This Article is From Apr 23, 2012

Norway custody row: Court verdict on children likely today

Stavanger: Will the children of the NRI couple, engaged in a custody battle in Norway, return to their homeland? After several twists and turns in the case, a Norwegian court is expected to deliver its verdict today.

Anurup and Sagarika Bhattacharya have fought a long legal battle with Norwegian authorities to get three-year-old Abhigyan and one-year-old Aishwarya back to the family. During the hearing in the case involving two Indian children, which was held in Stavanger District Court on April 17, the Child Welfare Services (CWS) and the children's parents and the uncle submitted a joint statement to the court stating that they agreed to the solution that the children's uncle would be their guardian. The CWS, which has kept the children in foster care since May last year, made a recommendation to the Stavanger district court that the children's custody should go given to the uncle and they should be allowed to return to India.

The court is yet to authorise the children to be removed from the Norwegian foster home. The family is hoping that the children will be free to leave with the uncle and return to India within a couple of days.

Trouble began when the Bhattacharyas noticed their elder son Abhigyan had been showing symptoms similar to autism. The workers of the kindergarten where Abhigyan used to go reported his condition to the CWS which began observing the family closely ostensibly to offer help even inside the privacy of their homes.

The parent's interactions with the children were recorded on camera and were analysed. The CWS later concluded that Abhigyan was suffering from attachment disorder which they said was a result of a disconnect between the mother and child; they also said the child had witness violence between the parents.

The CWS workers started then interfering over how their children should be fed or where and with whom they should sleep. They asked the father to take leave from work to help build the relationship.

On May 11, 2011, when three CWS workers came to the Bhattacharya home, an argument broke out with the mother. One of the workers said the little girl should be taken outdoors as the atmosphere at home was too tense, but a little later the parents were told on the phone that Aishwarya had been in emergency foster care.

On the same day, Abhigyan who was away at the kindergarten was also taken away directly to an undisclosed location. He too had been put in emergency foster care. A court battle followed but the children have not been returned to the family's care since.

In November 2011, a family court in Stavanger declared that the children will stay in foster care till they turned 18. The CWS refused to give the custody of the children to any family member. Sagarika's parents then started a campaign back in India and sought the help of the Foreign Ministry which intervened and got the case reopened.