Uncle gets custody in Indian kids case

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16:34 CEST+02:00
Two Indian children at the centre of an international row after authorities in Norway removed them from their parents' care can be placed with their uncle in India, a Norwegian court ruled on Monday.

The two children, aged one and three, were removed from their parents in May 2011 by Norway's child welfare services, which deemed they were not receiving proper care, but refused to give more details, citing confidentiality.

The parents, Norwegian residents, rejected the allegations and initially claimed on Indian television that Norwegian authorities objected to their feeding the children by hand and sharing the same bed -- common practices in India where they are seen as part of the bonding between mother and child.

The father later changed his story, telling Indian media: "It was not just cultural bias that prompted the CWS (child welfare service) to act. My wife has a serious psychological problem."

He said he was speaking out after a row with his wife in which she allegedly attacked him, and that he had "concealed the seriousness" of problems within his family. His wife's version of events was not given.

The children, who have been in foster care for almost a year, will be allowed to return to India now that the parents have agreed with CWS to voluntary give custody of their children to an uncle in India, the Stavanger district court ruled.

"The court ... finds that assistance measures, such as the voluntary custody transfer to the uncle, will help make up for the parents' shortcomings in terms of childcare," it said.

"Because of this the court has also decided that a decision, under which Child Welfare Services in Stavanger municipality would assume care for the children, shall be annulled now that the parents have voluntarily transferred custody to the uncle."

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The case drew widespread media attention in India, much of it highly critical of the Norwegian authorities initially, and called into question the involvement of the Indian foreign ministry.

Foreign Minister S.M. Krishna had demanded that Norway "find an amicable and urgent solution" in returning the children to the family.

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