THE BOMBAY High Court (HC) has refused to accept the spread of the coronavirus disease in the country as grounds to allow a Thailand national, engaged in a custody battle with her estranged husband, to relocate to Bangkok with her 12-year-old son.
A division bench of Justices A A Sayed and Abhay Ahuja last week passed the judgment on a plea filed by the woman, who is living in Mumbai with her minor son since she had separated from her husband in 2012.
In view of the controlled Covid-19 situation in Thailand, the petitioner had sought permission to relocate with her son to Bangkok, where her parents live.
She also sought that the child is allowed to join a school in that country and stay there until the custody petition was decided before a family court in Mumbai.
Senior counsel Darius Khambata, appearing for the petitioner, had submitted before the court that the woman is a citizen of Thailand and the child has dual citizenship of Thailand and the USA.
Two other children of the estranged couple were earlier permitted to travel to the USA for further studies during the pendency of the custody pleas, he informed the court.
Khambata also said the petitioner and her son were living alone in India “without any basic medical or financial assistance, maintenance and insurance and require relief”.
The arrears of maintenance from the petitioner’s husband, amounting to nearly Rs 16 lakh, were pending and had created financial difficulties for the woman, Khambata informed the court.
He also submitted that the Covid-19 curve had flattened in Thailand and has become “one of the safest places on the earth in the present Covid-19 pandemic”.
The court was told that as on June 18, there were only 3,290 Covid-19 cases and 58 deaths in Thailand.
Meanwhile, in India, there were 1.44 million cases and 32,063 deaths.
In the past, Khambata said, the petitioners were allowed to travel to Bangkok nine times through the Supreme Court and high court orders and had returned to Mumbai each time.
After hearing submissions, the court noted that it would not be proper to disrupt the studies of the child, studying in a reputed international school in Mumbai, in the middle of the academic year, classes for which are being conducted online.
The bench also said it would not be in the interest of the boy to uproot him at the stage “when he has lived in Mumbai and has attended school in the city throughout”.
The bench dismissed the plea stating that the woman and her minor son were not entitled to any relief.
It said, “The ground of Covid-19 pandemic for relocation does not appeal to us at all… Merely because the wife has been allowed to travel to Thailand nine times with the 12-year-old son for a temporary period under the court orders, would not work in her favour and certainly cannot be equated to relocating the son to Bangkok, pending disposal of family court proceedings.”
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