Priyadarshini Patil Commits Suicide After Prolonged Legal Battle with Australian Govt for Her Children’s Custody


Priyadarshini Patil Commits Suicide After Prolonged Legal Battle with Australian Govt for Her Children’s Custody

NRI (Non-residential Indian) Priyadarshini Patil ended her life on August 20 after her prolonged battle with the Australian government to regain custody of her two children. Her suicide note accuses her Sydney neighbourhood and Australian officials of harassing her family.

Priyadarshini suicide case


Nearly fifteen days following the tragic suicide of Priyadarshini Patil, a 40-year-old mother embroiled in a custody battle with Australian authorities for her two children, officials in Sydney have announced a review of the case. They are considering whether custody should be returned to the children’s father or grandparents.

Priyadarshini Patil, an NRI living in Australia, took her own life on August 20 in Karnataka’s Belgavi district amidst a protracted custody dispute for her children in Australia. Her decision came after learning that an online hearing for the custody battle had been postponed until November.

In her suicide note, Priyadarshini alleged harassment by Australian officials and locals in her Sydney neighbourhood, describing the distressing circumstances leading to her tragic decision and the ongoing legal custody battle. The suicide note revealed Priyadarshini’s accusations against the New South Wales Department of Community Justice (DCJ) and some of her neighbours for causing turmoil in her life.

Priyadarshini Patil, after her engineering studies, married Lingaraj Patil, a native of Kalyan Nagar in Dharwad, and they settled in Sydney. The couple had two children, Amartya Patil and Aparajita, both Australian citizens by birth. Amartya Patil was suffering from ulcerative colitis, a chronic inflammatory bowel disease, which worsened over time, leading to his hospitalization.

Lingaraj Patil and his father-in-law, Subraya Desai, based in Dharwad, sought the intervention of the Ministry of External Affairs to reunite the children with their family. This required the Australian DCJ to transfer Parental Responsibility (PR) to either the parent or the grandparents in Bharat.

According to Mr. Desai, the case dates back over a decade when Amartya was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis, and his parents sought treatment at Westmead Children’s Public Hospital in Sydney. Dissatisfied with the progress, they raised a complaint of “medical negligence” in 2019, seeking to shift him to a private hospital. However, the DCJ filed a counter-case in 2021, alleging the parents were unfit to care for their children, ultimately leading to the children being taken into childcare protection.

The Patils launched a campaign to regain custody, including an online petition filed by Priyadarshini accusing the children’s public hospital of corruption and holding her son against her will. After losing custody, they approached the Bharatiya Consulate in Sydney on 28 July 2023.

Priyadarshini returned to Bharat earlier this month, deeply disturbed and losing hope of regaining custody of her children. Tragically, her body was discovered in the backwaters of the Malaprabha river in Belagavi district on August 20.

Child rights attorney Suranya Aiyar, who is fighting the Ariha Shah case, emphasized the need for an international system recognizing the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child in cases involving Bharatiya citizens or recent immigrant parents in foreign countries. Aiyar leads the campaign in Bharat for the children’s return.

However, she noted that no concrete steps had been taken to address these cases, leaving families and children in a difficult situation, and urged for a system similar to international prisoner exchanges and consular access to be applied to child custody disputes.

Priyadarshini Patil’s tragic story serves as a reminder of ongoing cases like the Ariha Shah case in Germany, where parents fight to regain custody of their child from foster care, as well as similar instances of persecution faced by Bharatiya and Bharatiya-origin newcomers in rich G-20 countries due to cultural differences in child services and parenting.

The Ariha Shah case

The German authorities had taken one-and-a-half-year-old Ariha Shah under their care, alleging sexual harassment by the child’s parents. The couple has sought the Bharatiya government’s help in repatriation of their child who has been living in foster care in Germany for over 14 months.

They said Ariha’s grandmother hurt her by accident in September last year after which they took her to the hospital, where the German authorities accused them of sexual assault, and took away the child under Child Protection Rights. Ariha was only seven months old, according to the parents. The Berlin-based couple informed that a criminal probe was closed without charges in February, but they still haven’t got their child back. To add to their woes, Berlin Child Services has filed a civil custody case calling for the termination of their parental rights.

Even the External Affairs Minister (EAM) Jaishankar raised the issue with the visiting German foreign minister last December. “A specific issue, which came up… This relates to a child called Ariha Shah. We have concerns that the child should be in a linguistic, religious, cultural and social environment. This is her right”, Jaishankar said addressing a joint press conference with Baerbock.


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