In a recent verdict, the Madhya Pradesh High Court, Jabalpur Bench, has upheld the State's decision to deny the renewal of recognition to a Child Care Institution following allegations of children being converted to Christianity and facing sexual abuse. The case revolved around a writ petition filed by Aadharshila Sansthan, a Charitable Society in the rural district of Damoh in Madhya Pradesh, challenging the order of the Deputy Secretary of the Department of Women & Child Development.
Justice Vivek Agarwal, in a single-bench ruling, highlighted the provisions of the Juvenile Justice (Care & Protection of Children) Act, emphasising the state's authority to cancel or withhold registration if an institution fails to provide rehabilitation and reintegration services. The court acknowledged the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights' findings and affirmed the State's decision not to renew the recognition of the institution.
The court addressed concerns raised by the institution, asserting that when there are allegations of abuse and exploitation, especially when investigated under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POCSO Act), the decision not to renew permission cannot be faulted. The court emphasised that procedural lapses do not vitiate the trial if they do not impact the prosecution case.
Senior Advocate Vivek Krishna Tankha represented the petitioner, while Advocate General Prashant Singh and Advocate Abhaid Parikh appeared for the State and NCPCR, respectively. The Deputy Secretary of the Department of Women & Child Development had refused to renew recognition, leading to Aadharshila Sansthan's grievance and a subsequent legal battle.
The court mentioned the specific grounds for refusal, including the violation of Rule 29 of the Juvenile Justice Model Rules and the involvement of an employee in sexually abusing a minor girl. The Advocate General further argued that the institution was involved in a racket promoting the conversion of children to Christianity.
“When you run a Children’s Home for 18 - 20 years, and if one incident like this comes up when there are hundreds of kids who have gone to top notch universities and become doctors, nurses, engineers, professionals in various fields, that is not highlighted. But one incident like this happens and it is highlighted in such a way, to malign the name of the Children’s Home,” said Dr. A. Matney who volunteered with the Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) on several occasions to Christian Today.
Matney also revealed that Aadharshila Sansthan's staff went to the area police station to report the sexual abuse that had surfaced the same day but the police refused to file an First Information Report (FIR) stating that an FIR can be filed only by the “victim girl or her parents (who have adopted her).”
The court referenced a report from the Additional District Magistrate and the Additional Superintendent of Police, indicating a violation of Rule 29(1) (iv)(b) of the J.J. Model Rules, which requires separate Children's Homes for boys and girls in specific age groups. The court emphasised the need for distinct Children's Homes and noted the absence of training and orientation for caregivers, citing another violation of Rule 76 of the J.J. Model Rules.
An insider source from the Children’s Home, who wishes to remain unnamed, spoke to Christian Today and shared the harassment the staff of Aadharshila Sansthan has been facing since the legal battle.
“The saddest reality in all this is not just the structural agenda to vilify Christian leaders, but rather that a sense of home is being taken away from innocent children. There are kids neglected on the streets of India every day and no one seems to care. But when Christian leaders are providing a sanctuary, these leaders need to be given greater support,” said the source.
In light of these findings, the High Court dismissed the petition, reinforcing the State's decision to withhold the renewal of recognition for the Child Care Institution.
“Aadharshila Sansthan’s Bal Bhavan is a place that has provided a sense of identity and support to kids who have grown up to become successful professionals in various fields. When Christianity and Christian leaders are scrutinised at this level for making positive contributions to society, one can clearly see indications of prejudice and discrimination,” concluded the source.