22 Jun 2023 11:30 AM GMT
The Madhya Pradesh High Court has ordered the State Government to ensure that no religious education is imparted to children residing in shelter homes registered under the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015 (the JJ Act).While directing to impart only secular and modern education to children, the Single Judge Bench of Justice Vishal Dhagat said,“…it is for the...
The Madhya Pradesh High Court has ordered the State Government to ensure that no religious education is imparted to children residing in shelter homes registered under the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015 (the JJ Act).
While directing to impart only secular and modern education to children, the Single Judge Bench of Justice Vishal Dhagat said,
“…it is for the State Government to see that religious education is not imparted in shelter homes to children but they are imparted modern education, as laid down in Section 53 of Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015.”
The first applicant is the Arch Bishop of Roman Catholic Church, Diocese of Jabalpur and District Katni falls within his territorial jurisdiction. The second applicant is a sister of Convent Asha Kiran Institute which was established in District Katni by Roman Catholic Church.
The complainant Priyank Kanangoo, NCPCR Chairman, carried out inspection of the institute on 29.05.2023 in his individual capacity. During inspection, it was allegedly found that Hindu children were forced to read Bible and visit church. Allegations were also made that children are not allowed to celebrate Diwali and forced to do Christian prayer.
On the basis of said inspection, FIR was registered against applicants under Section 7 of the JJ Act and Section 3 and 5 of Madhya Pradesh Freedom of Religion Act, 2021.
Contentions Of Parties
It was submitted for the applicants that Section 54 of the JJ Act provides for inspection of Child Care institute through Inspection Committee comprised of not less than three members, of whom at least one should be woman and one Medical Officer. Therefore, contrary to the provisions of the Act, the FIR could not have been registered upon the aforesaid complaint of an individual.
Further, it was argued that no offence was committed by the applicants under Section 75 of the JJ Act as even if children are found with Bible or were made to recite prayer in Church, same cannot be said to be religious conversion.
However, it was contended for the State that act of applicants is squarely covered under Section 3 of M.P. Freedom of Religion Act. It was submitted that this is a case of mass conversion as more than two children in Child Care Home are forced to read Bible, visit Church and offer prayer forcefully and the offence is serious in nature.
The Court said that ‘education’ which is described under Section 53(1)(iii) does not mean ‘religious education’. Therefore, managements of shelter homes should provide secular education to students, which will result in their growth. Education means modern education which will help them in earning livelihood in later part of their life, it observed.
“It is also provided that children between 6 to 14 years have right to get free and compulsory education under Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009. They are to be taught skill development, occupational therapy and life skill education but, said Section does not provide for religious education,” the Court added.
The Court made it clear that Asha Kiran Institute, Katni, which is registered under the JJ Act shall not provide religious education to orphans or children admitted therein. They are required to provide education as defined under Section 53 of the JJ Act.
“As per Section 53, State Government is free to take action in accordance with Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015 against Asha Kiran Care Institute if there is violation of Section 53 and sectarian education is provided to children,” it observed.
However, in the present case, as no complaint was made by person converted or person aggrieved or against whom attempt is made for conversion or by their relatives, the Court held, the police does not have jurisdiction to inquire or investigate into offence committed under Section 3 of the MP Freedom of Religion Act.
Accordingly, the anticipatory bail applications were allowed.
Case Title: Jerald Alameda & Anr. v. The State of Madhya Pradesh
Case No.: Misc. Criminal Case No. 24589 of 2023
Case Citation: 2023 LiveLaw (MP) 78
Order Dated: June 19, 2023
Counsel for the Applicants: Mr. Brian D’Silva, Senior Advocate & Mr. Ishan Soni, Advocate
Counsel for the State: Mr. H.S. Ruprah, Addl. Advocate General & Mr. S.K. Shrivastava, Government Advocate
Click Here To Read/Download Order