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In Lockdown Era, SC Allows Parent-Child Visitation Rights Via Video, But With Riders

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In view of inability of parents having visitation rights to meet their children physically due to nationwide lockdown, the Supreme Court has directed that parents may resort to electronic means for the same.

It was the petitioner Tanuj Dhawan’s contention that because of lockdown, children were unable to interact with their parents even though they have visitation rights for the purpose.

A bench comprising Justices NV Ramana, SK Kaul and BR Gavai gave suggestion of substitution of physical contact with video conference & 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 arrangements in this behalf. if there is an aggrieved party, the same can approach the Family Court.”

Dhawan, an Asst. Professor at Delhi University had raised concerns regarding mental health of children due to inability to maintain contact with their parents having due visitation rights. He said, “Many couples who are either separated or divorced are having visitation rights for their children from the Court but due to restrictions of movement they are unable to exercise same which would cause serious concern over mental well being of the concerned child.”

Also, it was submitted by Petitioner that issue of mental health in lockdown is amongst most important aspects in this unprecedented situation due to this many NGO’s and mental health institutions have been acting round the clock, needless to say that psychological changes which would be observed during and post pandemic period amongst people since this scenario has created lot of anxiety and depression in the society. 

In a similar petition before the same bench earlier in the day, the Court refused to issue guidelines for videoconferencing access to non-custodial parents. 

In the matter of Venkatesh Srinivasa Rao and Ors vs. Union of India , Court stated that the petitioners have prayed for daily electronic access in the form of minimum one ­hour video call be facilitated between the child and non­-custodial parents who have already been granted visitation rights by any competent court.

Bench held it is not permissible to issue an encompassing guidelines on the said subject.

Petitioner Counsel in the case himself conceded in that, whenever the parties are mutually agreeable, they can always arrange for an electronic interaction and if there is resistance, they will have to approach the concerned Family Court for the purpose.

-India Legal Bureau

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