Losing custody of 2 children in Australia, Karnataka woman kills self
Belagavi police said the Australian authorities took the Patil children away under the Family Law Act of 1975. Image: iStock

Losing custody of 2 children in Australia, Karnataka woman kills self

Australian authorities took both teenage children of Priyadarshini Patil to foster care, alleging poor parenting

It is a case reminiscent of the fight of India-born Sagarika Chakraborty for custody of her two children in Norway, which inspired the Rani Mukherjee starrer Mrs Chatterjee vs Norway. Sagarika’s ordeals had a happier ending — she was reunited with her children after a two-year legal battle. The recent case in Karnataka ended in tragedy.

On August 22, some villagers living by the Navy Lathitha Reservoir in Savadatti town of Karnatka’s Belagavi district found the floating body of a woman, and informed the local police.

A few days later, police investigation revealed that the woman, Priyadarshini Patil, 40, had arrived three days earlier from Australia, supposedly to spend some time with her parents in Dharwad. Instead, she died by suicide at Savadatti.

What may have transpired

Priyadarshini was married to Lingaraja Patil, a techie based in Sydney, and the couple had two children — son Amartya (17), and daughter Aparajitha (13). The boy had an illness, and the Patils got him medical treatment. However, his condition deteriorated as allegedly there were severe side effects from the medication.

Enraged, the Patils filed a complaint against the doctor and the hospital, according to Priyadarshini’s relatives. The Australian authorities at that point accused the Patils of not taking good care of their children. They took custody of both the teenagers citing local child protection laws. Both are now under foster care, one of Priyadarshini’s relatives told The Federal.

Worried about the ailing Amartya, and suffering from separation anxiety from her children, Priyadarshini reportedly became desperate and distraught. She decided to visit her parents in Dharwad, 478 km from Bengaluru, and left Sydney on the night of August 19. She reached Bengaluru in the wee hours of August 21. The next morning her dead body was found floating in the Savadatti reservoir.

Just before died, she couriered her jewels and money to her father, SS Desai. A letter was found in it, where she spoke about how the Australian legal system had separated her children from her.

Foster care for teenagers

“The Australian agencies took custody of both children and put them in foster care,” said Belagavi police. “Priyadarshini, who tried to bring the children home, lost all hope against the harsh laws of Australia. She was upset and she left Sydney, saying she wanted to spend some days in her hometown Dharwad.”

“She told her relatives that she and her husband planned to come back to India and make Dharwad their home, as they felt insecure under Australian laws. She arrived in Bengaluru and, instead of heading to her hometown, went to Savadatti and died by suicide by jumping into the backwaters of Navilathitha reservoir,” the police added.

Priyadarshini’s mother Shobha Desai was indignant. “Since she filed a complaint against the doctors back in Australia, there were conspiracies against her. They started harassing her, alleging she did not take care of her children properly,” she told the media.

SS Desai, the victim’s father, has filed a complaint with the Dharwad police, alleging that his daughter died by suicide because she was distraught about her son. He would fight against the injustice done to his daughter through the Indian government, he said.

Meanwhile, Iresh Anchatgeri, ex-mayor of Hubballi-Dharwad and a relative of the Desai family, said they will approach Dharwad MP and Union minister Pralhad Joshi. They will try to get justice for the Patil family through the Australian Embassy in India, he added.

Australian family law

The police said the Australian authorities took the children away under the Family Law Act of 1975. Indian family values and family law are vastly different, they pointed out.

Priyadarshini’s husband Lingaraja reached Dharwad on August 24. Her body was cremated by her family members. Priyadarshini had brought with her the passports of both children, who are Australian citizens by birth. They, therefore, could not visit India to participate in her last rites, a relative said.

(Suicides can be prevented. For help, please call Suicide Prevention Helplines: Neha Suicide Prevention Centre – 044-24640050; Aasara helpline for suicide prevention, emotional support & trauma help — +91-9820466726; Kiran, Mental health rehabilitation — 1800-599-0019, Disha 0471- 2552056, Maithri 0484 2540530, and Sneha’s suicide prevention helpline 044-24640050.)

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