This is a story every NRI litigant should read. They (fighting Indian couples living abroad, especially with young children) can no longer dodge, fudge and ignore the Indian courts. They have to take all the orders being made in relation to their affairs in India – SERIOUSLY.
The Supreme Court of India has sentenced a non-resident Indian to six months imprisonment and imposed a fine of Rs 25 lakhs for contempt of court, – for ignoring the Indian court’s orders.
In a long a protracted family fight between an Indian couple who have a young son, with husband and his family settled overseas in two countries, and wife being from India having gone abroad after marriage, the couple’s marriage ended when the mother and her young son were thrown out of the house by husband’s family she was living with while the husband worked in another country.
She ended up having to come back to India with her son.
The husband in her absence went to the local court in his country of residence and applied for and was granted sole custody of the son.
As is quite common, the husband went back to India, and in an apparent attempt to reconcile for the sake of his son and saving the marriage, a compromise was struck and the wife was made to feel loved and respected and from ‘now on she will decide the way she wants to live’.
Apprehensive of things going wrong again, the wife decided to stay in India and by agreement between the two, the son would complete his schooling before they move back overseas.
And the arrangements were agreed to for mutual visits by both and the son visiting his paternal family every year for a month.
Everything was documented and signed by both sides and stamped and sealed by the courts in India. The agreement also included that the arrangements between them – now in the form of court orders – will be mirrored in the courts abroad including setting aside the orders granting the sole custody to the husband.
As it turns out, the husband was perhaps not as serious as the documents he signed. On one of the visits, he took his son abroad and the month-long vacation of the son became eternity. The husband has not come back nor brought the son back to India to be with his mother.
And the mother approached the Supreme Court of India which, taking a very strict position on the husband’s clever posturing and deliberately ignoring the Indian courts’ orders, passed the order on May 16, sentencing him (the husband) to six months simple imprisonment and ordering him to pay TRs 25 Lakhs in fine.
The court also ordered that in the case where the husband defaults in paying the fine, his jail term will increase by two months.
The court said that the contemnor (husband) was under an obligation to bring back his minor son to India on 1st July 2022.
The court noted that his conduct showed he never had any intention of bringing the child back to India.
In light of him deliberately hiding from the concerned Foreign Court his agreed undertakings to the Indian courts, his conduct, the apex court found amounted to interference with the administration of justice and obstructing the administration of justice.
Thus, the court ruled, he was guilty of both civil and criminal contempt. The court, through its orders, directed the government of India and the CBI to ensure the husband is brought back to India, undergoes the sentence and pays the fine.
“We direct the Government of India as well as the Central Bureau of Investigation to take all possible and permissible steps to secure the presence of the contemnor in India with a view to ensure that he undergoes the sentence and pays the fine”, the Court order said.