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Kaur v. Singh

Court of Appeals of Tennessee, Jackson

February 2, 2017


          Session January 17, 2017

         Appeal from the Circuit Court for Shelby County No. CT-004060-16 Robert L. Childers, Judge.

         This is an interlocutory appeal limited to the issue of whether the orders of an Indian court regarding matters pending in India is entitled to full faith and credit, such that this state's trial court lacks jurisdiction over custody of the minor child pursuant to the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act. The mother, an Indian citizen but permanent resident of the United States, filed an action in India seeking the return of her minor son. She contends that her son, a citizen of the United States, is being detained illegally in India by her husband and his family. The Indian court ruled that the child should remain with the paternal grandparents in India at this time. The mother, thereafter, filed an action for divorce in Shelby County. After a hearing, the state trial court ordered, inter alia, that the father, also an Indian citizen but permanent resident of the United States, return the child to Tennessee within seven days. Upon the trial court's denial of the father's request for an interlocutory appeal pursuant to Rule 9, the father sought a Rule 10 extraordinary appeal of the trial court's ruling. We find that the appeal was improvidently granted. Accordingly, we decline to address the issue presented and dismiss the appeal.

         Tenn. R. App. P. 10 Extraordinary Appeal; Dismissed; Case Remanded.

          Aubrey L. Brown, Jr. and Leigh-Taylor White, Memphis, Tennessee, for the appellant, Vaneet Singh.

          Melinda Plass Jewell and Sarah Carter, Memphis, Tennessee, for the appellee, Siminder Kaur.

          John W. McClarty, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which J. Steven Stafford, P.J., W.S., and Arnold B. Goldin, J., joined.



         I. BACKGROUND

         This appeal arises from a divorce proceeding and involves the trial court's subject matter jurisdiction. The parties in this case are Siminder Kaur ("Mother") and Vaneet Singh ("Father"). They are of Indian descent and were married on March 9, 2008, in Mali, India. Both parties have retained their Indian citizenship, but they became permanent residents of the United States in 2012. The parties' permanent residence is located in Collierville in Shelby County, Tennessee. Mother previously worked for St. Jude for four years; for the last two years she has worked at International Paper in Memphis. Father, who works for Medtronic as an engineer, travels back and forth from the United States to India as his work dictates. Their minor son is Anhad Singh ("the Child"), born in Germantown, Tennessee. The Child, therefore, is a citizen of the United States.

         In October 2015, the parties, who had been experiencing marital issues, traveled to India for a family wedding. Once in India, Father proposed that the Child be left with his parents there for a short period of time in order to allow the parties an opportunity to work through their marital difficulties. Mother initially refused the idea, but she finally agreed in an attempt to save her marriage. According to Father, on November 24, 2015, he and Mother signed a letter to the Bureau of Immigration in India in the presence of an Executive Magistrate giving written permission to the paternal grandfather "to submit forms, applications, and other necessary documents" so that the Child could receive status as a registered Overseas Citizen of India ("OCI").[1]

         Soon after departing India without the Child, Mother began to question the decision. She sent multiple text messages and emails to Father expressing her concern and also her displeasure with the fact that he did not exhibit a desire to save the marriage. Over time, she concluded that leaving her son behind in India so that the couple could concentrate on the marriage had been a ruse to separate her from the Child.

         In April 2016, Mother purchased airline tickets for herself and the Child and traveled to Mohali, Punjab, India to retrieve the Child from the paternal grandparents. Mother contends that she was refused access to the Child and learned that Father's family had filed complaints against her before her arrival. She asserts that when she attempted to enlist the help of local law enforcement to gain access to the Child and his United States passport, she was denied help.

         While in India, in an attempt to gain custody of the Child, Mother filed a criminal habeas corpus petition for wrongful detention on April 26, 2016. Father describes the litigation history in India as follows:

1. The parties in this divorce action have been embroiled in numerous legal proceedings in India since April of 2016, all but one of which have been initiated by [Mother]. . . .
a. On April 26, 2016, [Mother] filed a Habeas Corpus Petition in the High Court of Punjab and Haryana . . . . wherein [Mother] requested that she be awarded custody of the parties' minor child .....
b. On April 29, 2016, [Mother] filed a petition with a separate trial court at her native place of Ludhiana, Punjab, India, asking for grant of maintenance under Section 125 Code of Criminal Procedure of India, which provides for a grant of maintenance to a spouse under certain specific conditions arising from marital disputes. This matter is still pending in India.
c. On May 2, 2016, [Mother] filed a complaint/application for Protection Order, Residence Order, Order for Monetary relief and Compensation Order under Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act of India, before the trial court at Ludhiana, Punjab, India, whereby she sought to restrain [Father] and other "respondents from committing any act of domestic violence, from alienating residential House No. 4045 . . ." and from alienating or transferring the other properties mentioned therein; [a] residence order for arranging separate accommodation; [and] monetary relief . . . . [Father] appealed this Complaint to High Court of Punjab and Haryana and received a stay on all proceedings of the trial court.
d. On May 3, 2016, [Mother] filed a police complaint with the Ludhiana Police Department on Matrimonial disputes against [Father] pursuant to the Indian Criminal Act. . . . This was subsequently found to be without merit and the matter was closed under orders of Commissioner of Police . . . .
e. On May 16, 2016, [Mother] also filed a civil suit in a trial court in Mohali, Punjab, India, for declaration and permanent injunction against [Father] and his parents and his brother seeking a conveyance to her of certain rights she alleges in and to [Father]'s parents' house at Mohali, Punjab, ...

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