The Bombay high court on Thursday once again rapped the Maharashtra government on its persistent stand that there is a difference between orphaned and abandoned children while refusing to give the benefit of 1% reservation in education to the latter.
A division bench of Justices Gautam Patel and Neela Gokhale said: “Every single matter the government operates with contradiction. We have to combat. We have to oppose. When will this government wake up to the realisation that it is not the only one right and is mostly wrong.”
NEST India Foundation files petition
The HC was hearing a petition filed by NEST India Foundation – a charitable trust that runs a home for girls in Andheri – which sought directions to authorities to issue certificates to two girls declaring them as abandoned children. It also sought that the girls be considered under the 1% orphan quota for admission to undergraduate health science courses. The girls have been staying in the home since 2008 when they were 4 and 5 years old. Their mothers hardly visited them. The Child Welfare Committee recently issued them ‘abandoned’ certificates. The government filed an affidavit on Thursday which irked the judges.
The affidavit by the joint secretary to the Women and Child Development Department Sharad Ahire gave the rationale for the distinction calling it “most thoroughly scurrilous’’ and “reprehensible.” The affidavit stated that parents/guardians may abandon or surrender the child “intentionally or deliberately” to a child care institute and misuse the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015 for their benefit so that the schooling, boarding, lodging and all other facilities, which the parent may not be able to give are provided.
Furious with this, the judges asked whether the joint secretary understood the dire circumstances under which a parent abandons a child.
'A child needs parents'
Advocates for the foundation, Abhinav Chandrachud and Akanksha Agrawal, submitted whether parents would abandon the girls only to take benefits after 15 years of a reservation policy.
“A child needs parents. Remove parents and the child is either orphaned or abandoned. The single determining factor is lack of parenting,” said Justice Patel. He further added that a surrendered child is surrendered to a committee while an abandoned child could be left on the road.
State is a 'protective umbrella'
Remarking that the state is a “protective umbrella”, the judges questioned why there has to be a distinction between orphaned, abandoned or surrendered children in horizontal reservations. Justice Patel said: “I will unabashedly say this, what the government is asking us to believe is it does not care about abandoned children.”
Additional government pleader Jyoti Chavan sought time to revisit the affidavit. However, the judges refused to grant time and reserved the foundation’s plea for judgment on March 31.
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