Indian couple face criminal charges of gross maltreatment

In a new twist to the alleged child abuse case involving an Indian couple in Norway, criminal charges of ‘gross or repeated maltreatment’ of their children by ‘threats, violence or other wrong’ have been slapped against them by the prosecution, which has proposed a minimum sentence of one year and three months.

The couple - Chandrasekhar Vallabhaneni, a software professional from Andhra Pradesh, and his wife Anupama - have been remanded in custody, as there is reason to fear that they will evade prosecution by returning to India, a statement by the Oslo police said, adding the judgement will be given in Oslo District Court on December 3.

The couple's seven-year-old son was found wetting his pants in the school bus which was reported to his father, who in turn ‘threatened’ the child that he would be sent back to India if he repeated that again, Chandrasekhar's nephew V. Sailender said.

According to officials sources in New Delhi, the Ministry of External Affairs has been ‘following the case for last eight months. Due to the efforts made earlier, the child, who was taken away by the local authorities, was sent back to the family in May."

However, now the charges pressed against the couple-were of criminal nature.The Oslo police department said, "The couple have been charged with gross repeated maltreatment of their child/ children by threats, violence or other wrong under section 219 of the Penal Code. The prosecution proposed a sentence of one year three months for the mother and one year six months for the father. The judgement in the case would be pronounced on Monday, December 3."

The Court of Appeals is also in the process of hearing the defence's appeal.

Meanwhile, after a request made by lawyer of the couple, the Indian Mission in Oslo sought consular access and a Consular Officer met Chandrasekhar to ascertain his welfare and asked for any information that he may like to convey. The officer also explained the situation to Chandrasekhar and assured that the Indian mission will continue to keep in touch with the lawyer and stands ready to assist.

According to Sailender, his uncle had no idea about the case registered against them initially. "He came to Hyderabad along with his wife and children in July and went back to Oslo in the last week of October. Then he was served a notice to appear before the authorities along with his wife."

"My aunt also went to Oslo on November 23 and the couple appeared before the authorities concerned. On November 28, we were informed by my uncle's neighbours in Oslo that they were arrested and remanded," he said in Hyderabad.

The incident comes barely months after another row involving an Indian couple and their children. Abhigyan (3) and Aishwarya (4) were taken away from their parents - Anurup and Sagarika Bhattacharya - by Norway's Child Welfare Society in May last year on grounds of ‘emotional disconnect’.

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