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Madhya Pradesh HC stays CWC move to shift children from Christian orphanage

The High Court not only stayed the shifting of 44 orphan kids from Saint Francis Orphanage in Sagar but also sought a report from the district Child Welfare Committee on why it was being done in this cold weather amid spiking Covid cases

Some members of the right-wing Hindu groups had also alleged conversion of tribal kids in the charitable orphanage and demanded an FIR against the institution. (File)

The Jabalpur bench of the Madhya Pradesh High Court has stayed an order of the state-run Child Welfare Committee (CWC) for shifting orphan children from an orphanage run by a Christian missionary in the Sagar district.

The Sagar CWC’s move came after the licence of the Saint Francis Orphanage was not renewed by the district administration over allegations that beef was being served to the kids in the orphanage run by the Sagar Diocese of the Catholic community.

Some members of the right-wing Hindu groups had also alleged conversion of tribal kids in the charitable orphanage and demanded an FIR against the institution.

The High Court not only stayed the shifting of 44 orphan children but also sought a report from the Sagar CWC on why they were being shifted in this cold weather amid spiking Covid-19 cases.

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Justice Nandita Dubey passed the order on January 6 on a petition filed by the Saint Francis Orphanage after the district administration authorities shifted three kids from the orphanage over non-renewal of its licence.

Taking serious cognisance of the shifting of the orphan children, Justice Dubey ordered, “I deem it proper to direct the authorities not to shift the children right now. The order dated 29.12.2021 is stayed.”

The court stated, “They (CWC) are also to submit in their report what was the condition of the orphanage where presently the children are staying and what is the condition or availability of space where they are trying to shift all these 44 children. Let this report be presented before this Court within a period of two weeks.”

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The Saint Francis Orphanage moved the court after the CWC issued a notice on December 29 to the Christian orphanage notifying it that the five-member CWC committee had decided to shift 3 of the 44 children in the age group of 2-6 years to Matryachaya Shishu Grah at Gulab Colony in Sagar district.

The petitioner’s counsel Amit Mishra told The Indian Express, “The orphanage was registered in 2015 under Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act and it has to be renewed every five years. The orphanage was to be renewed on 18 September 2020 and three months prior to that, on 15 June 2020, the director of the orphanage applied for renewal but instead of renewing its registration, the relevant authorities kept the matter pending and now issued the notice to shift the children claiming that the orphanage is not registered.”

The orphanage is part of St Francis Sevadham, a century-old Christian charitable institution that runs several shelter homes and schools for tribal kids and physically and mentally challenged children through seven institutions spread over a vast complex in Sagar.

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Father Sinto Verghese, director of St Francis Sevadham, said that on January 6 several CWC teams suddenly arrived at around 1 pm and tried top shift the children. “Children were then writing their exams and as soon as they finished writing at 1:30 pm, these authorities began to move them out, despite the children protesting and refusing to go,” he said.

According to Father Verghese, the CWC officials were informed that the High Court had stayed the shifting of kids but they demanded to see the court’s order. The officials meanwhile kept trying to persuade the children for their shifting but they did not agree, he said, adding that “finally at 5:30 pm when the court order was uploaded, they were given a copy and they left”.

Father Verghese also said that “These hostels, orphanage and other such institutions are spread over 277 acres of land registered in the name of Sagar Diocese in 1875, but some anti-social elements in a bid to usurp the land are trying these pressure tactics by misleading government agencies.”

Recently, in the case of another Christian charity institution, Foster Care Home Navjeevan, in Jabalpur in Madhya Pradesh, the district authorities had registered an FIR against the institution in the wake of a probe by the district collector following a letter from the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights over conversion allegations.

First published on: 08-01-2022 at 04:46:51 pm
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