Send inmates back to hospice: Madras High Court

The Madras High Court today ordered police to send back the inmates of a hospice near here, who were shifted recently following allegations of ill-treatment, as it expressed shock over the death of 12 of the destitute.

A division bench comprising Justice C T Selvam and Justice N Sathishkumar gave the interim order on a petition by the St Joseph’s Hospice in neighbouring Kancheepuram district after the court was informed that 12 of the 292 inmates had died since being shifted “forcibly” by the police late last month.

The government counsel submitted that as per police reports, 12 of the shifted inmates had died.

Justice Selvam said, “The court is shocked to hear about the demise of the 12.”

The bench ordered the District Social Welfare Officer to appear before it tomorrow and explain the cause of the deaths.

In the habeas corpus petition seeking production of the inmates, petitioner Father V Thomas, managing director of the hospice, sought a direction to police to produce all the inmates who were taken away from the home and kept ‘captive’.

The hospice for destitute “on the verge of dying” came under the scanner last month for alleged unauthorised disposal of the dead and alleged ill treatment of the inmates.

The petitioner claimed that the shifted inmates had been kept in illegal custody and their whereabouts were not known.

“… they were not given food and basic requirements.

Many of them were dropped on roads. One among them returned to the hospice on his own,” he submitted.

Observing that the hospice had been doing good social work and questioning the need of the authorities to interfere with its functioning, the bench expressed concern over the taking away of 294 inmates from the hospice recently, without the knowledge and permission of the district Collector.

Justice Selvam said: “Even in our own house, we may hesitate to serve the elderly, whereas the hospice with a good intention has been serving the orphaned, aged people.”

According to the petitioner, the institution, established in 2011, was providing care and protection to dying destitute, who were orphans or abandoned by their families.

Thomas alleged that a local politician, in collusion with a contractor who undertook construction work in the hospice, had demanded money from him. When he refused to give the money, he had lodged ‘anonymous’ complaints against the facility.

As a result of the complaints, the inmates of the home were shifted to some unknown places by the officials, the petitioner said.

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