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“Concrete action plan needed to curb child exploitation and labour” Rajasthan HC

“Appropriate action plan is required to be prepared and implemented to prevent such activities so that the children are not put to such kind of exploitative practices as child labour” said Rajasthan HC.

10 Jun 2022

child labourRepresentation Image

The Jaipur Bench of Rajasthan High Court, presided over by acting Chief Justice Mr. Mahindra Mohan Shrivastava and Mr. Justice Sameer Jain entertained the PIL Gopal Singh Bareth V/S State Of Rajasthan in order to institutionalize effective machinery and mechanism for rescue and post rescue rehabilitation of all child labours in the State of Rajasthan.

Background of PIL

The PIL (D.B. Civil Writ Petition (PIL) No. 5383/2020 ) was filled by the petitioner in person, advocate Mr. Gopal Singh Bareth. Rajasthan High Court in his previous order on 17.06.2020 had directed the state to form a high level committee comprising the Secretary, Department of Labour and the Labour Commissioner as Chairman and Secretary of that committee respectively. Further, Detailed directions on September 28, 2020 were also issued by the Court to the state government for enforcing and ensuring child rights to migrant labourers. Rajasthan The high court also directed the state to prepare appropriate action plan with the help of experts/NGOs to ensure that such exploitative child labour practices are put to halt. Gopal Singh Bareth seeking specific directions for the State Government. AG Mr. M.S. Singhvi with Adv. Siddhant Jain and Adv. Priyanka Mali appeared on behalf of the respondents-state government.

Decision of Court

The bench comprising acting Chief Justice Mr. Mahindra Mohan Shrivastava and Mr. Justice Sameer Jain, while hearing the petition observed that a number of child labourers were subject to unfair police actions and were later rescued. Large number of criminal cases have also been registered against those involved in child trafficking and exploitation of children in various small/large scale industrial and commercial activities. The court found that action has also been initiated where a child labourer were found dead

The petitioner sought to formulate and implement an action plan for the rescue and the post rescue care/rehabilitation of child labourers in the State of Rajasthan. On April 27, 2022 High Court pursuing the submissions made by the state government and the report filled by the state government, the Court observed that

“It would be in the interest of the children who are being subjected to exploitation as child labour that the high level committee focuses on this issue and prepare appropriate action plan with the help of experts/NGOs to ensure that such exploitative child labour practices are put to halt. Allowing such activities to first happen and then taking action by registering offence is not enough. Appropriate action plan is required to be prepared and implemented to prevent such activities so that the children are not put to such kind of exploitative practices as child labours”.

During the hearing the respondent's counsel informed the court that she had filed two affidavits which highlighted that after rescue of children, the rehabilitation mechanism is required to take further steps which includes payment of compensation and rehabilitation of children and other rehabilitatory practices.

The Advocate General were unable to find the said affidavits on record, the court asked the respondent's counsel to ensure that copies of the said affidavits are supplied in the office of Advocate General within a period of seven days. The court also directed the Registry to verify whether or not such affidavits have been filed and attach the same with the records of the present case. The court also granted three weeks time to Advocate General to respond to the averments made in the said two affidavits, if filed before the Registry.

Earlier directions of Rajasthan High Court

Rajasthan High Court on September 28, 2020 had directed the state government as follow:

(a) The Department of Social Justice shall issue directions to the child right enforcing officers to carry out the responsibilities strictly in view of the action plan prepared by the State and guidelines issued therein taking the assistance of NGOs working in the said field. We also call upon the said authority to submit before this Court monthly statements, facts and figures of the result (3 of 3) [CW-5383/2020] of such enforcement right as well as steps taken for rehabilitation of any minor who is found to be working.

(b) We also permit petitioner and/or NGOs working for the child right to provide necessary details of the child migrant worker who may have left for his/her State and such information once provided to the child enforcement authority, they in turn on being satisfied of the genuineness of such statements may intimate their counterparts in the respective States to initiate suitable action for taking care and rehabilitation of such child labourers.

(c) We direct the Secretary, Rajasthan State Legal Services Authority (RSLSA) to correspond with the appropriate police officers, who are concerned in the matter and to ensure that necessary financial benefits that are available under the various schemes are made available to such children at the earliest.

Moreover, the court also sought the action so far taken by the high-level committee along with a concrete action plan from the State on the next date hearing.


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“Concrete action plan needed to curb child exploitation and labour” Rajasthan HC

“Appropriate action plan is required to be prepared and implemented to prevent such activities so that the children are not put to such kind of exploitative practices as child labour” said Rajasthan HC.

child labourRepresentation Image

The Jaipur Bench of Rajasthan High Court, presided over by acting Chief Justice Mr. Mahindra Mohan Shrivastava and Mr. Justice Sameer Jain entertained the PIL Gopal Singh Bareth V/S State Of Rajasthan in order to institutionalize effective machinery and mechanism for rescue and post rescue rehabilitation of all child labours in the State of Rajasthan.

Background of PIL

The PIL (D.B. Civil Writ Petition (PIL) No. 5383/2020 ) was filled by the petitioner in person, advocate Mr. Gopal Singh Bareth. Rajasthan High Court in his previous order on 17.06.2020 had directed the state to form a high level committee comprising the Secretary, Department of Labour and the Labour Commissioner as Chairman and Secretary of that committee respectively. Further, Detailed directions on September 28, 2020 were also issued by the Court to the state government for enforcing and ensuring child rights to migrant labourers. Rajasthan The high court also directed the state to prepare appropriate action plan with the help of experts/NGOs to ensure that such exploitative child labour practices are put to halt. Gopal Singh Bareth seeking specific directions for the State Government. AG Mr. M.S. Singhvi with Adv. Siddhant Jain and Adv. Priyanka Mali appeared on behalf of the respondents-state government.

Decision of Court

The bench comprising acting Chief Justice Mr. Mahindra Mohan Shrivastava and Mr. Justice Sameer Jain, while hearing the petition observed that a number of child labourers were subject to unfair police actions and were later rescued. Large number of criminal cases have also been registered against those involved in child trafficking and exploitation of children in various small/large scale industrial and commercial activities. The court found that action has also been initiated where a child labourer were found dead

The petitioner sought to formulate and implement an action plan for the rescue and the post rescue care/rehabilitation of child labourers in the State of Rajasthan. On April 27, 2022 High Court pursuing the submissions made by the state government and the report filled by the state government, the Court observed that

“It would be in the interest of the children who are being subjected to exploitation as child labour that the high level committee focuses on this issue and prepare appropriate action plan with the help of experts/NGOs to ensure that such exploitative child labour practices are put to halt. Allowing such activities to first happen and then taking action by registering offence is not enough. Appropriate action plan is required to be prepared and implemented to prevent such activities so that the children are not put to such kind of exploitative practices as child labours”.

During the hearing the respondent's counsel informed the court that she had filed two affidavits which highlighted that after rescue of children, the rehabilitation mechanism is required to take further steps which includes payment of compensation and rehabilitation of children and other rehabilitatory practices.

The Advocate General were unable to find the said affidavits on record, the court asked the respondent's counsel to ensure that copies of the said affidavits are supplied in the office of Advocate General within a period of seven days. The court also directed the Registry to verify whether or not such affidavits have been filed and attach the same with the records of the present case. The court also granted three weeks time to Advocate General to respond to the averments made in the said two affidavits, if filed before the Registry.

Earlier directions of Rajasthan High Court

Rajasthan High Court on September 28, 2020 had directed the state government as follow:

(a) The Department of Social Justice shall issue directions to the child right enforcing officers to carry out the responsibilities strictly in view of the action plan prepared by the State and guidelines issued therein taking the assistance of NGOs working in the said field. We also call upon the said authority to submit before this Court monthly statements, facts and figures of the result (3 of 3) [CW-5383/2020] of such enforcement right as well as steps taken for rehabilitation of any minor who is found to be working.

(b) We also permit petitioner and/or NGOs working for the child right to provide necessary details of the child migrant worker who may have left for his/her State and such information once provided to the child enforcement authority, they in turn on being satisfied of the genuineness of such statements may intimate their counterparts in the respective States to initiate suitable action for taking care and rehabilitation of such child labourers.

(c) We direct the Secretary, Rajasthan State Legal Services Authority (RSLSA) to correspond with the appropriate police officers, who are concerned in the matter and to ensure that necessary financial benefits that are available under the various schemes are made available to such children at the earliest.

Moreover, the court also sought the action so far taken by the high-level committee along with a concrete action plan from the State on the next date hearing.


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Using children to chant communal hate slogans fosters hate 

A video showing the small boy raising hate slogans in a PFI rally in Alappuzha, Kerala, has raised serious concerns

24 May 2022

PFI
Image: Screengrab

“Keep rice… incense ready stocked in your homes… for last rites. If you want to live in our land you need to live within the limits of discipline… or else…” a basic translation of what a little boy sitting on the shoulders of a man is chanting/ singing, as an anthem at a march called by the Popular Front of India (PFI).

The video showing the small boy raising hate slogans in a PFI rally in Alappuzha, Kerala, has since gone viral on social media. While any such hateful communal slogans need to be condemned by all, this video is now also being shared by the right wing ecosystem as being a ‘threat’ to the community and a preview of ‘Kerala turning into Kashmir’... further stoking communal sentiments. 

According to a report in The News Minute, the march/rally was held as part of the Jana Maha Sammelanam in Alappuzha on Saturday May 21. The young boy has the PFI flag draped around him, while he ‘leads’ the provocative slogans, repeated by the adults around him. The slogans, seen in two videos, according to TNM, “are mostly directed towards ‘sanghis’, asking them to live 'properly' or they will have to get ready for their final rites” Many social media users have also said the slogans refer to items used in funeral rites of Hindus, and Christians, and the slogans are thus a ‘threat’ or ‘warning’ as well. According to news reports, police told the media “a preliminary investigation is underway but no case has been registered so far.”

Meanwhile, the PFI state secretary CA Raoof, reported TNK, circulated “an internal note”, to the media stating, “We have given approved slogans which were to be raised in the public rally at Alappuzha. Thousands of party workers and others joined the rally protesting against the RSS. The visual of a boy raising slogans came to our notice now. Those slogans were not approved or given by the organisers of the rally. It's not the policy of the organisation to provoke or raise provocative slogans." 

However, the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) has now taken notice of the issue and sought registration of an FIR against those responsible for allegedly letting a child raise provocative slogans during the rally. In a letter to the Kerala police chief, NCPCR said that it has received a complaint over the child shouting slogans in Malayalam.

 

 

According to news reports, a complainant told NCPCR, that the PFI flag “is clearly seen in the video,” and also accused Kerala police of “not taking any action against the parents of the child and the PFI." The NCPCR reportedly wrote to the Director General of Police (DGP) saying, “The Social Democratic Party of India (SDPI) and the PFI are using children to spread hatred, enmity and communal violence in the country,” adding that this violated Section 75 and Section 83 of the Juvenile Justice Act, 2015. The commission stated, “In view of the sensitivity of the matter, it is requested that your good offices may kindly look into the matter and initiate necessary inquiry to ensure the welfare and safety of children, by lodging an FIR at the first instance, under Juvenile Justice Act, 2015 and relevant sections of the Indian Penal Code.” According to news reports, the NCPCR has asked Kerala police for an action taken report, and a fact-finding enquiry report, within seven days of receipt of the letter.

Justice P Gopinath of Kerala High Court had on Monday, two days after the PFI rally had observed while hearing a batch of POCSO cases that children “do not have the legal right to vote or even drive till they are 18. Under the guise of freedom of speech and religion, can they be made to be a part of political rallies or religious rallies? I just want to know whether there is any law which prohibits this.” 

According to a Bar and Bench report, Justice Gopinath, said at a casual exchange with the Bar, that he had seen a "provocative" video of a child "spewing hatred" at a political rally, and said, “Children being forced to take part in political rallies and being made to voice all sorts of provocative slogans. That is some new kind of attraction it seems. How far is that legal?" The judge asked if this was “not fostering a new generation that grows up with this religious hatred in mind? I was just wondering about the fact that when this child grows and he becomes a major, his mind will already be conditioned to this kind of rhetoric. Something must be done."

Justice Gopinath said, “Children must be totally prohibited from taking part in these rallies, sloganeering etc. Using them like this should not be okay. They do not have the legal right to vote or even drive till they are 18. Under the guise of freedom of speech and religion, can they be made to be a part of political rallies or religious rallies? He does not know what he is saying."

Thiruvananthapuram MP Shashi Tharoor has expressed shock at the incident saying, “Hate speech and intimidating slogans are deplorable irrespective of the politics behind them or the religion of those using them. Opposing communalism means opposing the communalism of all sides. I unequivocally condemn the threatening and communally charged slogans raised in the PFI rally held in Alappuzha.I urge the state government to take strong action against such miscreants.”

 

Related:

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Using children to chant communal hate slogans fosters hate 

A video showing the small boy raising hate slogans in a PFI rally in Alappuzha, Kerala, has raised serious concerns

PFI
Image: Screengrab

“Keep rice… incense ready stocked in your homes… for last rites. If you want to live in our land you need to live within the limits of discipline… or else…” a basic translation of what a little boy sitting on the shoulders of a man is chanting/ singing, as an anthem at a march called by the Popular Front of India (PFI).

The video showing the small boy raising hate slogans in a PFI rally in Alappuzha, Kerala, has since gone viral on social media. While any such hateful communal slogans need to be condemned by all, this video is now also being shared by the right wing ecosystem as being a ‘threat’ to the community and a preview of ‘Kerala turning into Kashmir’... further stoking communal sentiments. 

According to a report in The News Minute, the march/rally was held as part of the Jana Maha Sammelanam in Alappuzha on Saturday May 21. The young boy has the PFI flag draped around him, while he ‘leads’ the provocative slogans, repeated by the adults around him. The slogans, seen in two videos, according to TNM, “are mostly directed towards ‘sanghis’, asking them to live 'properly' or they will have to get ready for their final rites” Many social media users have also said the slogans refer to items used in funeral rites of Hindus, and Christians, and the slogans are thus a ‘threat’ or ‘warning’ as well. According to news reports, police told the media “a preliminary investigation is underway but no case has been registered so far.”

Meanwhile, the PFI state secretary CA Raoof, reported TNK, circulated “an internal note”, to the media stating, “We have given approved slogans which were to be raised in the public rally at Alappuzha. Thousands of party workers and others joined the rally protesting against the RSS. The visual of a boy raising slogans came to our notice now. Those slogans were not approved or given by the organisers of the rally. It's not the policy of the organisation to provoke or raise provocative slogans." 

However, the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) has now taken notice of the issue and sought registration of an FIR against those responsible for allegedly letting a child raise provocative slogans during the rally. In a letter to the Kerala police chief, NCPCR said that it has received a complaint over the child shouting slogans in Malayalam.

 

 

According to news reports, a complainant told NCPCR, that the PFI flag “is clearly seen in the video,” and also accused Kerala police of “not taking any action against the parents of the child and the PFI." The NCPCR reportedly wrote to the Director General of Police (DGP) saying, “The Social Democratic Party of India (SDPI) and the PFI are using children to spread hatred, enmity and communal violence in the country,” adding that this violated Section 75 and Section 83 of the Juvenile Justice Act, 2015. The commission stated, “In view of the sensitivity of the matter, it is requested that your good offices may kindly look into the matter and initiate necessary inquiry to ensure the welfare and safety of children, by lodging an FIR at the first instance, under Juvenile Justice Act, 2015 and relevant sections of the Indian Penal Code.” According to news reports, the NCPCR has asked Kerala police for an action taken report, and a fact-finding enquiry report, within seven days of receipt of the letter.

Justice P Gopinath of Kerala High Court had on Monday, two days after the PFI rally had observed while hearing a batch of POCSO cases that children “do not have the legal right to vote or even drive till they are 18. Under the guise of freedom of speech and religion, can they be made to be a part of political rallies or religious rallies? I just want to know whether there is any law which prohibits this.” 

According to a Bar and Bench report, Justice Gopinath, said at a casual exchange with the Bar, that he had seen a "provocative" video of a child "spewing hatred" at a political rally, and said, “Children being forced to take part in political rallies and being made to voice all sorts of provocative slogans. That is some new kind of attraction it seems. How far is that legal?" The judge asked if this was “not fostering a new generation that grows up with this religious hatred in mind? I was just wondering about the fact that when this child grows and he becomes a major, his mind will already be conditioned to this kind of rhetoric. Something must be done."

Justice Gopinath said, “Children must be totally prohibited from taking part in these rallies, sloganeering etc. Using them like this should not be okay. They do not have the legal right to vote or even drive till they are 18. Under the guise of freedom of speech and religion, can they be made to be a part of political rallies or religious rallies? He does not know what he is saying."

Thiruvananthapuram MP Shashi Tharoor has expressed shock at the incident saying, “Hate speech and intimidating slogans are deplorable irrespective of the politics behind them or the religion of those using them. Opposing communalism means opposing the communalism of all sides. I unequivocally condemn the threatening and communally charged slogans raised in the PFI rally held in Alappuzha.I urge the state government to take strong action against such miscreants.”

 

Related:

Hate Watch: Propaganda website Kreately, was first to mock 'Shivling'

Ubriddled hate and Islamophobia on display at RSS event

When and How Ram Vilas Paswan made a strong pitch for the Places of Worship Act, 1991

Filmmaker Avinash Das booked for sharing picture of Amit Shah with arrested IAS officer Pooja Singhal

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Over half of Karnataka’s children stunted and anaemic: NFHS

While the NFHS-5 report claims improvement over NFHS-4 report, the numbers raise concern in post-pandemic economy

17 May 2022

childrensRepresentation Image


Over a third of Karnataka’s under-five age children are stunted or too short for their age, while two-thirds of this age group are anaemic, said the National Family Health Survey-5 (NFHS-5) on May 3, 2022.

The 2019-20 report claims improved statistics compared to NFHS-4 yet shows worrying figures about child development in the state. Particularly, it stated that 35 percent of children under 5 years are stunted, 20 percent are wasted or too thin for their weight and 33 percent are underweight. According to the report, this indicates undernourishment for some time with underweight data considering chronic and acute undernutrition.

“Even during the first six months of life when almost all babies are breastfed, 20 percent of children are stunted, 27 percent are wasted, and 25 percent are underweight,” said the report.

Compared to NFHS-4, while children’s nutritional status in Karnataka has slightly improved. The percentage of children who are stunted decreased marginally from 36 percent to 35 percent in the four years between NFHS-4 and NFHS-5. The percentage of children who are wasted has decreased from 26 percent to 20 percent and children who are underweight decreased from 35 to 33 percent since NFHS-4. However, continuing high levels of undernutrition are still a major problem in Karnataka.

Meanwhile, 66 percent of children aged 6-59 months (i.e less than 5-years-old) are anaemic. This includes 28 percent infants who are mildly anaemic, 35 percent children who are moderately anaemic, and three percent children who have severe anaemia. However, the overall prevalence of anaemia in children increased from 61 percent in NFHS-4.

In terms of gender, 65 percent girls were anaemic whereas 67 percent boys were anaemic in the latest report. Children of anaemic mothers were much more likely to be anaemic.

“Almost two-thirds (65 percent) of children in Karnataka are anaemic even if their mother has 12 or more years of schooling,” said the report.

Nutritional difficulties among women

As many as 48 percent women in Karnataka had anaemia, including 22 percent with mild anaemia, 23 percent with moderate anaemia, and 3 percent with severe anaemia.

“The condition is particularly high among rural women and scheduled caste women, but at least two-fifths of women in every group have anaemia. Anaemia among women has slightly increased by 3 percentage points since NFHS-4,” said the report.

Meanwhile, only 20 percent of men in Karnataka were anaemic. Men between ages 15-19 years and men with no schooling are particularly likely to be anaemic.

Overall, 47 percent women and 45 percent men were either too thin or overweight or obese. More men and women are overweight or obese than thin, which is similar to the pattern observed in NFHS-4. As many as 17 percent women and 14 percent men were too thin. 30 percent women and 31 percent men were overweight or obese.

Gynaecologist and trainer in child protection at Bengaluru’s Acura Hospital Dr S. Saldanha told Deccan Herald that the data indicated long-term malnutrition. Covid-induced increased prices of nutritious foods like pulses, oils, and plant and non-vegetarian foods, further accentuated chronic malnutrition, said the article.

Similarly, public health activist Dr Sylvia Karpagam told DH that chronic under-nutrition is likely to have worsened in the state after the pandemic and the lockdown. The main causes are the loss of livelihood, displacement, shutting down of public transport, access to basic healthcare and breakdown of social security schemes like ICDS and mid-day meals.

She called for better decisions on food and nutrition based on data from NFHS, CNNS and similar studies.

Related:

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GOI rejects Global Health Index after India’s worst ranking ever

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Over half of Karnataka’s children stunted and anaemic: NFHS

While the NFHS-5 report claims improvement over NFHS-4 report, the numbers raise concern in post-pandemic economy

childrensRepresentation Image


Over a third of Karnataka’s under-five age children are stunted or too short for their age, while two-thirds of this age group are anaemic, said the National Family Health Survey-5 (NFHS-5) on May 3, 2022.

The 2019-20 report claims improved statistics compared to NFHS-4 yet shows worrying figures about child development in the state. Particularly, it stated that 35 percent of children under 5 years are stunted, 20 percent are wasted or too thin for their weight and 33 percent are underweight. According to the report, this indicates undernourishment for some time with underweight data considering chronic and acute undernutrition.

“Even during the first six months of life when almost all babies are breastfed, 20 percent of children are stunted, 27 percent are wasted, and 25 percent are underweight,” said the report.

Compared to NFHS-4, while children’s nutritional status in Karnataka has slightly improved. The percentage of children who are stunted decreased marginally from 36 percent to 35 percent in the four years between NFHS-4 and NFHS-5. The percentage of children who are wasted has decreased from 26 percent to 20 percent and children who are underweight decreased from 35 to 33 percent since NFHS-4. However, continuing high levels of undernutrition are still a major problem in Karnataka.

Meanwhile, 66 percent of children aged 6-59 months (i.e less than 5-years-old) are anaemic. This includes 28 percent infants who are mildly anaemic, 35 percent children who are moderately anaemic, and three percent children who have severe anaemia. However, the overall prevalence of anaemia in children increased from 61 percent in NFHS-4.

In terms of gender, 65 percent girls were anaemic whereas 67 percent boys were anaemic in the latest report. Children of anaemic mothers were much more likely to be anaemic.

“Almost two-thirds (65 percent) of children in Karnataka are anaemic even if their mother has 12 or more years of schooling,” said the report.

Nutritional difficulties among women

As many as 48 percent women in Karnataka had anaemia, including 22 percent with mild anaemia, 23 percent with moderate anaemia, and 3 percent with severe anaemia.

“The condition is particularly high among rural women and scheduled caste women, but at least two-fifths of women in every group have anaemia. Anaemia among women has slightly increased by 3 percentage points since NFHS-4,” said the report.

Meanwhile, only 20 percent of men in Karnataka were anaemic. Men between ages 15-19 years and men with no schooling are particularly likely to be anaemic.

Overall, 47 percent women and 45 percent men were either too thin or overweight or obese. More men and women are overweight or obese than thin, which is similar to the pattern observed in NFHS-4. As many as 17 percent women and 14 percent men were too thin. 30 percent women and 31 percent men were overweight or obese.

Gynaecologist and trainer in child protection at Bengaluru’s Acura Hospital Dr S. Saldanha told Deccan Herald that the data indicated long-term malnutrition. Covid-induced increased prices of nutritious foods like pulses, oils, and plant and non-vegetarian foods, further accentuated chronic malnutrition, said the article.

Similarly, public health activist Dr Sylvia Karpagam told DH that chronic under-nutrition is likely to have worsened in the state after the pandemic and the lockdown. The main causes are the loss of livelihood, displacement, shutting down of public transport, access to basic healthcare and breakdown of social security schemes like ICDS and mid-day meals.

She called for better decisions on food and nutrition based on data from NFHS, CNNS and similar studies.

Related:

Why does the Karnataka government not want children to eat eggs at mid day meals?

GOI rejects Global Health Index after India’s worst ranking ever

SC slaps fine on states for no reply on community kitchen schemes

India ranks first in child deaths under 5 years of age: UNICEF report

Karnataka gov’t delays malnutrition alleviation report, HC warns of contempt proceedings

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Orissa HC grants bail to child in conflict with law after three years in custody

The Court pulls up investigating agency for it ‘Lackadaisical Attitude’

16 May 2022

Orissa HC

On May 12, 2022 the Orissa High Court presided by Single-judge Bench of Justice V. Narasingh granted bail to a Child in Conflict with the Law (CCL) who had been under custody for almost three and a half years. The Court does not want the accused child to suffer because of apathy of investigating agency.

While hearing the bail application of the CCL, the Bench came down heavily on the investigating agency for its apathetic approach and said, “Proceedings of the High Court cannot be held hostage to the whims of the investigating agency and for their lackadaisical attitude, rights of an accused cannot be marginalized, needs no emphasis.” The Court even suggested for the necessary corrective action to be taken to make the Police machinery more responsive to the needs of Justice.

In this case, the Child in Conflict is an accused in a murder case which is registered with the Bijepur Police Station in Bargarh district. She had filed the Bail Application in Orissa High Court in 2021.

Brief background of the case

The CCL, an accused in a murder case registered at Bijepur police station in Bargarh district, was arrested on December 8, 2018. Since then, she has been under custody. She was charged under section 450, 307, 302, 34 and 120B of Indian Penal Code.

The accused had filed her bail application before the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Court at Bargarh, which was rejected by Additional Session Judge-Cum-Special Judge, on July 23, 2019. In challenge to the POCSO Court Order, the CCL had filed Bail Application in the High Court of Orissa on June 22, 2021.

This High Court presided by Justice Dash had passed an Order dated, June 24, 2021 in which he directed the Learned Council for the State to obtain the case diary and the report related to the conduct and behaviour of the child in conflict with law during her stay in the observation home for the period, by next date. Since then, the adjournments were sought to produce the case diary.

Court’s Observations

After the Order passed by the High Court dates June 24, 2021, numerous adjournments were sought by the Advocate for the state to produce the case diary.

The Court observed that two letters were sent from the office of the Advocate General dated June 24 and June 28, 2021 to the IIC Bijepur District Bargarh to inform about the production of the up-to-date Case Diary. The concerned authorities did not respond.

Similar letter was sent from the office of the Advocate General dated November 6, 2021 to the Superintendent of Police Bargarh and IIC Bijepur in the District Bargarh. But till date the up-to-date Case Diary was not submitted to the Court.

The Court thus observed, “As noted petitioner is in custody since 08.12.2018 and cannot be allowed to suffer because of the apathy of investigating agency.” The Court also held the investigating agencies responsible for the delay in the matter and stated, “Proceedings of the High Court cannot be held hostage to the whims of the investigating agency and for their lackadaisical attitude, rights of an accused cannot be marginalized, needs no emphasis.”

The Court on observing the repeated adjournments and the Investigating officers were seen not following the Court Orders held, “It is indeed disconcerting that the concerned District police administration have scant regard for the orders passed by this Court and have chosen to disregard repeated communication from the office of the Advocate General for submission of Case Diary for which the Case has to suffer adjournments.” The Court, considering the age of the Petitioner and the time she had spent under custody, constrained itself from granting any further adjournments to the State’s Counsel.

The Court further stated, “It is fervently hoped that necessary corrective action shall be taken so as to make the Police machinery more responsive to the needs of administration of justice.”

Court’s Judgment

On May 12, 2022 while granting bail to the child in conflict with law after perusing the materials on record, the Bench stated, “On a conspectus of the materials on record this Court directs the petitioner to be released on bail on such terms to be fixed by the learned Court in seisin over the matter.”

The Court further requested the Registry to send a copy of this order to Principal Secretary Home Government of Odisha, Director General of Police, Range DIG and the concerned Superintendent of Police for their knowledge and necessary action.

The entire Judgment may be read here: 

 

Related:

Delhi Violence: Delhi HC issues notice in Gulfisha Fatima's bail plea

Jahangirpuri violence: Delhi Court refuses bail to eight accused

Cruel, diabolic, barbaric, gruesome and inhuman: Allahabad High Court on Lakhimpur Kheri massacre

Delhi HC adjourns hearings in bail pleas of Umar Khalid and Sharjeel Imam

Orissa HC grants bail to child in conflict with law after three years in custody

The Court pulls up investigating agency for it ‘Lackadaisical Attitude’

Orissa HC

On May 12, 2022 the Orissa High Court presided by Single-judge Bench of Justice V. Narasingh granted bail to a Child in Conflict with the Law (CCL) who had been under custody for almost three and a half years. The Court does not want the accused child to suffer because of apathy of investigating agency.

While hearing the bail application of the CCL, the Bench came down heavily on the investigating agency for its apathetic approach and said, “Proceedings of the High Court cannot be held hostage to the whims of the investigating agency and for their lackadaisical attitude, rights of an accused cannot be marginalized, needs no emphasis.” The Court even suggested for the necessary corrective action to be taken to make the Police machinery more responsive to the needs of Justice.

In this case, the Child in Conflict is an accused in a murder case which is registered with the Bijepur Police Station in Bargarh district. She had filed the Bail Application in Orissa High Court in 2021.

Brief background of the case

The CCL, an accused in a murder case registered at Bijepur police station in Bargarh district, was arrested on December 8, 2018. Since then, she has been under custody. She was charged under section 450, 307, 302, 34 and 120B of Indian Penal Code.

The accused had filed her bail application before the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Court at Bargarh, which was rejected by Additional Session Judge-Cum-Special Judge, on July 23, 2019. In challenge to the POCSO Court Order, the CCL had filed Bail Application in the High Court of Orissa on June 22, 2021.

This High Court presided by Justice Dash had passed an Order dated, June 24, 2021 in which he directed the Learned Council for the State to obtain the case diary and the report related to the conduct and behaviour of the child in conflict with law during her stay in the observation home for the period, by next date. Since then, the adjournments were sought to produce the case diary.

Court’s Observations

After the Order passed by the High Court dates June 24, 2021, numerous adjournments were sought by the Advocate for the state to produce the case diary.

The Court observed that two letters were sent from the office of the Advocate General dated June 24 and June 28, 2021 to the IIC Bijepur District Bargarh to inform about the production of the up-to-date Case Diary. The concerned authorities did not respond.

Similar letter was sent from the office of the Advocate General dated November 6, 2021 to the Superintendent of Police Bargarh and IIC Bijepur in the District Bargarh. But till date the up-to-date Case Diary was not submitted to the Court.

The Court thus observed, “As noted petitioner is in custody since 08.12.2018 and cannot be allowed to suffer because of the apathy of investigating agency.” The Court also held the investigating agencies responsible for the delay in the matter and stated, “Proceedings of the High Court cannot be held hostage to the whims of the investigating agency and for their lackadaisical attitude, rights of an accused cannot be marginalized, needs no emphasis.”

The Court on observing the repeated adjournments and the Investigating officers were seen not following the Court Orders held, “It is indeed disconcerting that the concerned District police administration have scant regard for the orders passed by this Court and have chosen to disregard repeated communication from the office of the Advocate General for submission of Case Diary for which the Case has to suffer adjournments.” The Court, considering the age of the Petitioner and the time she had spent under custody, constrained itself from granting any further adjournments to the State’s Counsel.

The Court further stated, “It is fervently hoped that necessary corrective action shall be taken so as to make the Police machinery more responsive to the needs of administration of justice.”

Court’s Judgment

On May 12, 2022 while granting bail to the child in conflict with law after perusing the materials on record, the Bench stated, “On a conspectus of the materials on record this Court directs the petitioner to be released on bail on such terms to be fixed by the learned Court in seisin over the matter.”

The Court further requested the Registry to send a copy of this order to Principal Secretary Home Government of Odisha, Director General of Police, Range DIG and the concerned Superintendent of Police for their knowledge and necessary action.

The entire Judgment may be read here: 

 

Related:

Delhi Violence: Delhi HC issues notice in Gulfisha Fatima's bail plea

Jahangirpuri violence: Delhi Court refuses bail to eight accused

Cruel, diabolic, barbaric, gruesome and inhuman: Allahabad High Court on Lakhimpur Kheri massacre

Delhi HC adjourns hearings in bail pleas of Umar Khalid and Sharjeel Imam

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Child sexual exploitations cases drop, as do convictions

While the data shows a decline in sexual abuse cases, it misses out on other crimes against children

02 Apr 2022

Child sexual exploitations Representation Image

The Modi Government on April 1, 2022 reported a sudden fall in the number of child sexual exploitation cases from 2019 to 2020 while answering questions on the same during Parliamentary proceedings.

Referring to National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) data, Union Minister Smriti Irani said child sexual exploitation cases went down from 1.48 lakh (1,48,000) registered cases in 2019 to 1.28 lakh (1, 28,000) registered cases in 2020. However, following the same trend, persons convicted for these crimes also declined from 15,902 persons in 2019 to 11,145 persons in 2020. The highest number of convictions in the latest year were in Uttar Pradesh with 15,271 registered cases whereas the highest cases were registered in Madhya Pradesh (17,008 cases) that reported 1,400 convicted persons. Ladakh was the only region to report no conviction in 2020 despite two registered cases in the same year.

Significantly, while the questioning BJP MP Ramcharan Bohra asked about incidents of abuse, violence, sexual exploitation against children, the Ministry only talked about the latter. The response is conspicuous by its silence on child marriage cases that shot up from 523 cases in 2019 to 785 cases in 2020. Further, the data does not talk about the 2,222 cases of child trafficking and 54,785 cases of kidnapping that were reported in 2020.

Similarly, Irani failed to answer TMC MP Sougata Ray’s question about fewer convictions of persons accused of atrocities against women despite a large number of registered cases.

““Police” and “Public Order” is a state subject in the Seventh Schedule of the Constitution and the responsibility to maintain law and order, protection of life and property of citizens including investigation and prosecution of crimes against women rests primarily with the respective state Governments,” said Irani.

NCRB recorded crimes against women at a significant 3.78 lakh (3,78,000) in 2018, 4.05 (4,05,00) lakh in 2019 and 3.71 (3,71,000) lakh in 2020. However, NCRB, again conspicuously did not provide data on convictions in these cases during the same period.

Related:

Still no move on marital rape by the Centre

4,328 children to get benefits under PM CARES

Sharp spike in cases of child marriage and child trafficking in 2020!

In 6 years, Centre sanctioned scholarships worth ₹ 15,785.36 cr

Child sexual exploitations cases drop, as do convictions

While the data shows a decline in sexual abuse cases, it misses out on other crimes against children

Child sexual exploitations Representation Image

The Modi Government on April 1, 2022 reported a sudden fall in the number of child sexual exploitation cases from 2019 to 2020 while answering questions on the same during Parliamentary proceedings.

Referring to National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) data, Union Minister Smriti Irani said child sexual exploitation cases went down from 1.48 lakh (1,48,000) registered cases in 2019 to 1.28 lakh (1, 28,000) registered cases in 2020. However, following the same trend, persons convicted for these crimes also declined from 15,902 persons in 2019 to 11,145 persons in 2020. The highest number of convictions in the latest year were in Uttar Pradesh with 15,271 registered cases whereas the highest cases were registered in Madhya Pradesh (17,008 cases) that reported 1,400 convicted persons. Ladakh was the only region to report no conviction in 2020 despite two registered cases in the same year.

Significantly, while the questioning BJP MP Ramcharan Bohra asked about incidents of abuse, violence, sexual exploitation against children, the Ministry only talked about the latter. The response is conspicuous by its silence on child marriage cases that shot up from 523 cases in 2019 to 785 cases in 2020. Further, the data does not talk about the 2,222 cases of child trafficking and 54,785 cases of kidnapping that were reported in 2020.

Similarly, Irani failed to answer TMC MP Sougata Ray’s question about fewer convictions of persons accused of atrocities against women despite a large number of registered cases.

““Police” and “Public Order” is a state subject in the Seventh Schedule of the Constitution and the responsibility to maintain law and order, protection of life and property of citizens including investigation and prosecution of crimes against women rests primarily with the respective state Governments,” said Irani.

NCRB recorded crimes against women at a significant 3.78 lakh (3,78,000) in 2018, 4.05 (4,05,00) lakh in 2019 and 3.71 (3,71,000) lakh in 2020. However, NCRB, again conspicuously did not provide data on convictions in these cases during the same period.

Related:

Still no move on marital rape by the Centre

4,328 children to get benefits under PM CARES

Sharp spike in cases of child marriage and child trafficking in 2020!

In 6 years, Centre sanctioned scholarships worth ₹ 15,785.36 cr

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4,328 children to get benefits under PM CARES

The revised figure still falls short of the NCPCR numbers submitted last year in June

02 Apr 2022

PM care fundRepresentation Image

As many as 4,328 children approved benefits under the PM CARES scheme for underage youths who lost one or both parents, legal guardian or adoptive parents to COVID-19 pandemic, said the Union Health and Family Welfare Ministry on April 1, 2022.

“The Government of India has announced the PM CARES for Children scheme to support children who have lost both parents or surviving parent or legal guardian or adoptive parents due to Covid-19 pandemic… Total children approved for benefit under the PM Cares for Children scheme is 4328 as on March 29, 2022,” said Union Minister Bharati Pawar in the Lok Sabha.

The latest figure is a big improvement from last year’s government claim of 645 children, who lost both their parents to Covid-19 between April and May 2021. Still it falls woefully short of the information in the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) Supreme Court affidavit that said 30,071 children lost one or both parents or were abandoned by June 5, 2021. Possibly, the Ministry did not include abandoned children for this question regarding deceased parents by MP M.P Abdussamad Samadani.

On June 30, 2021, the Supreme Court directed the Centre to pay an ex-gratia amount of ₹ 50,000 per deceased person, whose cause of death is certified as a result of Covid-19. This is as per the National Disaster Management Authority’s (NDMA) ‘Guidelines to provide for ex-gratia assistance to kin of the deceased by COVID-19’.

However, while Pawar provided the latest number of orphaned children, she did not answer Samadani’s question about the obstacles in making the compensation available to children due to unsound and impractical conditions imposed in the process of application.

Mental health of children

Meanwhile, Congress MP Gaurav Gogoi asked Union Women and Child Development Minister Smriti Irani about the impact of the pandemic and lockdowns on the mental health of children. She answered that the Centre set up a 24x7 helpline to provide “psycho-social support” from mental health professionals to the entire affected population. The public was divided into different target groups such as children, adults, elderly, women and healthcare workers.

iii. Issuance and dissemination of detailed guidelines by the National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (NIMHANS), Bengaluru- „‟Mental Health in the times of COVID-19 Pandemic - Guidance for General Medical and Specialized Mental Health Care Settings‟‟.

Further, she said the Ministry collaborated with the National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (NIMHANS) to form a National Initiative & Integrated Resource Centre for Child Protection, Mental Health, and Psychosocial Care named “SAMVAD”. The centre works on four key areas of mental health, care and protection, education, policy and law.

The service works at the community-level through panchayat raj Institutions, under the Mission Vatsalya Convergence framework, and trains employees on the vulnerability and risk issues in child protection, as created by the pandemic. The scheme also aims to include anganwadi workers.

Related:

Sharp spike in cases of child marriage and child trafficking in 2020!

Covid orphans: Mismatch in figures provided by WCD Ministry and NCPCR

GoI claims 577 Covid-orphans, but numbers may far exceed official data: Outreach workers

9,346 children abandoned, orphaned, lost a parent to Covid-19: NCPCR informs SC

 

 

4,328 children to get benefits under PM CARES

The revised figure still falls short of the NCPCR numbers submitted last year in June

PM care fundRepresentation Image

As many as 4,328 children approved benefits under the PM CARES scheme for underage youths who lost one or both parents, legal guardian or adoptive parents to COVID-19 pandemic, said the Union Health and Family Welfare Ministry on April 1, 2022.

“The Government of India has announced the PM CARES for Children scheme to support children who have lost both parents or surviving parent or legal guardian or adoptive parents due to Covid-19 pandemic… Total children approved for benefit under the PM Cares for Children scheme is 4328 as on March 29, 2022,” said Union Minister Bharati Pawar in the Lok Sabha.

The latest figure is a big improvement from last year’s government claim of 645 children, who lost both their parents to Covid-19 between April and May 2021. Still it falls woefully short of the information in the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) Supreme Court affidavit that said 30,071 children lost one or both parents or were abandoned by June 5, 2021. Possibly, the Ministry did not include abandoned children for this question regarding deceased parents by MP M.P Abdussamad Samadani.

On June 30, 2021, the Supreme Court directed the Centre to pay an ex-gratia amount of ₹ 50,000 per deceased person, whose cause of death is certified as a result of Covid-19. This is as per the National Disaster Management Authority’s (NDMA) ‘Guidelines to provide for ex-gratia assistance to kin of the deceased by COVID-19’.

However, while Pawar provided the latest number of orphaned children, she did not answer Samadani’s question about the obstacles in making the compensation available to children due to unsound and impractical conditions imposed in the process of application.

Mental health of children

Meanwhile, Congress MP Gaurav Gogoi asked Union Women and Child Development Minister Smriti Irani about the impact of the pandemic and lockdowns on the mental health of children. She answered that the Centre set up a 24x7 helpline to provide “psycho-social support” from mental health professionals to the entire affected population. The public was divided into different target groups such as children, adults, elderly, women and healthcare workers.

iii. Issuance and dissemination of detailed guidelines by the National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (NIMHANS), Bengaluru- „‟Mental Health in the times of COVID-19 Pandemic - Guidance for General Medical and Specialized Mental Health Care Settings‟‟.

Further, she said the Ministry collaborated with the National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (NIMHANS) to form a National Initiative & Integrated Resource Centre for Child Protection, Mental Health, and Psychosocial Care named “SAMVAD”. The centre works on four key areas of mental health, care and protection, education, policy and law.

The service works at the community-level through panchayat raj Institutions, under the Mission Vatsalya Convergence framework, and trains employees on the vulnerability and risk issues in child protection, as created by the pandemic. The scheme also aims to include anganwadi workers.

Related:

Sharp spike in cases of child marriage and child trafficking in 2020!

Covid orphans: Mismatch in figures provided by WCD Ministry and NCPCR

GoI claims 577 Covid-orphans, but numbers may far exceed official data: Outreach workers

9,346 children abandoned, orphaned, lost a parent to Covid-19: NCPCR informs SC

 

 

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Sharp spike in cases of child marriage and child trafficking in 2020!

The number of under-age marriages jumped from 523 to 785 within a year, this even as Covid-19 brought about unprecedented economic hardships on families

01 Apr 2022

Women and Child Development Ministry
Image Courtesy:news.indyatv.in

Child marriage cases shot up from 523 cases in 2019 to 785 cases in 2020, said the Women and Child Development Ministry on April 1, 2022 during Parliamentary proceedings. Further, the Ministry reported as many as 2,222 incidents of child trafficking in the same year.

BJP MP Parvesh Verma and DMK MP Shanmuga Sundaram K. asked Union Minister Smriti Irani about child marriage and child trafficking crimes respectively in recent years. Particularly Verma asked about the number of child marriage reports in the last three years.

Accordingly, the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) data showed 501 cases in 2018, 523 cases in 2019 and then 785 cases in 2020 under the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act (PCMA) 2006.

Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, states reported 518 cases of child marriage and union territories (UTs) reported five cases. In 2020, this jumped to 779 cases in states and six cases in UTs. The biggest spike was in Andhra Pradesh were child marriage increased from 4 cases in 2019 to 32 cases in 2020. In terms of numbers, Karnataka reported 184 cases in 2020 after 111 cases in the previous year. Even in Delhi, there was a doubling trend wherein it reported one case in 2018 then two cases in 2019 and then four cases in 2020.

Additionally, the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) received 360 complaints relating to child labour, 120 cases of child marriages were reported during the year 2020-21 and 2021-22 (February, 2022).

Child trafficking reports

In response to Sundaram’s queries, the Ministry said that 2,222 cases of child trafficking and 54,785 cases of kidnapping were reported in 2020 with 24 trafficking and 252 kidnapping cases in Tamil Nadu. As per the break up, 2008 trafficking cases occurred in states with 815 reported in Rajasthan alone. Similarly, states accounted for 50,606 kidnapping incidents with the highest incidents recorded in Maharashtra at 7,392 cases.

Meanwhile, Delhi reported 202 out of 214 trafficking cases in UTs. The national capital also led in terms of kidnapping incidents, reporting 3,748 out of 4,179 cases in a year alone. Mizoram, Nagaland, Lakshadweep, Andaman and Nicobar Islands were the only regions to report no trafficking incident. Puducherry reported zero kidnapping incidents but five trafficking cases. Ladakh was the only region to report no such crimes in the given year.

Measures to curb child trafficking and kidnapping

When asked about what the Centre planned to do against reports of such cases, Irani talked about various initiatives and programmes held by the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) in vulnerable areas post lockdown. There was also a programme called “Samvardhan” to map children and their families vulnerable to child trafficking.

“The Ministry is implementing a centrally sponsored scheme namely Child Protection Services Scheme under which support is provided to states and UT governments for delivering services for children in need of care and difficult circumstances. Child Care Institutions (CCIs) established under the CPS scheme support inter-alia age-appropriate education, access to vocational training, recreation, health care, counselling etc.,” said Irani.

Further, she said, the Ministry runs the Childline (1098) service, to reach children in crisis and link them to emergency and long-term care and rehabilitation services.

As for government attempts to bridges the gap between the PCMA and personal laws, Irani said the government introduced the ‘Prohibition of Child Marriage (Amendment) Bill, 2021’ in the Parliament on December 21, 2021 to raise marriage age of women to 21 years, at par with men and to make consequential amendments in the enactments relating to age of marriage of parties. At the time, the move received heavy criticism from women’s groups.

Related:

Delhi HC asks for Centre’s opinion on declaring the Child Marriage ‘void ab initio’
Scrap the move to raise the age of marriage of girls to 21: AIDWA
Human Trafficking Bill overlooks agency of women it hopes to save
NCPCR suggests extending RTE to all minority institutions

Sharp spike in cases of child marriage and child trafficking in 2020!

The number of under-age marriages jumped from 523 to 785 within a year, this even as Covid-19 brought about unprecedented economic hardships on families

Women and Child Development Ministry
Image Courtesy:news.indyatv.in

Child marriage cases shot up from 523 cases in 2019 to 785 cases in 2020, said the Women and Child Development Ministry on April 1, 2022 during Parliamentary proceedings. Further, the Ministry reported as many as 2,222 incidents of child trafficking in the same year.

BJP MP Parvesh Verma and DMK MP Shanmuga Sundaram K. asked Union Minister Smriti Irani about child marriage and child trafficking crimes respectively in recent years. Particularly Verma asked about the number of child marriage reports in the last three years.

Accordingly, the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) data showed 501 cases in 2018, 523 cases in 2019 and then 785 cases in 2020 under the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act (PCMA) 2006.

Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, states reported 518 cases of child marriage and union territories (UTs) reported five cases. In 2020, this jumped to 779 cases in states and six cases in UTs. The biggest spike was in Andhra Pradesh were child marriage increased from 4 cases in 2019 to 32 cases in 2020. In terms of numbers, Karnataka reported 184 cases in 2020 after 111 cases in the previous year. Even in Delhi, there was a doubling trend wherein it reported one case in 2018 then two cases in 2019 and then four cases in 2020.

Additionally, the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) received 360 complaints relating to child labour, 120 cases of child marriages were reported during the year 2020-21 and 2021-22 (February, 2022).

Child trafficking reports

In response to Sundaram’s queries, the Ministry said that 2,222 cases of child trafficking and 54,785 cases of kidnapping were reported in 2020 with 24 trafficking and 252 kidnapping cases in Tamil Nadu. As per the break up, 2008 trafficking cases occurred in states with 815 reported in Rajasthan alone. Similarly, states accounted for 50,606 kidnapping incidents with the highest incidents recorded in Maharashtra at 7,392 cases.

Meanwhile, Delhi reported 202 out of 214 trafficking cases in UTs. The national capital also led in terms of kidnapping incidents, reporting 3,748 out of 4,179 cases in a year alone. Mizoram, Nagaland, Lakshadweep, Andaman and Nicobar Islands were the only regions to report no trafficking incident. Puducherry reported zero kidnapping incidents but five trafficking cases. Ladakh was the only region to report no such crimes in the given year.

Measures to curb child trafficking and kidnapping

When asked about what the Centre planned to do against reports of such cases, Irani talked about various initiatives and programmes held by the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) in vulnerable areas post lockdown. There was also a programme called “Samvardhan” to map children and their families vulnerable to child trafficking.

“The Ministry is implementing a centrally sponsored scheme namely Child Protection Services Scheme under which support is provided to states and UT governments for delivering services for children in need of care and difficult circumstances. Child Care Institutions (CCIs) established under the CPS scheme support inter-alia age-appropriate education, access to vocational training, recreation, health care, counselling etc.,” said Irani.

Further, she said, the Ministry runs the Childline (1098) service, to reach children in crisis and link them to emergency and long-term care and rehabilitation services.

As for government attempts to bridges the gap between the PCMA and personal laws, Irani said the government introduced the ‘Prohibition of Child Marriage (Amendment) Bill, 2021’ in the Parliament on December 21, 2021 to raise marriage age of women to 21 years, at par with men and to make consequential amendments in the enactments relating to age of marriage of parties. At the time, the move received heavy criticism from women’s groups.

Related:

Delhi HC asks for Centre’s opinion on declaring the Child Marriage ‘void ab initio’
Scrap the move to raise the age of marriage of girls to 21: AIDWA
Human Trafficking Bill overlooks agency of women it hopes to save
NCPCR suggests extending RTE to all minority institutions

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Delhi HC asks for Centre’s opinion on declaring the Child Marriage ‘void ab initio’

Court issues notice to Ministry of Law and Justice and National Commission for Women

23 Mar 2022

child marriage
Image: Live Law

The Delhi High Court sked for Central Government’s response with respect to declare all child marriages as void-ab-initio. On March 21, a Division Bench of Acting Chief Justice Vipin Sanghi and Justice Navin Chawla heard a Civil Writ Petition (Aisha Kumari V/s. State of NCT of Delhi & Ors.), and after the petitioner filed a Civil Misc. Application in an already pending Writ Petition before the High Court, the court issued notices to the Ministry of Law and Justice and the National Commission for Women asking them for their response on the issue raised by this Petition.

Facts of the case
Aisha was 16-years-old student of 10th standard when she was married off to her aunt’s son without free consent. The marriage ceremony was conducted by the parents of the bride and groom after gaining the consent of the Petitioner by deceitful means, which in eyes of law is not a free consent. As reported by Law Times Journal, Aisha even argued that she had “no option to go against her parents and community’s wishes, and despite her request, she was compelled to give her consent for the child marriage ceremony.”

In the year 2018 she completed her bachelor’s in Bachelor of Education (B.Ed) from Guru Gobind Singh Indraprastha University. She then took an entrance test, Central Teacher Eligibility Test (CTET), to get an admission in Master of Education (M.Ed) course in Jamia Malia Islamia University in Delhi.

In the year 2020, the Respondent suddenly came to her place of residence to take her with him to Gujarat; claiming her to be his wife. She escaped from her home and then filed a Civil Writ Petition before the Delhi High Court, seeking declaration of Section 3(1) of Prohibition of Child Marriage Act - which provides child marriage as voidable, as unconstitutional and ultra vires of Article 21 of the Constitution of India as it violates the fundamental rights of minor girl child to live her life with dignity.

As reported by Bar and Bench, the Petition also stated that the marriage is not been consummated and also consent given by a child under 18 years for marriage cannot be held valid and needs to be declared void ab initio instead of being voidable. The Petition also held that it is the duty of the State Government under the principles of ‘parens patriae’ to protect the minor children from getting exploited at such a vulnerable age.  

The Court had earlier issued notice to the state as the state was the party to the Petition. It was later brought to the Court’s attention that to declare the child marriages void ab initio, Central Government has to be made party to this Petition. In March 21 hearing, the Petitioner had submitted to the Court an amended copy of the Petition which includes Central government as a Respondent party to the Petition. The Court also issued notices to the newly added Respondents.

The Petitioner submitted that she apprehends a threat to her life from her in-laws as well as her family, and then the Delhi High Court directed the Delhi police to provide protection to the Petitioner. Even the Delhi Commission of Women submitted to the Court that they are ready to provide shelter to the Petitioner in case she desires.  

The order may be read here: 

Stand of Parliament expressed earlier in regard to Prohibition of Child Marriage Act

As reported by Hindustan times in March 2018, the Centre is moving ahead with a proposal to amend an existing law so as to make all future child marriages in the country invalid from the outset, according to two senior government officials familiar with the matter who asked not to be identified. Currently, child marriages are valid, but can be annulled on request.

Also, Times of India in a December 2021 news report quoted Vikram Srivastava, founder of ‘Independent thought’ and Convenor, Campaign against Child Marriage as saying, “The 2021 amendment to the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006, however leaves the most controversial and complicating gap of ‘void ab initio’ clause unresolved. It is unclear how this increase in age would resolve or restrict solemnization of marriage if it remains to be valid.”  

This amendment Bill was introduced by Lok Sabha on December 21, 2021 which is till date not passed by the Houses of Parliament, has only risen the age of a child for marriage to 21 years of age. There is no inclusion of provision to make child marriage void ab initio.

Implications for legal validity of marriages in retrospect

If the child marriage becomes void ab initio, then the child marriages solemnized before the amendment made, will not have any existence in the eyes of law. The children born out of such marriage will not be considered legitimate as the marriage does not exist at the first place in eyes of law. At least by this way, by amending the act and replacing the word ‘void’ with ‘void ab initio’, the child marriages can be controlled at some extent in the densely populated country like India.

Impacts on other rights

According to Section 3(1) of the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006 –

“Every child marriage, whether solemnised before or after the commencement of this Act, shall be voidable at the option of the contracting party who was a child at the time of the marriage:

Provided that a Petition for annulling a child marriage by a decree of nullity may be filed in the district court only by a contracting party to the marriage who was a child at the time of the marriage.”

According to Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, the age of minor child is considered to be below 18 years. Even in the Indian Contract Act, if the child is minor his consent is not considered and even if some legal contracts are made with his consent that becomes void. Then how is it even possible to consider the marriage to become valid (till reported) with the consent of child. It not only snatches away the right to live with personal liberty, but also affects the dignity of life of those children. 

The Constitution of India guarantees to all its citizens - protection of life and liberty under Article 21. The Section 3(1) of the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act is in violation of the Article 21 of the Constitution of India. The children are not allowed to make a decision of choosing a life partner on their own which directly hammers the right of the person - liberty to choose. The Section 3(1) of the act makes the child marriage void which means the marriage is not legal. The things which are not legal can exist in the society until someone reports about it. But declaring the child marriage ‘void ab initio’ means the marriage does not exist right from the outset.

If the Central Government accepts the altercations to be made to the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, it will save many lives of the children and also protects them from being exploited. Under Article 13(2) of the Constitution of India, the State is restricted to make any such law that violates any of the fundamental rights provided to the citizens and if such law is made, it becomes void.

 

Related:

Increase in child marriages, a side effect of Lockdown?

No more teenage girls to be forced into marriage in India?

MRM pushes for raising Muslim women's minimum marriage age

Conversion approval not required for interfaith marriage registration: Allahabad HC

 

 

Delhi HC asks for Centre’s opinion on declaring the Child Marriage ‘void ab initio’

Court issues notice to Ministry of Law and Justice and National Commission for Women

child marriage
Image: Live Law

The Delhi High Court sked for Central Government’s response with respect to declare all child marriages as void-ab-initio. On March 21, a Division Bench of Acting Chief Justice Vipin Sanghi and Justice Navin Chawla heard a Civil Writ Petition (Aisha Kumari V/s. State of NCT of Delhi & Ors.), and after the petitioner filed a Civil Misc. Application in an already pending Writ Petition before the High Court, the court issued notices to the Ministry of Law and Justice and the National Commission for Women asking them for their response on the issue raised by this Petition.

Facts of the case
Aisha was 16-years-old student of 10th standard when she was married off to her aunt’s son without free consent. The marriage ceremony was conducted by the parents of the bride and groom after gaining the consent of the Petitioner by deceitful means, which in eyes of law is not a free consent. As reported by Law Times Journal, Aisha even argued that she had “no option to go against her parents and community’s wishes, and despite her request, she was compelled to give her consent for the child marriage ceremony.”

In the year 2018 she completed her bachelor’s in Bachelor of Education (B.Ed) from Guru Gobind Singh Indraprastha University. She then took an entrance test, Central Teacher Eligibility Test (CTET), to get an admission in Master of Education (M.Ed) course in Jamia Malia Islamia University in Delhi.

In the year 2020, the Respondent suddenly came to her place of residence to take her with him to Gujarat; claiming her to be his wife. She escaped from her home and then filed a Civil Writ Petition before the Delhi High Court, seeking declaration of Section 3(1) of Prohibition of Child Marriage Act - which provides child marriage as voidable, as unconstitutional and ultra vires of Article 21 of the Constitution of India as it violates the fundamental rights of minor girl child to live her life with dignity.

As reported by Bar and Bench, the Petition also stated that the marriage is not been consummated and also consent given by a child under 18 years for marriage cannot be held valid and needs to be declared void ab initio instead of being voidable. The Petition also held that it is the duty of the State Government under the principles of ‘parens patriae’ to protect the minor children from getting exploited at such a vulnerable age.  

The Court had earlier issued notice to the state as the state was the party to the Petition. It was later brought to the Court’s attention that to declare the child marriages void ab initio, Central Government has to be made party to this Petition. In March 21 hearing, the Petitioner had submitted to the Court an amended copy of the Petition which includes Central government as a Respondent party to the Petition. The Court also issued notices to the newly added Respondents.

The Petitioner submitted that she apprehends a threat to her life from her in-laws as well as her family, and then the Delhi High Court directed the Delhi police to provide protection to the Petitioner. Even the Delhi Commission of Women submitted to the Court that they are ready to provide shelter to the Petitioner in case she desires.  

The order may be read here: 

Stand of Parliament expressed earlier in regard to Prohibition of Child Marriage Act

As reported by Hindustan times in March 2018, the Centre is moving ahead with a proposal to amend an existing law so as to make all future child marriages in the country invalid from the outset, according to two senior government officials familiar with the matter who asked not to be identified. Currently, child marriages are valid, but can be annulled on request.

Also, Times of India in a December 2021 news report quoted Vikram Srivastava, founder of ‘Independent thought’ and Convenor, Campaign against Child Marriage as saying, “The 2021 amendment to the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006, however leaves the most controversial and complicating gap of ‘void ab initio’ clause unresolved. It is unclear how this increase in age would resolve or restrict solemnization of marriage if it remains to be valid.”  

This amendment Bill was introduced by Lok Sabha on December 21, 2021 which is till date not passed by the Houses of Parliament, has only risen the age of a child for marriage to 21 years of age. There is no inclusion of provision to make child marriage void ab initio.

Implications for legal validity of marriages in retrospect

If the child marriage becomes void ab initio, then the child marriages solemnized before the amendment made, will not have any existence in the eyes of law. The children born out of such marriage will not be considered legitimate as the marriage does not exist at the first place in eyes of law. At least by this way, by amending the act and replacing the word ‘void’ with ‘void ab initio’, the child marriages can be controlled at some extent in the densely populated country like India.

Impacts on other rights

According to Section 3(1) of the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006 –

“Every child marriage, whether solemnised before or after the commencement of this Act, shall be voidable at the option of the contracting party who was a child at the time of the marriage:

Provided that a Petition for annulling a child marriage by a decree of nullity may be filed in the district court only by a contracting party to the marriage who was a child at the time of the marriage.”

According to Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, the age of minor child is considered to be below 18 years. Even in the Indian Contract Act, if the child is minor his consent is not considered and even if some legal contracts are made with his consent that becomes void. Then how is it even possible to consider the marriage to become valid (till reported) with the consent of child. It not only snatches away the right to live with personal liberty, but also affects the dignity of life of those children. 

The Constitution of India guarantees to all its citizens - protection of life and liberty under Article 21. The Section 3(1) of the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act is in violation of the Article 21 of the Constitution of India. The children are not allowed to make a decision of choosing a life partner on their own which directly hammers the right of the person - liberty to choose. The Section 3(1) of the act makes the child marriage void which means the marriage is not legal. The things which are not legal can exist in the society until someone reports about it. But declaring the child marriage ‘void ab initio’ means the marriage does not exist right from the outset.

If the Central Government accepts the altercations to be made to the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, it will save many lives of the children and also protects them from being exploited. Under Article 13(2) of the Constitution of India, the State is restricted to make any such law that violates any of the fundamental rights provided to the citizens and if such law is made, it becomes void.

 

Related:

Increase in child marriages, a side effect of Lockdown?

No more teenage girls to be forced into marriage in India?

MRM pushes for raising Muslim women's minimum marriage age

Conversion approval not required for interfaith marriage registration: Allahabad HC

 

 

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UP: Insufficient nutrition packages cause rift between anganwadis and community

Union of Anganwadi workers urges the state government to supply adequate nutrition and resolve the conflict

02 Mar 2022

Rural health
Representation Image


Uttar Pradesh Anganwadi Employees Union demanded timely and appropriate delivery of supplementary nutrition to anganwadi centres as per Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS) scheme. The demand was reiterated following a conflict between workers and the people of Bulandshahr on February 28, 2022.

On Monday, anganwadi workers protested outside the district administration’s office to demand an FIR and arrest of the people who attacked employees distributing food in Kucheja village. Villagers tried to snatch the meagre rations, enraged by the little supply available. They accused the workers of hoarding ration meant for beneficiaries.

But the truth according to State President Veena Gupta is that many anganwadi centres received the supplementary ration supply after three months. She told SabrangIndia that the growing discontent among the people has begun ruining the relationship between anganwadi workers and society, as such incidents have increased across the state. “Anganwadi workers have to face the wrath of the local community due to lack of nutrition. The incidents of snatching by beneficiaries are becoming common due to low nutrition in many places in India,” said Gupta.

Under the ICDS scheme, beneficiaries, i.e., children in the age group of 0-6 years, pregnant women and lactating mothers receive a supplementary nutrition package as per Supreme Court orders. However, Gupta said that centres have not been receiving appropriate nutrition packages during the tenure of the Yogi Adityanath-led government. “We had to write to human rights authorities to finally avail half a kilogram of rice. Even that is very little,” she said.

Meanwhile, people are enraged that only 30 to 40 percent of the total beneficiaries receive nutrition supplies at the Anganwadi centres. As such, the union demanded that nutrition should be provided based on the number of beneficiaries.

Every district centre must also get a board to display the ration available for the determined number of beneficiaries on that day. Similarly, the government should issue a press release when it sends the ration to publicly announce how many beneficiaries will receive nutrition on that day.

Gupta said that conflicts will escalate if this is not done and the situation may go astray. For example, the angered people in Bulandhahr belonged to the Muslim community. Shortly afterwards, the incident was mistakenly dubbed as a Hindu-Muslim conflict. In reality parents were worried about feeding their children and other family dependents during an economic crisis arising from the Covid-19 pandemic.

Already, anganwadi workers, mid-day meal workers and ASHAs have reiterated time and again about insufficient help from the government in the form of honorariums, health-related gear and scheme-related ration. The union strongly condemned the attack on the anganwadi workers and urged employees to exercise restraint and beware of communal elements.

Related:

UP: No payment for MDM cooks on election duty?

UP: Anganwadi workers demand payment for election duties

All-India Anganwadi worker and helper strike on February 1

Midday Meal cooks struggling to put food on their own tables in UP

UP: Insufficient nutrition packages cause rift between anganwadis and community

Union of Anganwadi workers urges the state government to supply adequate nutrition and resolve the conflict

Rural health
Representation Image


Uttar Pradesh Anganwadi Employees Union demanded timely and appropriate delivery of supplementary nutrition to anganwadi centres as per Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS) scheme. The demand was reiterated following a conflict between workers and the people of Bulandshahr on February 28, 2022.

On Monday, anganwadi workers protested outside the district administration’s office to demand an FIR and arrest of the people who attacked employees distributing food in Kucheja village. Villagers tried to snatch the meagre rations, enraged by the little supply available. They accused the workers of hoarding ration meant for beneficiaries.

But the truth according to State President Veena Gupta is that many anganwadi centres received the supplementary ration supply after three months. She told SabrangIndia that the growing discontent among the people has begun ruining the relationship between anganwadi workers and society, as such incidents have increased across the state. “Anganwadi workers have to face the wrath of the local community due to lack of nutrition. The incidents of snatching by beneficiaries are becoming common due to low nutrition in many places in India,” said Gupta.

Under the ICDS scheme, beneficiaries, i.e., children in the age group of 0-6 years, pregnant women and lactating mothers receive a supplementary nutrition package as per Supreme Court orders. However, Gupta said that centres have not been receiving appropriate nutrition packages during the tenure of the Yogi Adityanath-led government. “We had to write to human rights authorities to finally avail half a kilogram of rice. Even that is very little,” she said.

Meanwhile, people are enraged that only 30 to 40 percent of the total beneficiaries receive nutrition supplies at the Anganwadi centres. As such, the union demanded that nutrition should be provided based on the number of beneficiaries.

Every district centre must also get a board to display the ration available for the determined number of beneficiaries on that day. Similarly, the government should issue a press release when it sends the ration to publicly announce how many beneficiaries will receive nutrition on that day.

Gupta said that conflicts will escalate if this is not done and the situation may go astray. For example, the angered people in Bulandhahr belonged to the Muslim community. Shortly afterwards, the incident was mistakenly dubbed as a Hindu-Muslim conflict. In reality parents were worried about feeding their children and other family dependents during an economic crisis arising from the Covid-19 pandemic.

Already, anganwadi workers, mid-day meal workers and ASHAs have reiterated time and again about insufficient help from the government in the form of honorariums, health-related gear and scheme-related ration. The union strongly condemned the attack on the anganwadi workers and urged employees to exercise restraint and beware of communal elements.

Related:

UP: No payment for MDM cooks on election duty?

UP: Anganwadi workers demand payment for election duties

All-India Anganwadi worker and helper strike on February 1

Midday Meal cooks struggling to put food on their own tables in UP

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Thanjavur minor's suicide: Madras HC orders case transfer to CBI; rife with prejudices, hints at 'religious conversion' angle

The court while exercising its discretion in transferring the case, made several unwarranted comments about the case and the probability of forcible religious conversion in the case

01 Feb 2022

CBIImage: https://hwnews.in

The Madras High Court has directed transfer of investigation in the Thanjavur minor’s suicide case from the State police to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) while casting aspertion over the manner in which the police were proceeding. The court’s order came in response to a petition filed by the father of the deceased girl who stated that he had lost confidence in the state police’s investigation after the school was exonerated by the state’s Education Department of allegations of attempted forcible conversion and the Superintendent of Police (SP) ruled out angle of conversion in the initial phase of the investigation.

In a detailed order, the single bench of Justice GR Swaminathan looked at the facts and circumstances that led to the suicide and the developments thereafter and deemed that the investigation must be transferred to the CBI. However, while having reached this finding, the court made several observations that suggest the court’s alleged prejudice with respect to the religious conversion angle in the case.

The court has made some unwarranted and problematic observations in the order which reflect the court’s alleged prejudices, and even though the court has asked the CBI to not take the court’s observations into account, it has definitely steered public perception towards the case.

The court’s observations range from making comments about the name of the village being “Michealpatti” to make it seems that conversion angle is probable, to quoting from popular culture references to show how characters in movies defied attempts at religious conversion, to casting aspersions on the SP that she wanted to divert attention from the conversion angle in the case.

In this background it is pertinent to note that the case has caused a major political row with the involvement of a Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) leader who recorded the statement of the minor girl. On January 28, a petition was submitted to Thanjavur district collector by residents of Michaelpatti village stating that “unidentified persons are coming to their village and trying to create communal disharmony.” According to reports, the villagers told officials that they “are being asked to speak against the school where the class 12 student was studying.” They added that their own children have studied in the school and there is no question of forced conversions.

Background

The deceased was a Class 12 student of a school in Michealpatti and was living in the hostel. On January 9, she consumed pesticide and started vomiting and when was taken home, she had not informed anyone that she had consumed pesticide and she was given treatment for stomach pain. When she was taken to the hospital, the doctor found out the actual cause and informed the police station and then a trainee Senior Inspector recorded her statement and offences under sections 305 and 511 of IPC and Sections 75 and 82(1) of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act 2015 were registered. Her statement was also recorded by Judicial Magistrate No.I, Thanjavur. A few hours later, she passed away.  

On the next day, a video of the child alleging that the correspondent of the school spoke to her parents about conversion to Christianity was circulated in the social media. The petitioner, the father of the girl, also submitted a complaint by enclosing the said video to the Superintendent of Police, Thanjavur District. The SP then held a press conference stating that the preliminary investigation conducted by the police ruled out the conversion angle hence, the petitioner filed this petition under Section 482 of Cr.P.C. seeking transfer of investigation.

This court directed that the statements of the parents be recorded under section 164 of CrPC and after receiving the same in a sealed cover, the same was handed over to the IO. The original phone on which the video of the deceased girl was recorded was directed to be handed over to the IO.

On January 28, the petitioner submitted before the court that he had completely lost faith in the State Police since a high ranking Minister had given a public interview absolving the school authorities of the charge of conversion as also, the Education Department had conducted a departmental enquiry and gave clean chit to the school administration. This plea was opposed by the state police stating that the investigation was proceeding on the right lines.

The petitioner also alleged that the girl’s dying declaration was leaked by the police to the media to build a counter narrative, since she had not mentioned about conversion therein.

Submissions of the Police

The Additional Public Prosecutor submitted on behalf of the police that instead of handing over the video of the girl to the police, an edited version was circulated, thus generating controversy. It was also submitted that the petitioner, allegedly under the influence of certain communal organisations, did not cooperate for inquest and postmortem. Since certain communal organisations had taken over the stage, the District Superintendent of Police thought it fit to hold a press conference to dispel the misgivings. The Prosecutor just stated that all directions of the court were duly followed and all investigation was going as per procedure.

The court observed that the prosecutor faulted the conduct of the petitioner and Mr. Muthuvel who had recorded the video for not cooperating with the investigation. The court held that it would be unfair to prejudge the issue.

About the facts and circumstances of the case, the court noted that the petitioner and a few communal organisations have made an allegation that the school management attempted to convert the child to Christianity and since the move was rebuffed, the child was harassed by the hostel warden in a variety of ways as a result of which the child took the extreme step. The court also noted that the classmates who were examined stated that there was no pressure or even suggestion to them to convert to Christianity and the local residents concurred with the same. The classmates stated that the girl was staying in the hostel to escape the tortures of her step mother and had even refused to go home in holidays.

Intervention by School

The School also intervened and submitted that the child was being mistreated by her step mother and that the child helpline had received complaints and the officials had also conducted enquiry in this regard. The counsel for the school submitted that the domestic situation of the child must have been so depressing that she was pushed to committing suicide. He further submitted that the so-called dying declaration was engineered by the stepmother to implicate Sister Saghayamary who was not only taking care of the child but was also paying her school and hostel fees. Further, Muthuvel who had recorded the video is a hate monger who has cases against him for spreading communal trouble.

The court noted that in the police statement as well as in the statement before the judicial magistrate, the child had directly and in unambiguous terms accused that the hostel warden had burdened her by assigning her nonacademic chores and, unable to bear the same, she consumed the pesticide. Which is why the warden was arrested.

The court commented on the comments of the SP in the press conferences and said,

“The Superintendent of Police probably forgot the virtues of silence. To a question from a news reporter, she asserted that in the preliminary enquiry, the conversion angle was not made out. Such a statement was unwarranted because by then the private video was already in circulation and the parents of the child have given a complaint alleging that there was an attempt to convert the child to Christianity. By stating that the conversion angle stood ruled out, the Superintendent of Police had brushed aside the petitioner's complaint made in writing and backed by the video of the child. Therefore, the petitioner was justified in entertaining an impression that if the investigation continued by the District Police, it will be biased.”

Problematic references in the order

Steering away from the facts and points of law in the case, where the court was only required to decide whether the petition made a case for transfer of investigation from the State police to CBI, the court made a few references in the order which were not only unwarranted but gave the impression that the court had taken into account one side of the submissions and made up its mind.

The court quoted from the Bible as follows:

“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.”

“Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.”

The court then went on to quote from a movie “Serious Men” where the Principal of the school urges a parent to accept Christianity in order to get the school’s scholarship. Then the court also made a reference to a Tamil movie “Kalyana Agathigal” where a Hindu girl is asked to convert to Christianity if she wishes to marry her Christian lover.

The Court even questioned these references made by it, “One may wonder if in a judgment of a constitutional court, there should be references to popular culture. I will not stop with a rhetorical - Why Not?” The court also stated that art reflects life.

On points of law

The court then cited the Supreme Court’s judgement in Rev. Stainislaus V. State of Madhya Pradesh and Ors. (1977) 1 SCC 677 whereby the court held that the expression “propagate” used in Article 25(1) would not encompass the right to convert and there is no fundamental right to convert another person to one's own religion.

“If one reads the views expressed by some of the Christian members of the Constituent Assembly, one would note that some of them had even batted for the right to convert even minor children,” this court pointed out.

Reference to the village name

The court seemed to have drawn aspersions to the name of the village as well and made an observation that “Michealpatti could not have been the original name”! The court even went out on a limb to reach a conjecture that “there is nothing inherently improbable in the allegation that there was an attempt at conversion.” The court tried to save this comment by saying, “It could be true or false.” The court further said, “The matter called for investigation and not outright rejection. But the District Superintendent instead directing the jurisdictional police to conduct investigation chose to proclaim that the preliminary investigation has ruled out the conversion angle…Instead of ordering the investigation officer to take the additional materials to account, the S.P directed the local police to register an FIR against the person who had taken the video.”

The court noted that while the invoking of section 74 of Juvenile Justice Act was warranted, the other offences under sections 153, 504, 505(1)(b) and 505(2) of IPC was indicative that the SP “wanted to silence any discussion regarding the conversion angle.” It further said, “With her experience, the SP obviously knew that the video was authentic. The video footage circulated in the social media was truncated. The earlier and the later portions had been omitted. But that will not make the video any less authentic. The S.P virtually threatened the person who shot the video. Instead, she should have goaded the investigation to take the religious angle into account.”

Doubting credibility of the State Police

The court noted that the I.T wing of the ruling party released portions of the private video that appear to exonerate the school authorities thus casting doubts on the credibility and impartiality of the investigation made by the state police. Whether there is truth in the allegation is a matter for investigation and eventually for the Court to decide. But a counter narrative is being built as if the father and the step mother of the child are responsible for the suicide. In the social media, an allegation has been made that the CHILDLINE received complaints some two years ago that the child in question was being cruelly treated by the step mother. Such deliberate leaks dent the credibility of the investigation.

The court noted that the girl in her video statement as well as in her dying declaration made no mention of any harassment by her step mother. “The attempt of the police appears to be to derail the investigation…. It is too early in the day for the police or the politicians to jump to conclusions. But they have done so. That is why, the petitioner is apprehensive that if the investigation continues to remain in the hands of the State police, he will not get justice. His apprehension is justified,” the court observed.

The court agreed with the petitioner’s contention that the police sent summons to the girl’s maternal grandparents and instead of finding out the truth of the allegations made by the deceased victim, have been trying to bolster the counter narrative.

Order of transfer of investigation

The court said thus,

“This Court has a duty to render posthumous justice to the child. The foregoing circumstances cumulatively taken will definitely create an impression that the investigation is not proceeding on the right lines. Since a high ranking Hon'ble Minister himself has taken a stand, investigation cannot continue with the State Police.”

The court ordered thus,

“I therefore direct the Director, Central Bureau of Investigation, New Delhi to assign an officer to take over investigation from the State Police. The criminal original petition is allowed on these terms… CBI will undertake an independent investigation and shall not take into account any of the observations made in this order. Since contentions were advanced on either side, this Court had to deal with them. Nothing set out in this order shall be construed as opinion on the merits of the matter. They have been made only for the purpose of disposing of this transfer petition.”

 

The complete order may be read here:

 

Related:

Thanjavur: Villagers submit petition to DC about elements trying to create communal disharmony

MP High Court warns state against “moral policing” in interfaith marriage where wife converted willingly

Law should be made against religious conversions: Kejriwal in Punjab

Thanjavur minor's suicide: Madras HC orders case transfer to CBI; rife with prejudices, hints at 'religious conversion' angle

The court while exercising its discretion in transferring the case, made several unwarranted comments about the case and the probability of forcible religious conversion in the case

CBIImage: https://hwnews.in

The Madras High Court has directed transfer of investigation in the Thanjavur minor’s suicide case from the State police to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) while casting aspertion over the manner in which the police were proceeding. The court’s order came in response to a petition filed by the father of the deceased girl who stated that he had lost confidence in the state police’s investigation after the school was exonerated by the state’s Education Department of allegations of attempted forcible conversion and the Superintendent of Police (SP) ruled out angle of conversion in the initial phase of the investigation.

In a detailed order, the single bench of Justice GR Swaminathan looked at the facts and circumstances that led to the suicide and the developments thereafter and deemed that the investigation must be transferred to the CBI. However, while having reached this finding, the court made several observations that suggest the court’s alleged prejudice with respect to the religious conversion angle in the case.

The court has made some unwarranted and problematic observations in the order which reflect the court’s alleged prejudices, and even though the court has asked the CBI to not take the court’s observations into account, it has definitely steered public perception towards the case.

The court’s observations range from making comments about the name of the village being “Michealpatti” to make it seems that conversion angle is probable, to quoting from popular culture references to show how characters in movies defied attempts at religious conversion, to casting aspersions on the SP that she wanted to divert attention from the conversion angle in the case.

In this background it is pertinent to note that the case has caused a major political row with the involvement of a Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) leader who recorded the statement of the minor girl. On January 28, a petition was submitted to Thanjavur district collector by residents of Michaelpatti village stating that “unidentified persons are coming to their village and trying to create communal disharmony.” According to reports, the villagers told officials that they “are being asked to speak against the school where the class 12 student was studying.” They added that their own children have studied in the school and there is no question of forced conversions.

Background

The deceased was a Class 12 student of a school in Michealpatti and was living in the hostel. On January 9, she consumed pesticide and started vomiting and when was taken home, she had not informed anyone that she had consumed pesticide and she was given treatment for stomach pain. When she was taken to the hospital, the doctor found out the actual cause and informed the police station and then a trainee Senior Inspector recorded her statement and offences under sections 305 and 511 of IPC and Sections 75 and 82(1) of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act 2015 were registered. Her statement was also recorded by Judicial Magistrate No.I, Thanjavur. A few hours later, she passed away.  

On the next day, a video of the child alleging that the correspondent of the school spoke to her parents about conversion to Christianity was circulated in the social media. The petitioner, the father of the girl, also submitted a complaint by enclosing the said video to the Superintendent of Police, Thanjavur District. The SP then held a press conference stating that the preliminary investigation conducted by the police ruled out the conversion angle hence, the petitioner filed this petition under Section 482 of Cr.P.C. seeking transfer of investigation.

This court directed that the statements of the parents be recorded under section 164 of CrPC and after receiving the same in a sealed cover, the same was handed over to the IO. The original phone on which the video of the deceased girl was recorded was directed to be handed over to the IO.

On January 28, the petitioner submitted before the court that he had completely lost faith in the State Police since a high ranking Minister had given a public interview absolving the school authorities of the charge of conversion as also, the Education Department had conducted a departmental enquiry and gave clean chit to the school administration. This plea was opposed by the state police stating that the investigation was proceeding on the right lines.

The petitioner also alleged that the girl’s dying declaration was leaked by the police to the media to build a counter narrative, since she had not mentioned about conversion therein.

Submissions of the Police

The Additional Public Prosecutor submitted on behalf of the police that instead of handing over the video of the girl to the police, an edited version was circulated, thus generating controversy. It was also submitted that the petitioner, allegedly under the influence of certain communal organisations, did not cooperate for inquest and postmortem. Since certain communal organisations had taken over the stage, the District Superintendent of Police thought it fit to hold a press conference to dispel the misgivings. The Prosecutor just stated that all directions of the court were duly followed and all investigation was going as per procedure.

The court observed that the prosecutor faulted the conduct of the petitioner and Mr. Muthuvel who had recorded the video for not cooperating with the investigation. The court held that it would be unfair to prejudge the issue.

About the facts and circumstances of the case, the court noted that the petitioner and a few communal organisations have made an allegation that the school management attempted to convert the child to Christianity and since the move was rebuffed, the child was harassed by the hostel warden in a variety of ways as a result of which the child took the extreme step. The court also noted that the classmates who were examined stated that there was no pressure or even suggestion to them to convert to Christianity and the local residents concurred with the same. The classmates stated that the girl was staying in the hostel to escape the tortures of her step mother and had even refused to go home in holidays.

Intervention by School

The School also intervened and submitted that the child was being mistreated by her step mother and that the child helpline had received complaints and the officials had also conducted enquiry in this regard. The counsel for the school submitted that the domestic situation of the child must have been so depressing that she was pushed to committing suicide. He further submitted that the so-called dying declaration was engineered by the stepmother to implicate Sister Saghayamary who was not only taking care of the child but was also paying her school and hostel fees. Further, Muthuvel who had recorded the video is a hate monger who has cases against him for spreading communal trouble.

The court noted that in the police statement as well as in the statement before the judicial magistrate, the child had directly and in unambiguous terms accused that the hostel warden had burdened her by assigning her nonacademic chores and, unable to bear the same, she consumed the pesticide. Which is why the warden was arrested.

The court commented on the comments of the SP in the press conferences and said,

“The Superintendent of Police probably forgot the virtues of silence. To a question from a news reporter, she asserted that in the preliminary enquiry, the conversion angle was not made out. Such a statement was unwarranted because by then the private video was already in circulation and the parents of the child have given a complaint alleging that there was an attempt to convert the child to Christianity. By stating that the conversion angle stood ruled out, the Superintendent of Police had brushed aside the petitioner's complaint made in writing and backed by the video of the child. Therefore, the petitioner was justified in entertaining an impression that if the investigation continued by the District Police, it will be biased.”

Problematic references in the order

Steering away from the facts and points of law in the case, where the court was only required to decide whether the petition made a case for transfer of investigation from the State police to CBI, the court made a few references in the order which were not only unwarranted but gave the impression that the court had taken into account one side of the submissions and made up its mind.

The court quoted from the Bible as follows:

“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.”

“Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.”

The court then went on to quote from a movie “Serious Men” where the Principal of the school urges a parent to accept Christianity in order to get the school’s scholarship. Then the court also made a reference to a Tamil movie “Kalyana Agathigal” where a Hindu girl is asked to convert to Christianity if she wishes to marry her Christian lover.

The Court even questioned these references made by it, “One may wonder if in a judgment of a constitutional court, there should be references to popular culture. I will not stop with a rhetorical - Why Not?” The court also stated that art reflects life.

On points of law

The court then cited the Supreme Court’s judgement in Rev. Stainislaus V. State of Madhya Pradesh and Ors. (1977) 1 SCC 677 whereby the court held that the expression “propagate” used in Article 25(1) would not encompass the right to convert and there is no fundamental right to convert another person to one's own religion.

“If one reads the views expressed by some of the Christian members of the Constituent Assembly, one would note that some of them had even batted for the right to convert even minor children,” this court pointed out.

Reference to the village name

The court seemed to have drawn aspersions to the name of the village as well and made an observation that “Michealpatti could not have been the original name”! The court even went out on a limb to reach a conjecture that “there is nothing inherently improbable in the allegation that there was an attempt at conversion.” The court tried to save this comment by saying, “It could be true or false.” The court further said, “The matter called for investigation and not outright rejection. But the District Superintendent instead directing the jurisdictional police to conduct investigation chose to proclaim that the preliminary investigation has ruled out the conversion angle…Instead of ordering the investigation officer to take the additional materials to account, the S.P directed the local police to register an FIR against the person who had taken the video.”

The court noted that while the invoking of section 74 of Juvenile Justice Act was warranted, the other offences under sections 153, 504, 505(1)(b) and 505(2) of IPC was indicative that the SP “wanted to silence any discussion regarding the conversion angle.” It further said, “With her experience, the SP obviously knew that the video was authentic. The video footage circulated in the social media was truncated. The earlier and the later portions had been omitted. But that will not make the video any less authentic. The S.P virtually threatened the person who shot the video. Instead, she should have goaded the investigation to take the religious angle into account.”

Doubting credibility of the State Police

The court noted that the I.T wing of the ruling party released portions of the private video that appear to exonerate the school authorities thus casting doubts on the credibility and impartiality of the investigation made by the state police. Whether there is truth in the allegation is a matter for investigation and eventually for the Court to decide. But a counter narrative is being built as if the father and the step mother of the child are responsible for the suicide. In the social media, an allegation has been made that the CHILDLINE received complaints some two years ago that the child in question was being cruelly treated by the step mother. Such deliberate leaks dent the credibility of the investigation.

The court noted that the girl in her video statement as well as in her dying declaration made no mention of any harassment by her step mother. “The attempt of the police appears to be to derail the investigation…. It is too early in the day for the police or the politicians to jump to conclusions. But they have done so. That is why, the petitioner is apprehensive that if the investigation continues to remain in the hands of the State police, he will not get justice. His apprehension is justified,” the court observed.

The court agreed with the petitioner’s contention that the police sent summons to the girl’s maternal grandparents and instead of finding out the truth of the allegations made by the deceased victim, have been trying to bolster the counter narrative.

Order of transfer of investigation

The court said thus,

“This Court has a duty to render posthumous justice to the child. The foregoing circumstances cumulatively taken will definitely create an impression that the investigation is not proceeding on the right lines. Since a high ranking Hon'ble Minister himself has taken a stand, investigation cannot continue with the State Police.”

The court ordered thus,

“I therefore direct the Director, Central Bureau of Investigation, New Delhi to assign an officer to take over investigation from the State Police. The criminal original petition is allowed on these terms… CBI will undertake an independent investigation and shall not take into account any of the observations made in this order. Since contentions were advanced on either side, this Court had to deal with them. Nothing set out in this order shall be construed as opinion on the merits of the matter. They have been made only for the purpose of disposing of this transfer petition.”

 

The complete order may be read here:

 

Related:

Thanjavur: Villagers submit petition to DC about elements trying to create communal disharmony

MP High Court warns state against “moral policing” in interfaith marriage where wife converted willingly

Law should be made against religious conversions: Kejriwal in Punjab

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