A heart-rending case: SC on plea to free minor from Egyptian father

New Delhi:-A woman is fighting an intense legal battle seeking custody of her minor nephew from his Egyptian father, who allegedly sexually harassed and committed paedophilic acts with the child. The man absconded with the child from India in February 2020, and they are untraceable so far.

The sister of the petitioner died on 17 April 2019, soon after the birth of the child in Pune. The petitioner moved to Egypt along with the man to provide care to the newborn child. In the plea, she alleged in August 2019, he made sexual advances on her, and also to her utter shock, found out he had paedophilic tendencies towards the 4-month-old baby. The petitioner along with the child returned to Pune in September 2019. She lodged a complaint in Pune stating she was sexually harassed by the Egyptian man, and he had also sexually harassed the child and also committed paedophilic acts on him.

Later, the father filed a habeas corpus plea before the Bombay High court alleging that the maternal aunt and grandmother had illegal custody of his child. On January 30, 2020, the high court restored the custody of the child to his father and also allowed him to take the child to his working place in Abu Dhabi, after March 27, 2020.

The woman and her mother moved the top court challenging this order and alleged that on February 16, 2020, they received an email from the man stating he had taken the child with him to Egypt. Petitioners said the man was required to bring the child to India as per high court’s direction, four times in a year, but this has been breached. Also, the petitioners could not access the child via video conferencing.

The petitioners submitted in the top court that child’s father is highly temperamental, domineering and paedophilic and has several obsessive-compulsive disorders, and it is not safe to leave the child in his custody. The petitioners sought direction to the CBI to bring back the child to India.

In March 2021, the top court issued a bailable warrant against the Egyptian man for violating custodial orders of his son passed by the high court.

The top court also requested the Indian Embassy to use its good offices to ensure that access is provided to the petitioners on a video conferencing platform to converse with the child.

Earlier this week after learning that man is still untraceable, a bench headed by justices D.Y. Chandrachud and M.R. Shah, said: “This is a heart-rending case”. Additional solicitor general Aishwarya Bhati, representing the Centre, informed the bench that the Union Ministry of Home Affairs is in contact with the Indian Embassy in Cairo and the Indian Embassy has contacted the Egyptian government to ensure that service of notice of bailable warrant issued by this court is effected on the man.

“The Court has also been apprised of the fact that there is a treaty of 2008 for mutual legal assistance between the Government of India and the Government of Egypt”, noted the bench, in its order passed on August 3. The top court has listed the matter for further hearing on September 15.