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Missionaries of Charity case: Vadodara court directs police to ‘refrain from arresting’ nuns till Jan 10

🔴 The nuns from the Kolkata-based organisation founded by Mother Teresa, were booked in Vadodara for allegedly “hurting Hindu religious sentiments” and “luring towards Christianity young girls” in the shelter home run by the organisation.

Written by Aditi Raja | Vadodara |
January 6, 2022 6:44:38 am
missionaries for charity, gujarat news, christian conversion news, vadodara newsThe court, which is awaiting the city police affidavit clarifying the use of two Sections of the Act that were stayed by the Gujarat High Court in August 2021, has scheduled the next hearing on January 13. (File Photo)

A local court in Vadodara Wednesday directed the city police to “refrain from arresting” two nuns of the Missionaries of Charity till January 10, while adjourning the hearing in their anticipatory bail application, in a case under the Gujarat Freedom of Religion Act, 2003.

The nuns from the Kolkata-based organisation founded by Mother Teresa, were booked in Vadodara for allegedly “hurting Hindu religious sentiments” and “luring towards Christianity young girls” in the shelter home run by the organisation.

The court is awaiting the city police affidavit clarifying the use of two sections of the Act that were stayed by the Gujarat High Court in August last year. On Wednes-day, for the fourth time, the Vadodara District Government Pleader Anil Desai informed the court that an intimation from the office of the Government Pleader of the Gujarat High Court was awaited over the use of Section 3 and 4 of the Act in the case.

Additional sessions judge RT Panchal in an oral directive restricted the police from action until the next hearing on January 10, when the police is expected to file an affidavit along with the clarification from the Government Pleader on the use of the two sections is received.

Advocate Jahangir Shaikh, who is appearing for the Missionaries of Charity, urged the court to decide on the anticipatory bail application as the police had failed to file the affidavit directed by the court.

Shaikh told The Indian Express, “Police are trying to delay the inevitable by seeking adjournments as two sections have been stayed by the High Court in August… My client (MoC) is cooperating in the investigation despite the case being filed under sections that are stayed by the HC. Neither the police nor the District Social Defence department or even the Child Welfare officers has taken the custody of the children who continue to live with my client.”

Meanwhile, the FIR lodged by the Makarpura police station on December 12 states that the Child Welfare Committee (CWC), after five of its officers visited the shelter home on December 9, had recommended to find “an alternative to this organisation” in its report.

“The committee is of the opinion that the children are being encouraged to convert… Although the children were not forthcoming with information, it is necessary to find an alternative to this organisation… The committee has also directed the organisation to remove the cross that the children have been asked to wear around their neck,” the FIR quotes the CWC report.

A team of five officers of the Child Welfare Committee, including chairman Shankarlal Trivedi, visited the shelter home on December 9 and submitted a report to the District Magistrate on December 11, recommending an FIR to be filed against the organisation as per the provisions of the Gujarat Juvenile Justice Rules 2019.

The CWC team visited the shelter home in December following a letter from the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR), after its chairperson Priyank Kanungo visited the place on August 29, 2021.

The NCPCR chairperson took suo motu cognisance and wrote to the district administration on September 10 citing violation of Article 28 (3) at the shelter home, the FIR states.

The Article lays down that “no person attending any educational institution recognised by the State or receiving aid out of State funds shall be required to take part in any religious instruction that may be imparted in such institution or to attend any religious worship that may be conducted in such institution or in any premises attached thereto unless such person or, if such person is a minor, his guardian has given his consent thereto Cultural and Educational Rights”.

The FIR states that the points mentioned in the report of the team include the alleged forced conversion of a Punjabi woman through marriage to a Christian by the MoC.

Following the FIR, the inspector of Makarpura police station on December 21, directed five girls from the shelter home to appear before the magistrate on December 23. The girls, aged between 12 to 15 years, were to be taken in the custody of a child welfare officer.

However, on December 22, when the MoC wrote to the chairman of the Child Welfare Committee, Vadodara, seeking an officer to escort the children, the CWC chairperson returned a note stating, “As per the order of the court, the responsibility of producing the girls in the court and taking them back would lie with the organisation.”

Shaikh said, “The organisation, which is accused of forcing religious conversion, has also taken the children to record their statement… The investigation has left the children anxious and scared…”

The Vadodara Crime Branch took over the investigation on December 28. Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP), Crime, DS Chauhan said that the police issued three notices to the Punjabi woman who was allegedly converted for marriage by the organisation, to appear before the police.

Chauhan said, “We have issued three notices to the woman, but she is yet to record her statement.”
On December 27, the woman filed an affidavit before the court stating that her interfaith marriage was “out of her consent and free will”.

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