The Bombay High Court on Friday expressed its anxiety that if the state government was directed to treat abandoned children on par with orphaned kids for reservation in educational institutions, then it might encourage abandonment, especially of girl children.
“A good case should not fail because there is a potential of eight bad cases. (It’s) our collective responsibility as a responsible society,” observed the court.
NEST India petition
The bench said this while hearing a petition filed by NEST India Foundation which sought directions to authorities to issue certificates to two girls declaring them as abandoned children and extend them the benefits of orphans on Friday. NEST India is a charitable trust that runs a home for girls in Andheri.
A division bench of Justices Gautam Patel and Neela Gokhale, however, expressed apprehension that if the state government was asked to treat abandoned children on par with orphaned kids and extend the same benefits for reservation in educational institutions, then it might encourage abandonment, especially of girl children.
NEST India Foundation had challenged the government resolution (GR) which extended the benefits to orphaned children only.
The bench said that there was a need to strike a balance since the government was not shirking its responsibility of taking care of abandoned children.
Advocate: No difference between orphaned child & abandoned child
Abhinav Chandrachud, counsel for the petitioners, submitted that there was no difference between an orphaned child and an abandoned child. He argued that the Juvenile Justice Act did not create any classification then why was the state government creating a classification.
Advocate General Birendra Saraf said that if the government was to include abandoned children in the ambit of the resolution, then it may create a situation where children will be abandoned just so that they have a better chance at admission to some institution.
Saraf said: “Being Orphan is a matter of fact but abandonment can be created… it happens… This is the sad truth. The government does not want to create such a situation.”
The judges expressed that they too had a similar apprehension. “This is our anxiety too. It will encourage abandonment, especially of girl children. We need to find a balance,” Justice Patel said. “We come across horrific cases where children are abandoned in railway stations. Then such children are taken to state-run shelters. The state government is not shirking away its responsibility of taking care of such children,” he added.
Saraf said that the government cannot provide reservation to abandoned children but would take care of them till they attain the age of 18 years.
He further explained the benefits of reservation would not be accorded to those orphaned children who have been adopted as they have parents who will take care of them.
Chandrachud told the court that the two girls wish to fill forms for admission to an undergraduate medical course and sought orders from the court that they be permitted to apply under the orphan category.
Cannot pass order when matter still pending
The court, however, said that it cannot pass such an order when the matter is still pending. The issue of whether abandoned children are entitled to reservation along with orphaned children or to be treated as orphaned children for the purposes of reservation is under consideration, it said, adding that no final decision was passed.
The judges said that it is open to the petitioners to fill the forms and proceed with the registration procedure and formalities as they deem fit.
The HC will hear the matter next week.