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The Bombay High Court at Goa recently took suo motu cognisance of a newspaper article which featured a photograph of Police officials posing with a mother arrested for allegedly abandoning her new-born child. Censuring the officials for the act, a Division Bench of Justices MS Sonak and Nutan Sardesai observed,
“The photograph conjures image of some Maharaja/hunters posing with their trophy after a hunt. At least prima facie, such action on the part of the Police Officials, who are seen in the picture may amount to human right violation of the mother in the picture.”
The photograph had appeared in a news article featured in a Marathi daily Tarun Bharat, which reported the arrest of couple who had allegedly abandoned their new born third child. According to the news article, the new-born was found abandoned in a garage and was taken to the local government hospital.
While seizing the case, the Court noted that the presumption of innocence is the cornerstone of criminal jurisprudence and that the right to privacy as well as dignity are now fundamental rights guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution of India. In this backdrop, the Bench notes in its August 30 order,
“At least, prima facie, the action of the Police Officials, in virtually parading the mother before the media, may amount to rendering such fundamental rights of the mother, a casualty.”
The Court proceeded to direct the Police Officials to file a reply within two weeks. Notice was been issued to the Director General of Goa Police and the Chief Secretary of the state government. The Bench has further directed the authorities to place on record whether any rules or guidelines are in place with respect to the Police officials interacting with media in ongoing investigations and posing photographs along with persons accused of having committed offences.
However, the Court refused to make any observation with regard to the arrest and subsequent investigation in the matter. All the same, it emphasised that the welfare of the children involved should be taken care of. As per the news report, the couple had two other children, aged six and four years respectively. The Bench emphasised,
“It is necessary that proper steps are taken to secure and protect these children. We are concerned that they are not left abandoned, on account of arrest of their parents.”
To this end, the Court has directed the state government to make suitable arrangements for the care of the minor children. The Director of Women and Child Department has been called on to examine the issue and to file an affidavit as to the steps taken for the welfare of three minor children.
The matter has been posted to be taken up next on September 13. The Advocate General of Goa has also been called on to assist the Court in the case.
[Read the Order]