As India prepares to host the G20 Summit, a group of nine retired judges has reached out to the leaders of G20 nations, urging them to seek a compassionate resolution by repatriating Indian children who have been separated from their parents by state child agencies in Western Europe, the UK, US, Australia, and New Zealand.
The signatories include Justice Ruma Pal, Justice Vikramajit Sen, Justice A K Sikri, and Justice Deepak Gupta, formerly of the Supreme Court; Justice A P Shah, former Chief Justice of Delhi High Court; Justice S Muralidhar who was the Chief Justice of the High Court of Odisha; and Justice Manju Goel, Justice R S Sodhi and Justice R V Easwar, who sat in the Delhi High Court.
The retired judges said being cut off from the family and kin leads to isolation and loss of identity of Indian children placed with foster carers abroad, and demanded a discussion on the matter in the G20 Summit.
They said every year there are cases of children among expatriate families being removed from parental care by child protection authorities of the country of residence on grounds of abuse, neglect, or risk of harm.
“Such children are placed in custody of the foreign child protection authority. While all children are entitled to kinship care when removed from parental custody, as these children have no extended family in the country of residence, they do not have that option,” the letter said.
The retired judges suggested that return to a safe placement in the home country is a more humane and compassionate solution for such children than leaving them in foreign state custody for the entirety of their childhoods.
They also said that there appears to be a need for better understanding of cultural differences and provision of good quality translators in child protection proceedings in these countries.
The letter refers to cases in Norway and the United States of America where the government of India has had to intervene. They also point to the ongoing cases with Germany and Australia, the latter resulting in the distraught mother taking her own life.
Priyadarshini Patil, a 40-year-old Indian-origin woman from Australia, was found dead in Karnataka last week. She was allegedly upset as the Australian authorities had separated her from her teenage children two years ago.
The signatories called for a compassionate consideration of the Indian government’s request in the Germany case for a child’s repatriation in the care of the Indian child welfare authorities.
“There is currently a tragic case concerning a baby of Gujarati-origin in foster care in Germany. The parental rights have been terminated and the government of India has requested the child’s repatriation in the care and protection of the Indian child welfare authorities. This is a solution that respects the German system’s assessment of the parents, while enabling the child to at least preserve her nationality and heritage. We urge Germany to consider this request compassionately,” the letter read.
The letter has been addressed to heads of states of G20 countries, and invitee states, including prime minister Narendra Modi, as well as international organisations like the United Nations, International Monetary Fund, World Bank, World Health Organisation, World Trade Organisation, among others.