The Supreme Court Friday asked the Centre to respond to a plea seeking reforms on shared parenting of a child in cases of divorced or separated parents.
A bench of Justices S A Bobde and B R Gavai issued notice to the Centre on the plea which has sought slew of directions to Child Welfare Committees (CWCs) and family courts for implementation of shared parenting in cases of divorce, marital disputes or unmarried parents so that the child is directly in contact with both the parents for his or her well being.
"Issue notice," the bench said.
At the outset, the bench said that it was a matter for the parliament to look into. "We have seen it is a very noble cause but what can the court do in this case."
The plea, filed through advocate Rajiv Mangla, said due to rise in separation and divorce rates, children's rights need to be secured as owing to parental alienation the most affected and neglected person is the child.
"The emotional, social and physical development of children has a direct effect on their overall development and on the adult they will become," the plea said.
"Due to rise in separation and divorce rates and in the challenging society, children's right need to be secured, as the matter of the fact that due to dispute between the parents in the country, children are unable to maintain personal relations and direct contact with both parents on a regular basis," it added.
The plea further said that it has been observed in various researches and by Indian courts that breakdown of marriage is not the end of being a parent, and parental responsibility continues.
It said that at present the Hindu Minority and Guardianship Act, the Guardians and Wards Act, Juvenile Justice Act are being considered as the sole Acts while deciding the custody issues of a child but these were miserably inadequate to deal with the perspective of the best interest of the child.
"These Acts are less focused towards parenting of the child but more towards the crude implementation of custody and guardianship," it said.
The plea sought direction to the concerned courts, CWCs, National and State commissions for protection of child rights to get the shared parenting agreement enforced within a period of one month from the date the issue is raised with the authorities.
CWCs at large are "not recognising the rights of the child in the perspective of alienated children. The courts are overburdened with the custody cases and other family issues whereas the CWC is keeping a closed eye towards the issue, which in fact lies under the JJ Act.
"If the CWC is described about the scope and ambit of it with respect to the enforcement of rights of alienated child and other family issues then the courts shall be less burdened and the society shall have another forum to approach in case of need," it said.
The plea further sought direction to the women's cells, courts, police stations and NGOs to guide parents to approach the family court or CWCs within seven days and to submit that proof to the referring authority while dealing with a dispute where a child is unable to maintain direct contact with either parent.
It also sought guidelines to CWCs to get the shared parenting agreement enforced within a period of 90 days from the date of inception of the cause before the concerned authority.