“No Moral Distinction” Between Orphaned, Abandoned Children: Bombay Court

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The Bombay High Court pulled up the Maharashtra government for its stand that benefits given to orphaned children cannot be given to abandoned children and asserted there is no distinction between the two.
A division bench of Justices Gautam Patel and Neela Gokhale on Thursday said it expected “far less bureaucracy and far more concern from the government”.

The bench directed the Maharashtra government to issue certificates to two adult girls stating they were abandoned children. These certificates will help them avail benefits of government schemes, including reservation in educational institutions.

The bench was hearing a petition filed by NEST India Foundation, a charitable trust, which sought directions to authorities to issue certificate to the girls declaring them as abandoned children.

Government Pleader Purnima Kantharia told the court that as per a government resolution, the Maharashtra government differentiated between orphaned and abandoned children and, hence, the certificate could not be issued to abandoned children.

“An orphaned child gets reservation that will not be applicable to those abandoned. Orphans have no one to care for them. Those abandoned have someone to take care of them,” Ms Kantharia said.

Refusing to accept this argument, Justice Patel said. “There is no distinction, at least there is no moral distinction. There are benefits that orphans will get, but abandoned children will not? What according to you is the material distinction justifying or taking away the reservation to abandoned child? What is the logic?” “We expect far less bureaucracy from the state and far more concern from the state. These children are not responsible for their condition,” he added.

The court said making such a distinction was entirely meaningless and it defeats the purpose of the Juvenile Justice Act.

The bench further said it was the government’s responsibility to look after children, orphaned or abandoned.

“We note that the definition of orphans, interestingly, also includes children whose legal guardian is incapable of caring for the child. Point to be noted is the Act (Juvenile Justice Act) itself does not distinguish between a child who is abandoned and a child who is orphaned,” the court said.

The court directed the Child Welfare Committee to decide the application filed by the two girls and posted the matter for further hearing on February 22.

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