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June - July 2009
THE DYNAMICS OF LAW IN A RAPIDLY CHANGING WORLD
The 16th Commonwealth Law Conference 2009 organised by the Commonwealth Lawyers Association from 5 to 9 April 2009 at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre was attended by about 700 delegates from 42 countries worldwide. The Commonwealth Lawyers Association is a non-profit professional association which is increasingly active in promoting respect for the rule of law across the Commonwealth. The Law Society of Hong Kong, incorporated in 1907, co-partnered the conference in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region. About 25 Indian lawyers participated in this unique conference.
The streams of the business programme of the conference focused on Constitutional Issues, Human Rights and the Rule of Law; Corporate Commercial Law, Judges, the Legal Profession and the Community besides contemporary legal issues. The conference included high profile key note addresses by Chief Justices of different jurisdictions besides a number of satellite meetings from Commonwealth and other Legal Associations. The unique programme of Social and Networking events helped lawyers worldwide build bridges with each other.
Giving details of the special sessions at the Conference in the stream of Family Law which focused on the Law and Child besides Inter-Parental Child Removal, Chandigarh based lawyer Anil Malhotra stated that they were chaired by Justice Michelle May from the Family Court of Australia and Justice Andre Wery, Chief Justice of the Superior Court of Quebec.
In the first session on the Law and the Child, Judge Sharon Melloy, Judge of the District Court of Hong Kong spoke on judicial experiences in handling child matters whilst Sheriff Marie Smart from Sheriffs Court in Scotland spoke about the Child witness. The discussion was put in a comparative perspective by narrations of the Family Court of Australia and Indian instances given by all the speakers.
The second session on Family Law was a comparative analysis of the position of countries which were signatories and non-signatories of the Hague Convention of the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. Robin Egerton, a Barrister at Hong Kong dwelt at length on the issues concerning well planned parental child removals from Hong Kong despite it being hedged with safeguards as a convention country. Officials from the Hong Kong Department of Justice explained the extensive information available on the internet to help parents in distress with the problems of child abduction. Legal safeguards, protective measures in respect of non-contracting states and wardship proceedings besides protocols as an alternative were discussed.
The Australian perspective given by Linda Manfre, an Accredited Specialist in Family Law dwelt on experiences of wrongful child removal and reasons for increase in parental child abduction. Statistics given by her revealed that 68 percent of abductors worldwide were now mothers. She added that International Parental Child Abduction not being a criminal offence in Australia, criminal sanctions were now contemplated. The issue of creating a dialogue with judicial systems in non-Hague Convention Countries was also deliberated besides stressing the need for establishing an international network of Liaison Judges for provision of information on foreign legal systems.
The Indian end was given at length by Anil Malhotra in his presentation titled “Society, Global Parental Child Abduction and the Indian Law.” The past, present and the future of the position of Child Removal in India was given by him. The necessity of acceding to the Hague Convention was stressed as judicial protocols were not the remedy. The position of Indian Law was described with the help of practical instances of the huge 30 million NRI community of 1.1 billion Indians living in 130 countries abroad. Details of the proposed bill on Indian Civil Aspect of International Child Abduction were given along with suggested amendments.
The session partook on a serious debate on how convention countries reacted to requests made by non-convention countries in response to Child Removal. Anil Malhotra narrated his experiences of Indian children removed to UK either against Indian Court orders or parental consent and lamented that the return procedure in such cases was extremely slow. He described instances wherein foreign courts examined the matter independently deflecting from the habitual return Hague convention principles. This in his view was not serving the best interest of the child which could only be determined by the country of nationality or parentage of the child. Family Law practitioners from Australia, Canada, England, Hong Kong and other jurisdictions pitched in with their view points and experiences of handling child removal matters. Justice Andre Wery wrapped up the session in his useful concluding remarks hoping to add more countries to the 80 member convention countries.
The session on Employment and Labour Law dealing with recent developments to meet changing circumstances was chaired by Dato Roy Rajasingham, Council Member of the CLA. Ms. Peta Tumpey, Partner, Tresscox (Australia), Ms. Fiona Loughrey, Partner, Simmons & Simmons (Hong Kong) and Ranjit Malhotra, Partner, Malhotra & Malhotra (India) were speakers in the session. Ranjit Malhotra from Chandigarh gave a detailed view point on contemporary employment law issues relating to expatriates relocated to India. An International audience pitched in for a very interactive question and answer session on this global problem concerning employment conditions in different jurisdictions.
The conference which was a unique network of global practitioners, academics, Judges and Government Law officials, helped each other to gain inputs of the positive aspects of each other for improving their respective legal systems.