True that the concept of domicile is not uniform

throughout the world and just as long residence does

not by itself establish domicile, a brief residence may

not negative it. But residence for a particular purpose

falls to answer the qualitative test for, the purpose

being accomplished the residence would cease. The

residence must answer "a qualitative as well as a

quantitative test", that is, the two elements of factum

et animus must concur. The respondent went to

Naveda forum-hunting, found a convenient jurisdiction

which would easily purvey a divorce to him and left it

even before the ink on his domiciliary assertion was

dry. Thus the decree of the Naveda Court lacks

jurisdiction. It can receive no recognition in our





In Dhanwanti Joshi v. Madhav Unde 1998(1) SCC

112, one of the questions that fell for consideration was

whether the bringing away of a child to India by his mother

contrary to an order of US Court would have any bearing on

the decision of the Courts in India while deciding about the

custody and the welfare of the child. Relying upon McKee v.

KcKee, 1951 AC 352: 1951(1) All ER 942 and J v. C 1970

AC 668:1969(1) All ER 788, this Court held that it was the

duty of the Courts in the country to which a child is removed

to consider the question of custody, having regard to the

welfare of the child. In doing so, the order passed by the

foreign court would yield to the welfare of the child and that

Comity of Courts simply demanded consideration of any

such order issued by foreign courts and not necessarily their

enforcement. This court further held that the conduct of a

summary or elaborate inquiry on the question of custody by

the Court in the country to which the child has been

removed will depend upon the facts and circumstance of


each case. For instance summary jurisdiction is exercised

only if the court to which the child had been removed is

moved promptly and quickly, for in that event, the Judge

may well be persuaded to hold that it would be better for the

child that the merits of the case are investigated in a court

in his native country, on the expectation that an early

decision in the native country would be in the interests of

the child before the child could develop roots in the country

to which he had been removed. So also the conduct of an

elaborate inquiry may depend upon the time that had

elapsed between the removal of the child and the institution

of the proceedings for custody. This would mean that longer

the time gap, the lesser the inclination of the Court to go for

a summary inquiry. The court rejected the prayer for

returning the child to the country from where he had been

removed and observed:

"31. The facts of the case are that when the
respondent moved the courts in India and in the


proceedings of 1986 for habeas corpus and under
Guardians and Wards Act, the courts in India thought it
best in the interests of the child to allow it to continue
with the mother in India, and those orders have also
become final. The Indian courts in 1993 or 1997, when
the child had lived with his mother for nearly 12 years,
or more, would not exercise a summary jurisdiction to
return the child to USA on the ground that its removal
from USA in 1984 was contrary to orders of US courts."

We must at this stage refer to two other decisions of

this Court, reliance upon which was placed by the learned

counsel for the parties. In Sarita Sharma v. Sushil

Sharma (2000) 3 SCC 14 this Court was dealing with an

appeal arising out of a habeas corpus petition filed before

the High Court of Delhi in respect of two minor children aged

3 years and 7 years respectively. It was alleged that the

children were in illegal custody of Sarita Sharma their

mother. The High Court had allowed the petition and

directed the mother to restore the custody of the children to

Sushil Sharma who was in turn permitted to take the

children to U.S.A. without any hindrance. One of the

contentions that was urged before this Court was that the


removal of children from U.S.A. to India was against the

orders passed by the American Court, which orders had

granted to the father the custody of the minor children.

Allowing the appeal and setting aside the judgment of the

High Court, this Court held that the order passed by the U.S.

courts constituted but one of the factors which could not

override the consideration of welfare of the minor children.

Considering the fact that the husband was staying with his

mother aged about 80 years and that there was no one else

in the family to lookafter the children, this Court held that it

was not in the interest of the children to be put in the

custody of the father who was addicted to excessive alcohol.

Even this case arose out of a writ petition and not a petition

under the Guardians and Wards Act.

In V. Ravi Chandran (Dr.) (2) v. Union of India

and Ors. (2010) 1 SCC 174 also this Court was dealing with

a habeas corpus petition filed directly before it under Article


32 of the Constitution. This Court held that while dealing

with a case of custody of children removed by a parent from

one country to another in contravention of the orders of the

court where the parties had set up their matrimonial home,

the court in the country to which the child has been removed

must first consider whether the court could conduct an

elaborate enquiry on the question of custody or deal with

the matter summarily and order the parent to return the

custody of the child to the country from which he/she was

removed, leaving all aspects relating to child's welfare to be

investigated by Court in his own country. This Court held

that in case an elaborate enquiry was considered

appropriate, the order passed by a foreign court may be

given due weight depending upon the circumstances of each

case in which such an order had been passed. Having said

so, this Court directed the child to be sent back to U.S. and

issued incidental directions in that regard.


In Shilpa Aggarwal (Ms.) v. Aviral Mittal & Anr.

(2010) 1 SCC 591 this Court followed the same line of

reasoning. That was also a case arising out of a habeas

corpus petition before the High Court of Delhi filed by the

father of the child. The High Court had directed the return

of the child to England to join the proceedings before the

courts of England and Wales failing which the child had to be

handed over to the petitioner-father to be taken to England

as a measure of interim custody leaving it for the court in

that country to determine which parent would be best suited

to have the custody of the child. That direction was upheld

by this Court with the observation that since the question as

to what is in the interest of the minor had to be considered

by the court in U.K. in terms of the order passed by the High

Court directing return of the child to the jurisdiction of the

said court did not call for any interference.


We do not propose to burden this judgment by

referring to a long line of other decisions which have been

delivered on the subject, for they do not in our opinion state

the law differently from what has been stated in the

decisions already referred to by us. What, however, needs to

be stated for the sake of a clear understanding of the legal

position is that the cases to which we have drawn attention,

as indeed any other case raising the question of jurisdiction

of the court to determine mutual rights and obligation of the

parties, including the question whether a court otherwise

competent to entertain the proceedings concerning the

custody of the minor, ought to hold a summary or a detailed

enquiry into the matter and whether it ought to decline

jurisdiction on the principle of comity of nations or the test

of the closest contact evolved by this Court in Smt.

Surinder Kaur Sandhu v. Harbax Singh Sandhu and

Anr. (1984) 3 SCC 698 have arisen either out of writ

proceedings filed by the aggrieved party in the High Court or


this Court or out of proceedings under the Guardian & Wards

Act. Decisions rendered by this Court in Mrs. Elizabeth

Dinshaw v. Arvand M. Dinshaw and Anr. (1987) 1 SCC

42, Sarita Sharma's case (supra), V. Ravi Chandran's

case (supra), Shilpa Aggarwal's case (supra) arose out of

proceedings in the nature of habeas corpus. The rest had

their origin in custody proceedings launched under the

Guardian & Wards Act. Proceedings in the nature of Habeas

Corpus are summary in nature, where the legality of the

detention of the alleged detenue is examined on the basis of

affidavits placed by the parties. Even so, nothing prevents

the High Court from embarking upon a detailed enquiry in

cases where the welfare of a minor is in question, which is

the paramount consideration for the Court while exercising

its parens patriae jurisdiction. A High Court may, therefore,

invoke its extra ordinary jurisdiction to determine the

validity of the detention, in cases that fall within its

jurisdiction and may also issue orders as to custody of the


minor depending upon how the court views the rival claims,

if any, to such custody. The Court may also direct

repatriation of the minor child for the country from where

he/she may have been removed by a parent or other

person; as was directed by this Court in Ravi Chandran's &

Shilpa Agarwal's cases (supra) or refuse to do so as was

the position in Sarita Sharma's case (supra). What is

important is that so long as the alleged detenue is within the

jurisdiction of the High Court no question of its competence

to pass appropriate orders arises. The writ court's

jurisdiction to make appropriate orders regarding custody

arises no sooner it is found that the alleged detenue is

within its territorial jurisdiction.

In cases arising out of proceedings under the Guardian

& Wards Act, the jurisdiction of the Court is determined by

whether the minor ordinarily resides within the area on

which the Court exercises such jurisdiction. There is thus a


significant difference between the jurisdictional facts

relevant to the exercise of powers by a writ court on the one

hand and a court under the Guardian & Wards Act on the

other. Having said that we must make it clear that no matter

a Court is exercising powers under the Guardian & Wards

Act it can choose to hold a summary enquiry into the matter

and pass appropriate orders provided it is otherwise

competent to entertain a petition for custody of the minor

under Section 9(1) of the Act. This is clear from the decision

of this Court in Dhanwanti Joshi v. Madhav Unde (1998)

1 SCC 112, which arose out of proceedings under the

Guardian & Wards Act. The following passage is in this

regard apposite:

"We may here state that this Court in Elizabeth
Dinshaw v. Arvand M. Dinshaw (1987) 1 SCC 42 while
dealing with a child removed by the father from USA
contrary to the custody orders of the US Court directed
that the child be sent back to USA to the mother not
only because of the principle of comity but also
because, on facts, -- which were independently
considered -- it was in the interests of the child to be
sent back to the native State. There the removal of the
child by the father and the mother's application in India


were within six months. In that context, this Court
referred to H. (infants), Re (1966) 1 ALL ER 886 which
case, as pointed out by us above has been explained in
L. Re (1974) 1 All ER 913, CA as a case where the
Court thought it fit to exercise its summary jurisdiction
in the interests of the child. Be that as it may, the
general principles laid down in McKee v. McKee (1951)
1 All ER 942 and J v. C (1969) 1 All ER 788 and the
distinction between summary and elaborate inquiries as
stated in L. (infants), Re (1974) 1 All ER 913, CA are
today well settled in UK, Canada, Australia and the
USA. The same principles apply in our country.
Therefore nothing precludes the Indian courts from
considering the question on merits, having regard to
the delay from 1984 -- even assuming that the earlier
orders passed in India do not operate as constructive
res judicata."

It does not require much persuasion for us to hold that

the issue whether the Court should hold a summary or a

detailed enquiry would arise only if the Court finds that it

has the jurisdiction to entertain the matter. If the answer to

the question touching jurisdiction is in the negative the

logical result has to be an order of dismissal of the

proceedings or return of the application for presentation

before the Court competent to entertain the same. A Court

that has no jurisdiction to entertain a petition for custody

cannot pass any order or issue any direction for the return


of the child to the country from where he has been removed,

no matter such removal is found to be in violation of an

order issued by a Court in that country. The party aggrieved

of such removal, may seek any other remedy legally open to

it. But no redress to such a party will be permissible before

the Court who finds that it has no jurisdiction to entertain

the proceedings.

We have while dealing with question No.1 above held

that the Court at Delhi was in the facts and circumstances of

the case competent to entertain the application filed by the

appellant. What needs to be examined is whether the High

Court was right in relying upon the principle of comity of

courts and dismissing the application. Our answer is in the

negative. The reasons are not far to seek. The first and

foremost of them being that `comity of courts' principle

ensures that foreign judgments and orders are

unconditionally conclusive of the matter in controversy. This


is all the more so where the courts in this country deal with

matters concerning the interest and welfare of minors

including their custody. Interest and welfare of the minor

being paramount, a competent court in this country is

entitled and indeed duty bound to examine the matter

independently, taking the foreign judgment, if any, only as

an input for its final adjudication. Decisions of this Court in

Dhanwanti Joshi, and Sarita Sharma's cases, (supra)

clearly support that proposition.

Secondly, the respondent's case that the minor was

removed from the jurisdiction of the American Courts in

contravention of the orders passed by them, is not factually

correct. Unlike V. Ravi Chandran's case (supra), where

the minor was removed in violation of an order passed by

the American Court there were no proceedings between the

parties in any Court in America before they came to India

with the minor. Such proceedings were instituted by the


respondent only after he had agreed to leave the appellant

and the minor behind in India, for the former to explore

career options and the latter to get admitted to a school.

The charge of abduction contrary to a valid order granting

custody is, therefore, untenable.

Thirdly, because the minor has been living in India and

pursuing his studies in a reputed school in Delhi for nearly

three years now. In the course of the hearing of the case,

we had an occasion to interact with the minor in our

chambers. He appears to be happy with his studies and

school and does not evince any interest in returning to his

school in America. His concern was more related to the

abduction charge and consequent harassment being faced

by his mother and maternal grandparents. We shall advert

to this aspect a little later, but for the present we only need

to mention that the minor appears to be settled in his

environment including his school studies and friends. He also


holds the respondent responsible for the troubles which his

mother is undergoing and is quite critical about the

respondent getting married to another woman.

Fourthly, because even the respondent does not grudge

the appellant getting custody of the minor, provided she

returns to America with the minor. Mr. Shishodia was asking

to make a solemn statement that the respondent would not,

oppose the appellant's prayer for the custody of the minor,

before the American Court. All that the respondent wants is

that the minor is brought up and educated in America,

instead of India, as the minor would benefit from the same.

The appellant was not willing to accept that proposal,

for according to her she has no intentions of returning to

that country in the foreseeable future especially after she

has had a very traumatic period on account of matrimonial

discord with the respondent. Besides, the offer was


according to the appellant, only meant to score a point more

than giving any real benefit to the minor.

In the light of all these circumstances, repatriation of

the minor to the United States, on the principle of `comity of

courts' does not appear to us to be an acceptable option

worthy of being exercised at this stage. Dismissal of the

application for custody in disregard of the attendant

circumstances referred to above was not in our view a

proper exercise of discretion by the High Court. Interest of

the minor shall be better served if he continued in the

custody of his mother the appellant in this appeal, especially

when the respondent has contracted a second marriage and

did not appear to be keen for having actual custody of the

minor. Question No.2 is also for the above reasons answered

in the negative.

Re. Question No.3


The order of the Delhi Court granting interim custody of

the minor to the appellant did not make any provision for

visitation rights of the respondent father of the child. In the

ordinary course the court ought to have done so not only

because even an interim order of custody in favour of the

parent should not insulate the minor from the parental

touch and influence of the other parent which is so very

important for the healthy growth of the minor and the

development of his personality. It is noteworthy that even

the respondent did not claim such rights in his application or

in the proceedings before the High Court. Indeed Mr.

Shishodia expressed serious apprehensions about the safety

of his client, if he were to visit India in order to meet the

child and associate with him. Some of these apprehensions

may not be entirely out of place but that does not mean that

the courts below could not grant redress against the same.

One of these apprehensions is that the respondent may be


involved in a false case under Section 498A & 406 of the IPC

or provisions like the Prohibition of Dowry Act 1961. A case

FIR No.97 dated 7.7.2009 has, in fact, been registered

against the respondent, which has been quashed by the

High Court by its order dated 22nd September, 2010 passed

in Crl. M.C. No.3329 of 2009. We have by our order of even

date dismissed an appeal against the said order, which must

effectively give a quietus to that controversy, and allay the

apprehension of the respondent. Not only that we are

inclined to issue further directions to ensure that the

respondent does not have any legal or other impediment in

exercising his visitation rights.

The question then is what should the visitation rights

be and how should the same be exercised. But before we

examine that aspect, we may advert to the need for the

visitation rights of the father to be recognised in the peculiar

circumstances of this case. From what we gathered in the

course of an interactive session with the minor, we


concluded that the minor has been thoroughly antagonized

against the respondent father. He held him responsible for

his inability to travel to Malaysia, with his grandparents

because if he does so, both the mother and her parents will

be arrested on the charge of abduction of the minor. He also

held the respondent responsible for his grandparent's skin

problems and other worries. He wanted to stay only in India

and wanted to be left alone by the respondent. He was

reluctantly agreeable to meeting and associating with the

respondent provided the respondent has the red corner

notice withdrawn so that he and his grandparents can travel


For a boy so young in years, these and other

expressions suggesting a deep rooted dislike for the father

could arise only because of a constant hammering of

negative feeling in him against his father. This approach and

attitude on the part of the appellant or her parents can


hardly be appreciated. What the appellant ought to

appreciate is that feeding the minor with such dislike and

despire for his father does not serve his interest or his

growth as a normal child. It is important that the minor has

his father's care and guidance, at this formative and

impressionable stage of his life. Nor can the role of the

father in his upbringing and grooming to face the realities of

life be undermined. It is in that view important for the child's

healthy growth that we grant to the father visitation rights;

that will enable the two to stay in touch and share moments

of joy, learning and happiness with each other. Since the

respondent is living in another continent such contact cannot

be for obvious reasons as frequent as it may have been if

they were in the same city. But the forbidding distance that

separates the two would get reduced thanks to the modern

technology in telecommunications. The appellant has been

according to the respondent persistently preventing even

telephonic contact between the father and the son. May be


the son has been so poisoned against him that he does not

evince any interest in the father. Be that as it may

telephonic contact shall not be prevented by the appellant

for any reason whatsoever and shall be encouraged at all

reasonable time. Video conferencing may also be possible

between the two which too shall not only be permitted but

encouraged by the appellant.

Besides, the father shall be free to visit the minor in

India at any time of the year and meet him for two hours on

a daily basis, unhindered by any impediment from the

mother or her parents or anyone else for that matter. The

place where the meeting can take place shall be indicated by

the trial Court after verifying the convenience of both the

parties in this regard. The trial Court shall pass necessary

orders in this regard without delay and without permitting

any dilatory tactics in the matter.


For the vacations in summer, spring and winter the

respondent shall be allowed to take the minor with him for

night stay for a period of one week initially and for longer

periods in later years, subject to the respondent getting the

itinerary in this regard approved from the Guardian & Wards

Court. The respondent shall also be free to take the minor

out of Delhi subject to the same condition. The respondent

shall for that purpose be given the temporary custody of the

minor in presence of the trial court, on any working day on

the application of the respondent. Return of the minor to the

appellant shall also be accordingly before the trial court on a

date to be fixed by the court for that purpose. The above

directions are subject to the condition that the respondent

does not remove the child from the jurisdiction of this Court

pending final disposal of the application for grant of custody

by the Guardian and Wards Court, Delhi. We make it clear

that within the broad parameters of the directions regarding

visitation rights of the respondent, the parties shall be free


to seek further directions from the Court seized of the

guardianship proceedings; to take care of any difficulties

that may arise in the actual implementation of this order.



(Arising out of SLP (Crl.) No.10362 of 2010)

In this appeal the appellant has challenged the

correctness of an order dated 22nd September, 2010 passed

by the High Court of Delhi, quashing FIR No.97 of 2009

registered against respondent-husband and three others in

Police Station, Crime against Women Cell, Nanakpura, New

Delhi, for offences punishable under Sections 498A, 406

read with Section 34 IPC. The High Court has recapitulated

the relevant facts and found that the appellant-complainant

is a citizen of USA and had all along lived in USA with her

son and husband, away from her in laws. The High Court

has, on the basis of the statement made by the appellant in

California Court, further found that the alleged scene of

occurrence was in USA and that her in-laws had no say in

the matrimonial life of the couple. The appellant had further

stated that all her jewelry was lying in the couple's house in

USA and no part of it was with her in-laws as was


subsequently stated to be the position in the FIR lodged by

the appellant. No locker number of the bank was disclosed

in the FIR nor any date of the opening of locker or the

jewelry items lying in it. The particulars of the bank in which

the alleged locker was taken by him were also not given in

the FIR. The High Court further held that the appellant had

not lodged any report although the appellant's parents in-

laws were alleged to have stated that the jewelry items were

not commensurate with the status of their family as early as

in the year 1996. The High Court in that view held that no

offence under Section 498A and 406 IPC, was made out

against her in-laws on the basis of the allegations made by

the appellant in the FIR.

Having heard learned counsel for the parties we are of

the opinion that in the light of the findings recorded by the

High Court the correctness whereof were not disputed before

us, the High Court was justified in quashing the FIR filed by


the appellant. In fairness to the learned counsel, we must

mention that although a feeble attempt was made during

the course of hearing to assail the order passed by the High

Court, that pursuit was soon given up by him. In that view

of the matter we see no reason to interfere with the orders

passed by the High Court in Crl. M.C. No.3329 of 2009.

In the result

(i) Civil Appeal is allowed and order dated 8th March,

2010 passed by the High Court hereby set aside.

Consequently, proceedings in G.P. No.361/2001 filed by

the appellant shall go on and be disposed of on the

merits as expeditiously as possible.

(ii) Order granting interim custody of minor Kush with

appellant is resultantly affirmed subject to the grant of


visitation right to the father as indicated in body of the


(iii) The observations made in this order shall not

prejudice the cases of the parties before the trial Court

and shall be understood to have been made only for

purposes of this appeal except in so far as the question

of jurisdiction of the trial Court is concerned which

aspect shall be taken to have been finally decided by

this Court.

(iv) All authorities statutory or otherwise shall act in aid

of the directions given herein above.

(v) Criminal Appeal No. 1184 of 2011, (Arising out of

SLP (Crl.) No.10362 of 2010) is dismissed.


(vi) The parties are left to bear their own costs in this

Court and the Courts below.





New Delhi

May 13, 2011


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