Statutory child rights body NCPCR has moved the Supreme Court for an SIT probe, monitored by the top court, into the cases of children allegedly sold by shelter homes of the Missionaries of Charity, which was founded by Mother Teresa, in Jharkhand.
It has sought direction for an apex court monitored time bound investigation of all such organizations in Jharkhand to ensure protection of children.
The NCPCR, which has for the first time moved the apex court under Article 32, sought enforcement of fundamental rights of prohibition of trafficking in human beings guaranteed under Article 23 of the Constitution.
The National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) said discrepancies have been found in children's homes in various states and it has arrayed them as parties in its plea.
A bench of Chief Justice S A Bobde and Justices B R Gavai and Surya Kant issued notice on Monday to Jharkhand, Arunachal Pradesh, West Bengal, Assam, Punjab, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Kerala and Maharashtra governments and tagged the matter with the already pending matter related to protection of child rights in school.
The plea, filed through advocate Swarupama Chaturvedi, cited cases of child rights violation in Jharkhand and said that authorities in the state have adopted a callous approach to protect the minors.
"During course of inquiry by petitioner (NCPCR), shocking revelations were made by the victims which included the factum that the children were being sold in the children homes. These facts were emphatically brought to the notice of the state government (Jharkhand) but continuous attempts were made to sabotage and derail the inquiry," the plea said.
Giving details of the incident, the NCPCR said that it had taken cognizance of a media report of 2018, which said that a member of Missionaries of Charity was arrested in Ranchi, Jharkhand, for her involvement in illegal child trade.
The plea said the commission raised the issue with the chief secretary of Jharkhand by writing a letter to him and sought information with regard to various questions like total number of children at shelter homes and their legal status -- orphan/abandoned/surrendered and whether the shelter homes are registered and action taken against sisters of Missionaries of Charity, Ranchi for selling the children.
It said that on July 24, 2018, a member of NCPCR visited a centre of Missionaries of Charity at Ranchi, and gross irregularities were found in their functioning, which was conveyed to the chief secretary and Director General of Police of Jharkhand.
The plea said that on July 10, 2018, Additional secretary of Department of Women, child development and social security of Jharkhand government responded to the queries raised by the commission about the district wise details of Missionaries of Charity, in the state but the details were found to be with certain discrepancies and the NCPCR termed it as unsatisfactory.
It said that information was also sought from Missionaries of Charities on August 9, 2018, about the total number of child care institutions and list of children and their legal status.
The plea said that NCPCR received the information from Missionaries of charity on September 8, 2018, about the institutions run by it and provided details of only 78 child care institutions instead of 80.
It said that reply of Missionaries of charity pointed to several ambiguities like children were kept who are neither abandoned, surrendered or orphan, children not produced before Child Welfare Committees and others.
Citing another incident, the NCPCR said that one of its teams had visited Dumka district in Jharkhand for holding a camp where the Child Welfare Committee (CWC) provided statements of two minor girls who said that they were sexually abused and sent to shelter homes run by Missionaries of Charity by their parents, where they had delivered their babies and returned to their respective homes with babies.
"In spite of these statements of victims being available on record no appropriate action has been taken by the authorities in Ranchi," the plea said, adding that till date no information has been received from their end on the action taken and current status of the case.
The NCPCR said that considering the seriousness of the matter, it sought information from others states with regard to the working of Missionaries of Charity Homes.
"The reports from some states were found to be either full of discrepancies or unsatisfactory in nature," it said, adding that thereafter it decided to move the apex court with a writ petition.
The commission said, "Fundamental right of prohibition of trafficking of human beings guaranteed under Article 23 of the Constitution cannot be trampled in any manner and it includes protection of children from trafficking, child prostitution, and other related offence with any hindrance".
It said that States have failed in discharging their statutory duty by not conducting further investigation with due diligence even after repeated request by the commission.
The NCPCR also sought direction for creation of a SIT in every state to investigate similar organizations to ensure that the child rights violation are not happening in organisations located in other States.
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