The Madhya Pradesh High Court, Jabalpur Bench has upheld the refusal by the State to renew recognition of a Child Care Institution after the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) found that children were being converted to Christianity and were sexually abused in the institute.

The Court was dealing with a writ petition filed by Aadharshila Sansthan, a Charitable Society (earlier known as Central India Christian Mission) against the order of the Deputy Secretary of the Department of Women & Child Development.

A Single Bench of Justice Vivek Agarwal observed, “Sub-Section (7) of Section 41 of the J.J.Act provides that the State Government may, after following the procedure as may be prescribed, cancel or withhold registration, as the case may be, of such Institution, which fails to provide rehabilitation and reintegration services as specified in Section 53 of the J.J.Act and till such time that the registration of an Institution is renewed or granted, the State Government shall manage the Institution.”

The Bench said that when there is an allegation of abuse and exploitation, which is being investigated for which an FIR is already registered and there appears to be artificial segregation by putting boys and girls in the same building on two different floors then prima facie the decision of the authorities recording a finding of violation and taking a decision not to renew permission to run a Child Care Institution cannot be faulted with.

Senior Advocate Vivek Krishna Tankha appeared for the petitioner while Advocate General Prashant Singh and Advocate Abhaid Parikh appeared for the State and NCPCR, respectively.

In this case, the Deputy Secretary, Government of MP, Department of Women & Child Development, Vallabh Bhawan, Bhopal refused to renew the recognition given to the Bal Grih/Balika Grih invoking the provisions as contained in Section 41 of the Juvenile Justice (Care & Protection of Children) Act, 2015 (JJ Act) and Rule 21 of the Juvenile Justice (Care & Protection of Children) Model Rules, 2016 (J.J. Model Rules). The petitioner/Aadharshila Sansthan was aggrieved by the order passed by the District Programme Officer, Department of Women & Child Development, Damoh directing it to proceed with the transfer of children of Aadharshila Sansthan to some other Institution.

An allegation was made that one of the employees of the aforesaid institution, had committed offence under Section 11(i), (iv) and (vi) of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012 (POCSO Act). In the statement recorded by the minor girl child (victim) under Section 161 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 (Cr.P.C), she deposed that since childhood, she was staying at Aadharshila Balika Grih at Damoh and was studying at Central India Academy in English Medium and that in the month of April, the said employee had given a letter to her mentioning that she was very beautiful and thereafter several obscene and objectionable words were mentioned in that letter.

The counsel for the NCPCR submitted before the Court that the impugned order was a well-reasoned one giving two grounds for refusal to renew registration; firstly, the Child Care Institution being run/operated in violation of Rule 29 of the J.J.Model Rules and secondly, involvement of one of an employee in sexually abusing/harassing a minor girl child living in the Child Care Institution. Furthermore, the Advocate General submitted that there was a racket, which was going on, promoting conversion of children to Christianity and sequence of events would reveal that the children after being given in foster care, came back to Aadharshila Sansthan on one or the other pretext and were professing Christianity, which shows that the purpose of Children Home being run by the Aadharshila Sansthan was not to give protection to the deserted or orphan children but to propagate conversion.

The High Court in view of the aforesaid facts noted, “The report of the Additional District Magistrate, Damoh and the Additional Superintendent of Police, Damoh, which is available on record and is dated 25.11.2022, addressed to the Collector & District Magistrate, Damoh clearly makes a mention of the fact that at Aadharshila Sansthan, 78 students (boys & girls) are residing at Residential School, namely, Central India Academy Bal Bhawan. On the Ground Floor, there is an arrangement for Girls Hostel, which houses 33 girls and on the First Floor, there is a provision for Boys Hostel in which 45 boys are residing. The aforesaid piece of information, which has come out in the inspection and which has not been disputed by the Petitioner/Society reveals that there is violation of the provisions of Rule 29(1) (iv)(b) of the J.J.Model Rules, which provides that separate Children’s Homes for boys and girls in the age group of 7 to 11 years and 12 to 18 years.”

The Court further said that the requirement of the rule is that firstly, there has to be separate Children’s Homes and not merely segregation of boys and girls between two floors and secondly, the requirement of the rule is that not only separate Children’s Homes should be provided for boys and girls but there will be further bifurcation based on the age groups i.e. separate Children’s Homes for boys and girls in the age group of 7 to 11 years and separate Children’s Homes for the ones in the age group of 12 to 18 years.

“The requirement of proviso contained in Sub-Section (3) of Section 41 of the J.J.Act is that if the said Institution does not fulfill the prescribed criteria for registration, within the period specified in Sub-Section (1), the provisional registration shall stand cancelled and the provisions as contained in Sub-Section (5) of Section 41 of the J.J.Act shall apply”, added the Court.

The Court, therefore, observed that there is no material on record to show whether any training and orientation was given to the Caregivers so also to the children as per the requirement of Rule 76 of the J.J. Model Rules and that there is another violation of employing a Male Employee at the Mess having common access to both boy and girl children.

Accordingly, the High Court dismissed the petition.

Cause Title- Aadharshila Sansthan v. The State of Madhya Pradesh & Ors.

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