Bombay High Court
Bombay High Court
File pic

Unimpressed with the functioning of the observation homes in the city, the Bombay High Court has suggested that the Maharashtra government takes over the Children’s Aid Society, which looks after most of such homes. This comes after the HC was informed that the society has not been willing to register itself with the government, as required under the Juvenile Justice (care and protection) Act (JJ Act).

Notably, the children’s aid society is presently overseeing the functioning of seven such homes at Mankhurd and one each at Chembur, Mahim and Umerkhadi.

A HC bench of Justices Satyaranjan Dharmadhikari and Riyaz Chagla also said that if the children’s aid society is serious about its social work then it would follow the rules, else the government must look fro some other non-governmental organisation (NGO) to look after these correction homes.

The bench was dealing with a public interest litigation (PIL) highlighting the sorry state of affairs of one of the correction homes in Mankhurd. The scope of the petition was later on expanded by the earlier benches of the HC seeking to know the status of all such correction homes.

In a hearing that took place last week, government counsel Abhay Patki tendered a note stating the properties owned by the government, which house the correction homes. During the course of the hearing, the bench noted that the children aid society is defunct despite having representatives of the government on its board.

“The body is lying defunct. The board members never meet and it is only after this court intervenes, they convene a meeting which is just an eye wash,” Justice Dharmadhikari said.

The bench further noted that the JJ act mandates registration of NGOs that look after the functioning of these homes. “But the children’s aid society has not yet registered itself. Why are you not compelling it to register especially when it is dependent on your (government) grants?” Justice Dharmadhikari asked Patki.

Responding to the query, Patki said that the society gives some or other reason to evade registration.

Irked over the submission, Justice Dharmadhikari said, “When the law mandates registration, the society has no other option but to follow the rules. And if it cannot register then its high time the government must take over the society.”

“If the trust is serious about its social work it should not question the laws. And if they do, then don’t hesitate to take over it. There are other NGOs too, which are working for children,” Justice Dharmadhikari remarked. While posting the matter for further hearing on March 4, the judges ordered the government to file a comprehensive affidavit spelling out the stand of the state on this issue.

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