Bombay HC asks state to consider reservation in education for abandoned children

"The state should instead be working as a protective umbrella for such kids," the court said, annoyed
File photo of Bombay High Court | (Pic: PTI)
File photo of Bombay High Court | (Pic: PTI)

The Maharashtra government has been persistent in its stand to not extend to abandoned children the reservation benefits in education given to orphans. The Bombay High Court, on Thursday, March 16, was irked due to this. "The state should instead be working as a protective umbrella for such kids," it said.

The state government offers one per cent reservation in education to orphaned children. However, it refused to extend this benefit to children who have been abandoned by their parents as they are not “orphaned” according to the definition of the term, as mentioned in a report by PTI.

A petition challenging the government's decision was filed by a city-based NGO seeking reservation for two girls, who were abandoned by their parents. A division bench of Justices Gautam Patel and Neela Gokhale heard the matter.

The court commented that in every single matter, the government operated with contradiction. “Why this attitude of 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 most often wrong,” the court stated, annoyed.

The bench also expressed its anguish at the affidavit filed by Sharad Ahire, Joint Secretary of the Women and Child Development Department, justifying the government's stand. The court said the affidavit was "scurrilous and reprehensible".

It was submitted in the said affidavit that parents/guardians abandoned or surrendered their child intentionally or deliberately to a childcare institute and misused the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015, so that schooling, boarding, lodging, and all other facilities were taken care of. The court questioned if the government understood under what dire circumstances a parent abandons a child.

“The gender may hinder me from understanding the plight of a mother abandoning a child. Even as a father, it is unimaginable,” Justice Patel said, as per PTI.

After being slammed by the court, the government agreed to provide “orphan” certificates to the two girls so that they can seek reservation. But at the same time, it clarified that it would adhere to its stand, maintaining that there was a difference between orphaned and abandoned children.

The bench emphasised that the state government ought to act as a “protective umbrella” for all such children instead of creating a distinction between orphaned and abandoned children. A judgment would be passed on the issue on March 31.

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