The Supreme Court has suggested that parents who have visitation rights can use electronic media to interact with children staying apart during the COVID-19 lockdown. This arrangement can be ‘mutually acceptable by the parent’ and that if there is an aggrieved party, then they should ‘approach the family court.’
While commenting on visitation rights, the order stated,
“If they have visitation rights, we suggest that electronic contact instead of physical visits can be substituted in these times. The parties can arrive at a mutually acceptable arrangement in this behalf. If there is an aggrieved party, the same can approach the Family Court.”
Bench of Justices NV Ramana, SK Kaul and BR Gavai has passed order in a plea by the Dr Tanuj Dhawan, an Assistant Professor of Physics at Delhi University. The petition highlighted that the situation restrains such parents from exercising their rights, and more importantly, “affects the mental health of their children due to the inability to interact with their parents and vice-versa”.
The plea further stated,
“Many couples who are either separated or divorced are having Visitation Rights for their children from court but due to movement restrictions they are unable to exercise same which would cause serious concerns over the mental well being of the child concerned.”
Justice Kaul observed that general directions may only lead to a lot of contempt cases in the future. He said,
“If we pass such orders and the custodial parent does not follow it, we will be flooded with contempt cases. How can we issue nationwide directions? We won’t know whether visitation is taking place or not taking place. It’s a non-workable direction. We pass an order, if it’s not implemented we have no way to enforce the order. Let these issues be taken up by the family courts.”
The Court ultimately suggested “electronic contact” during these times, if the parties agree on mutual terms.
Read the Order here: