Embracing the prevailing situation around the pandemic of Coronavirus and the nationwide lockdown imposed as a result of it, the Bombay High Court last Friday allowed a father to see his children through video conferencing three days a week, while hearing a writ petition in a matrimonial dispute filed by the man's wife.
Justice SJ Kathawalla specified that the said order will remain in operation till the lockdown is lifted in Mumbai and that the video conferencing sessions with children shall be done thrice a week i.e. on Monday, Thursday and Sunday between 5 and 6 pm. Court said-
"If the children have any difficulty to come on-line at the time specified herein, the parties may mutually fix the time when the father can have access to the children."
Family Court had granted custody of the children to the petitioner wife and directed the respondent husband to pay a monthly maintenance for their children and the High Court directed him to continue to pay the maintenance.
Advocate Prabha Bhadadre appeared for the petitioner and the respondent appeared in person.
In December 2019, the High Court had appointed Senior Advocate Manjula Rao as a mediator in the matter after both parties mutually agreed on her name. Court had observed-
"Having regard to the matrimonial dispute also involving dispute as to custody and access, it would be appropriate that the dispute is referred for mediation."
At the same hearing Court was also informed by the respondent's lawyer that two orders of access passed by the Family Court against the respondent husband had been stayed by the High Court in October, 2019 and the petitioner wife's contempt petition against the respondent for breach of these two orders was still pending before the Family Court.
Court was informed that the mediator had interviewed the children, and stated that they seemed comfortable and willing to meet their father at the children complex in the Family Court. On March 26, 2020, Justice Revati Mohite Dere passed an order directing both parties to remain present in her chamber at 3 pm in order to settle the dispute amicably.
However, due to the nationwide lockdown, the respondent was unable to meet his children in person and sought an alternative solution from the Court.
On Friday, the petitioner wife through her lawyer submitted that she was willing to make arrangements to enable the respondent father to have access to their children through video conferencing.
Thus, the respondent's request seeking access to the children via video conferencing was allowed.
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