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MUMBAI: When the biological mothers of girls are alive, they cannot be described as orphans, the Bombay high court has said, declining to direct the state government to issue an ‘orphan’ certificate to two girls residing in a child care home in Marol, Andheri, reports Rosy Sequeira.

“The petitioner also does not possess a declaration that these girls have been abandoned,” said Justices Sanjay Gangapurwala and R N Laddha in their October 21 order. They were hearing an urgent application in a pending plea by Nest Foundation, which runs Angels Nest, challenging a July 2021 notice to shift 31 girls to another home as it is not a registered child care institution.

Panel to take call on ‘abandoned’ tag for 2 girls: Bombay HC

Nest Foundation, which had filed an application in the Bombay HC in connection with a pending plea on an order to shift 31 girls to another home, urged that the two girls whom it wanted to be declared orphans be considered under 1% horizontal reservation quota for admissions to undergraduate health science courses. Its advocate, Abhinav Chandrachud, argued that though their mothers are alive, the girls can still be termed ‘orphans’ under the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015.

He said they have been staying in the home since 2008 when they were aged four and five. Their mothers hardly visited them.

Chandrachud said reservation is provided for courses under the University of Health Sciences to an orphan. He said that if, technically, the girls can’t be termed ‘orphan’, they could be dubbed ‘abandoned children’. There would be no reason to not apply the reservation of ‘orphan’ to an ‘abandoned child’ as both are governed by the same Act, he said. Government pleader Poornima Kantharia said the girls cannot be considered abandoned and they are not orphans.

The judges said for a child to be an ‘abandoned child’ within the meaning of the Act, the child should be deserted by his/her biological or adoptive parents or guardians and is required to be declared an ‘abandoned child’ by a competent committee after inquiry. “Admittedly, mothers of these girls are alive and sometimes visit them. Unless declaration from the competent committee comes forth, the girls can’t be declared ‘abandoned’,” they said.

The judges directed the Foundation to apply to the committee to get the girls declared as ‘abandoned children’. The committee “may make due inquiry and take a decision” by November 14, it said.


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