MP High Court Issues Stay on Transfer of Children From Missionary Run Orphanage
The Child Welfare Committee’s (CWC) Sagar wing had ordered to shift 44 children from Saint Francis Orphanage.
On Thursday, 6 January, the Madhya Pradesh High Court’s Jabalpur bench stayed an order issued by Child Welfare Committee’s (CWC) Sagar wing to shift 44 children from Saint Francis Orphanage run by Christian missionary to another shelter home.
The stay came after a petition was filed by the St Francis Orphange against the CWC’s order dated 29 December to shift three children from St Francis to Maatru Chhaya Sevabharti Shishugrih Gulab Colony Sagar.
St Francis orphanage also known as Sewadham Ashram is part of various institutions being run by Sagar Diocese of the Catholic community. The orphanage’s licence wasn’t renewed after allegations of beef being served in the orphanage were made by a boy in December 2020.
What Did the Court Say?
The court ordered a stay on the shifting of the children and also demanded a report from the CWC Sagar wing explaining the need to shift children from St Francis Orphanage amidst cold weather and rising COVID-19 cases.
Justice Nandia Dubey observed, “I deem it proper to direct the authorities not to shift the children right now. The order dated 29.12. 2021 is stayed."
“CWC, district Sagar (MP) is also directed to submit a report regarding why the children are being shifted in this cold weather and at this difficult time when there is a rising threat of COVID/Omicron,” the order read.
"They (Child Welfare Commission) 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,” the court further stated.
This order was given on the appeal of St Francis orphanage against the CWC, Sagar’s order to shift three children between 2-6 years old from the orphanage to one Maatru Chhaya Sevabharti Shishugrih.
The lawyer debating for the St Francis orphanage while talking to The Quint said, “The orphanage was registered already in 2015 under the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act and my client had submitted an application to renew the licence after five years as stipulated by the law. The renewal application was submitted in June 2021 three months prior to the expiry date in September, but it wasn’t renewed. Now they issued the notice to evict the children stating that my orphanage is not registered.”
The district collector of Sagar Deepak Arya refuted the claims of forceful eviction and said, “The permissions of the institution weren’t up to the mark. There was a question by an MLA in the Vidhan Sabha asking how an institution, which doesn't have permission can run a shelter home and so the action was taken by the administration.”
Father Paul Chungath, vicar general of Sagar diocese, the organisation that runs St Francis Orphanage, told The Quint, “The police and CWC team came to our orphanage on 5 January at around 1 pm and attempted to shift the children, but the children were in school, writing their exams. As soon as the children came out the officials tried to shift them but all the children refused and protested against them.”
"We have earlier heard that the officials might try to evict the children as they have got wind that we will get the court order in our favour and so they tried to take action before the court’s verdict. However, our lawyer called us around 2 pm and informed that we have got the stay order and we conveyed the same to the officials who came to shift the children. But they didn’t listen. They were demanding to see the copy of the order and kept on persuading the children. It was at 5:30 pm when we received the order copy and handed it to them and the officials left."Father Paul Chungath
“There have been attempts to malign the name of the ashram by those looking to get our land and force us out. We are a century-old institution working for the upliftment of the people and we are very happy that the law ordered in our favour."
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