The Bombay high court on Wednesday rapped the Union government for “half-baked assurances and lips service” on tracking film producer Mushtaq Nadiadwala’s two minor children, who he claims have been illegally detained by his wife in Pakistan since 2020.
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A division bench of Justices Revati Mohite Dere and P K Chavan had last week directed the Union ministry of external affairs (MEA) to at least find out where the children are and establish some contact with them.
The court was hearing a petition filed by Nadiadwala, seeking a direction to the government to facilitate the safe return of his nine-year-old son and daughter aged six.
The producer in his plea also sought the return of his wife if she was being held in Pakistan by her family under undue influence.
On Wednesday, advocate Ashish Chavan told the high court that the government was making endeavours to track the children.
He also told the court that a meeting was held between Nadiadwala and additional secretary in the overseas Indian affairs department of the MEA on September 16.
He submitted a letter of minutes of the meeting which said that since the children are allegedly in Pakistan with which there is no mutual legal assistance treaty, hence the Indian government cannot find the whereabouts of the producer’s wife and children without the Pakistan government’s cooperation.
Chavan further told the court that the MEA has written to the high commission of India in Islamabad requesting for the whereabouts of the children and a response is awaited.
The bench then said it is not convinced with just endeavours and wants assurance.
“We (court) want the ministry to give its 100 per cent and we are not getting that comfort from you. If we are ourselves not convinced, then what about the petitioner (Nadiadwala)?” Justice Dere said.
“Don’t give us half-baked assurances and lip service. What we expect to hear from you (MEA) is that you will do everything that it possible to bring the children back,” the HC said.
The bench posted the matter for further hearing after three weeks.
Nadiadwala in his plea alleged that his children have been illegally detained in Pakistan by his wife Maryam Chaudhary and her family.
The producer claimed his wife has refused to return to India and has also refused to provide any plausible reason for deserting him.
As per the petition, Nadiadwala married Chaudhary in April 2012 in Pakistan after which she moved to India and applied for Indian citizenship. The couple have two children.
In November 2020, Chaudhary left India and went to Pakistan with the two children.
In February 2021, she filed a guardianship petition in Lahore seeking to be appointed as the lawful guardian of the two children which was accepted by the court there.
Nadiadwala in his petition claimed Chaudhary may have been brainwashed or coerced to extend her stay in Pakistan.
“The illegal detention of the children in Pakistan is not only in gross derogation of immigration laws of both countries, but is also predominantly contrary to the general wellbeing and upbringing of the children,” the petition said.
Nadiadwala also said his wife’s family members are influential people in Pakistan.