Malaysian stuck in Mumbai ‘was not smuggling embryo for surrogacy’, employer tells Suhakam

The employer of a Malaysian, who has been stuck in Mumbai since March 2019, dismisses claims that her employee had smuggled human embryos into India.

Christine Ann Gautaman, who runs Heart 2 A.R.T Sdn Bhd, instead believes that D. Parthepan had been “forced to say things”.

Heart 2 A.R.T specialises in ”assisted reproduction techniques” to ”help couples become families via third party reproduction, including in vitro fertilisation (IVF), egg donation, sperm donation and surrogacy”.

Officers from India’s Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) intercepted Parthepan at the arrival hall of the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport on March 15, 2019. Upon examining his blue trolley bag, Indian authorities found a white canister containing human embryos.

In replying to an email from the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) dated Sept 12, 2021, Gautaman said: “I think Parthepan was forced to say things that weren’t true to frame the doctor in Mumbai. He said he had been there eight times, but in reality, she (the doctor in Mumbai) only bought the clinic in January, and he went in March.”

Gautaman’s reply was made available to Twentytwo13 by Suhakam.

It was reported in 2019 that Parthepan had allegedly delivered embryos to the Indo Nippon IVF Clinic in Bandra, run by a Dr Goral Gandhi.

“He had never been (to Mumbai) before. He was not smuggling an embryo for surrogacy. The doctor was checking it as the lady had had so many failures,” Gautaman said in her Sept 13, 2021 email, that was shared by Suhakam.

An investigation by Indian authorities revealed that Parthepan had visited Mumbai multiple times prior to March 2019 – twice in November 2017, and six times in 2018.

Gautaman believes “all documents are with Parthepan’s family”.

“I really hope you can help him. I (have) reported, and have been to Wisma Putra many times. They say they can’t help,” she added, in her email to Suhakam.

Suhakam reached out to Gautaman after being informed of Parthepan’s plight. To date, he has not been charged with any offence, but his passport remains with Indian authorities. He has not been able to return to Malaysia since 2019.

The Consular General of Malaysia in Mumbai secured the services of a human rights lawyer – pro bono – to file a petition, urging the DRI and the Commissioner of Customs India, to release Parthepan and to return his passport to him, as no new case had been filed against him.

However, the DRI informed the courts that they needed Parthepan to remain in Mumbai to solve the criminal liability, based on India’s Customs Act. DRI still needs his cooperation to provide statements and to assist in investigations into the case.

Suhakam, in responding to Twentytwo13‘s queries after publishing an article regarding this case, acknowledged that the investigation process by the Indian authorities was lengthy, and raised concerns regarding Parthepan’s welfare, and that of his family in Malaysia.

Suhakam had also advised the family to lodge a police report against the employer if she refuses to take responsibility for Parthepan’s wellbeing.

“Based on Wisma Putra’s Aug 25, 2021 reply to us, it is clear that Parthepan is not being detained and has not been placed in any detention centre. He is instead, staying on his own in a temporary residence rented by him, and supported by his employer in Malaysia.

“The Consular General of Malaysia in Mumbai has also been in constant contact with the lawyer appointed to look into Parthepan’s case, and the employer.

“Based on these findings, Suhakam is of the opinion that there is no violation of human rights,” the commission added.

Twentytwo13 reached out to Parthepan and his brother, who identified himself as Sara, but the duo refused to comment.