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Norway – Unsafe Destination for Indians

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Editor’s Desk: The Norwegian laws are strict and formidable in child abuse cases and the law of the land prevails. The two recent examples of Indian couple’s living in Norway can be cited. The cases depict Norway as an unsafe destination for Indians and are true to a large extent.

The Vallabhaneni couple, from Andhra Pradesh, was charged by the Oslo court for abusing their seven year child and sentenced to a 18-month term for the software professional father and an 15-month term for the mother Anupama. The charges pressed against them were of “gross repeated maltreatment by threats, violence and other wrongs”. The official statement released by the Oslo district Court stated that, “an Indian couple was found guilty on several counts of child abuse. In the view of the court, the couple deliberately burned their son’s leg with a hot spoon or similar object, with the result that the child had burn marks measuring approximately 3 x 5 centimeters.” Now all the charges can’t be ruled out.

The second case of NRI couple Anurup Bhattacharya and his wife Sagarika was for the custody of their two children, Abhigyan, 3 year old and Aishwarya, 1 year old. The parent’s nightmare started with Barnevarne, the Norway Child Welfare Service, took away their children and put them under foster care. They interfered after being informed about the intermittent behavior of Abhigyan at school. The charges held against the couple were, feeding their children by hand which according to them amount to force feeding, making them sleep in the same bed as theirs and emotional disconnect.

In this case it is very explicit that the difference lies in the cultures and strictness of law but the Norwegian Court rejected the Bhattacharya’s appeal of misunderstanding the difference in their cultures as negligence towards their children. After the intervention of Government of India only a compromise can be reached by the Norwegian authorities agreeing to give the custody of the children to Arunabhash, parental uncle of the children who lives in Kolkata, on the grounds that “the upbringing will meet their needs” and submitting of regular reports to the Norway authorities. The children are still under the foster care of their parental uncle and their mother is still fighting for the custody.

In both the cases the intervention of Government of India was sought but the approach taken by the government was dissimilar for both the cases. The degree of intervention was more in the Anurup-Sagarika case to the extent of sending a special envoy to the country and sighting an agreement between the two parties.

The point to be noted here is that this case got a lot of media attention and public empathy accompanied by a protest from opposition parties. But in the other case it kept itself a bit aloof by saying that, “the dispute is between the private citizens and the government of another country, and the case must be handled according to local laws.”

The two sides of the coin in these cases are firstly the indifference faced by Indians in the foreign courts and secondly the lesson to be learnt by Indian law makers to make the child abuse law more strict in the country. The argument of cultural difference is not acceptable for being involved in any kind of child abuse. The difference lies only in the rigor of making and implementing the  child abuse laws which is missing from our judiciary.

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