Grandmother’s investigation plea against Preet Mandir dismissed

Date: 2012-01-05

Asseem Shaikh TNN

Pune: A special court’s refusal on Tuesday to issue direction to the Central Bureau of Investigation to further probe into the inter-country adoption racket, involving the city-based Preet Mandir, has left a 70-year-old woman distressed in her fight against the adoption centre to get back her two granddaughters.

Kisabai Tulsiram Lokhande, a resident of Khandala in Satara district, had handed over her granddaughters — Komal and Ashwini — to an observation home at Karad for taking care and providing education, following the death of their parents in 2004-05. However, the Satara child welfare committee without taking Lokhande’s consent shifted the girls to Preet Mandir for rehabilitation.

Lokhande, in a plea filed before the court, had alleged that Preet Mandir in connivance with government-run agencies had “sold” the girls for Rs 5-25 lakh. Lokhande argued through her lawyers that Preet Mandir had issued an advertisement in a local Marathi daily to show that the girls were destitute.

In a plea filed before the Satara police on January 23, 2009, Lokhande had prayed to register a criminal case against the people responsible for illegally transferring the girls, but no action was taken. The Bombay high court on November 4, 2009, dismissed Lokhande’s petition seeking criminal charges against the suspects observing that the petitioner should take the case before the proper forum.
Lokhande, then, filed a special leave petition before the Supreme Court challenging the HC order, but she withdrew the petition after a lawyer of Preet Mandir-run Balwant Kartar Foundation submitted that the HC had ordered the CBI to investigate all adoption cases between 2000 and 2006.

Her lawyers Arundhati Pawar and Pradeep Havnur argued in the special court that her case was not referred to the CBI and pressed to issue directions to continue investigations further as per section 173 (8) of the Criminal Procedure Code.
CBI special public prosecutor Manoj Chaldan opposed the plea on the grounds that she had no ‘locus standi’ to appeal for further investigation as she was not party to the adoption case. The CBI submitted that it had registered an FIR and filed chargesheet against the suspects involved in the adoption case as per the directions of the HC, but it did not come across her granddaughters’ case. The CBI argued that the special court did not have the jurisdiction to direct it to continue investigations further as such power was vested with higher courts.

Special judge D R Mahajan said Lokhande had not complained to the CBI about the alleged adoption and nor was her statement recorded and instead of approaching proper forum she had approached a wrong forum. The judge observed that Lokhande had no right to seek directions for continuing the investigations further and that the court was also not empowered to issue such directions.
“At the most, Lokhande can now approach the CBI with a complaint in respect of the adoption of her granddaughters and the CBI can take cognizance of her complaint. If the CBI fails to take cognizance, then the only remedy available was to approach the constitutional courts for necessary directions,” the court order said while dismissing her plea.

Lawyer Pradeep Havnur and Anjali Pawar, president of Sakhee, working for child rights, and who is pursuing the case, said, “The lawyer of Preet Mandir has misled the Supreme Court that the CBI would investigate the case of the two girls. We will now again file a special leave petition in the Supreme Court, seeking directions to the CBI to conduct further investigations”.

Lokhande is a vegetable vendor. Komal was seven years old and Ashwini was five years old when they were kept in the adoption centre by their grandmother. It is being alleged that they have been given in adoption to a family in Spain, Pawar said.