The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) on Monday told the Bombay High Court an officer from its Chief Passport and Visa office would meet film producer Mushtaq Nadiadwala, who has claimed his two minor children have been illegally detained by his Pakistani wife and her family since 2020.
The MEA made the submission before a division bench of Justices NM Jamdar and NR Borkar. The bench was hearing a plea filed by Mr Nadiadwala seeking a direction to the Indian government to facilitate the safe return of his two minor children – a 9-year-old son and a 6-year-old daughter – who are allegedly being held illegally in Pakistan. The plea also sought return of his wife if she is being held in the neighbouring country by her family under undue influence.
On Monday, Additional Solicitor General Anil Singh and advocate Ashish Chavan, appearing for the MEA, sought time to file an affidavit in response to the petition as it raises a peculiar situation and said the government was not taking the petition as an adversarial (in conflict) plea.
The bench then noted that since the government was not taking the matter as adversarial, an officer of the MEA could meet the petitioner and give him a hearing and explain what steps can be taken in such a situation.
“At least then the petitioner (Mr Nadiadwala), too, would be satisfied. It need not necessarily be through the court. Involve him (Mr Nadiadwala), too, and let him also know what steps you have taken or propose to take in his case,” Justice Jamdar remarked.
Mr Singh and Mr Chavan agreed to the suggestion and said the Joint Secretary of the MEA’s Chief Passport and Visa department would give an audience to the filmmaker to understand the steps taken by the government in such cases.
Mr Nadiadwala’s counsel Beni Chatterji told the court his client would first like the government to locate his children and inform if they are safe.
The court then posted the matter for further hearing on September 12.
Mr Chatterji also informed the court that Mr Nadiadwala is very distressed as his father AG Nadiadwala passed away on August 22 without even meeting his grandchildren.
Mr Nadiadwala, in his plea, claimed the central government has failed to discharge its duties to protect and bring back the children, who are Indian citizens and are being illegally detained in Pakistan.
The petition further said the visiting visa granted to the two children expired in October 2021.
The filmmaker alleged his children have been illegally detained in Pakistan by his wife Maryam Chaudhary and her family.
Mr Nadiadwala claimed his wife has refused to return to India and has also declined to provide any plausible reason for deserting him.
As per the petition, Mr Nadiadwala married Maryam Chaudhary in April 2012 in Pakistan, after which his wife moved to India and applied for Indian citizenship. The couple subsequently had two children.
In November 2020, Ms Chaudhary left India for Pakistan along with the two kids.
In February 2021, she filed a guardianship petition in Lahore seeking to be appointed as the lawful guardian of the two children, which was accepted by a court in the Pakistani city.
Mr Nadiadwala, in his petition, alleged Ms Chaudhary may have been “brainwashed or coerced” to extend her stay in Pakistan.
“The illegal detention of the children in Pakistan is not only in gross derogation of immigration laws of both countries, but is also predominantly contrary to the general well-being and upbringing of the children,” the petition said.
The filmmaker further said his wife’s family members are influential people in Pakistan.