Priest held for ‘child trafficking’
Official says Church and NGO complicit in illegal transport of children to a home for the destitute. -Posted on June 26, 2012, 8:15 AM
Thiruvananthapuram: A Catholic priest was arrested and 18 children, including three girls, were rescued from a church in Tamil Nadu’s Kanyakumari district after authorities claimed they were trafficked.
Father Anthony Claret was arrested Saturday following a raid on St Therese of Child Jesus Church Manchakonam in Kottar diocese to rescue the children, officials said.
An executive identified as Jayakumar with the non-government organization Blessing Trust was also arrested yesterday in connection with the raid, they said.
Kanyakumari district collector Sreenivasan Nagarajan said “our preliminary investigation revealed that the children, 12 of them under 10 years, were brought from Orissa illegally.”
The children were sent from the NGO and kept on the church premises. Jayakumar is a friend of the priest, who wanted to start a home for destitute children “without following the legal procedures,” Nagarajan said.
He said the children, rescued after a police tip-off, have been sent to government-run shelter homes.
The official said both the NGO, based in Mettupalayam in Coimbatore rural district, and the priest violated the norms and were liable for prosecution and imprisonment if charges were proved.
“Under the Juvenile Justice [Care and Protection of Children] Act, it is an offense to keep children from other states without proper registration,” he explained.
According to Devikumari, the Kanyakumari district social welfare officer, the priest told officials that he was planning to set up a home for destitute children and was looking for a place.
She said “several persons are running charity homes for children in the state without the proper license. We doubt that an NGO racket is indulging in trafficking of children from other states.”
The authorities today set up a five-member Child Welfare Committee in Kanyakumari following the incident.
Diocesan officials, however, did not respond to queries.
“Only the bishop will speak on this issue,” said an official who did not disclose his identity. The bishop was not available for comment.