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April 18, 2021

SHC seeks details of action against unregistered orphanages

Karachi

April 18, 2021

The Sindh High Court (SHC) has directed the social welfare department to apprise the court as to what action was being taken under the Sindh Orphanages (supervision and control) Act against 19 unregistered orphanages if they had not applied for the registration.

The direction came on a petition filed by Pakisan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) MPA Rabia Azfar seeking strict implementation of the orphanages law as well as the rules of the Sindh Darul Atfal. She also requested the SHC to direct the provincial government to formulate a policy for child adoption.

A division bench of the SHC headed by Justice Mohammad Ali Mazhar inquired the social welfare department secretary about the orphanages operating in the province. He submitted that 43 orphanages were operating in the province, of which seven were working under the federal government.

The secretary informed the bench that 17 orphanages were registered under the Sindh Orphanages Act and sought time to submit a report on the remaining orphanages. The high court directed the secretary to submit in the report whether the remaining orphanages had applied for the registration and if they had not, what action was being taken against them.

The social welfare department secretary undertook that a public notice will be published in newspapers in the province for inviting applications under the law for the registration of orphanages and in case of non-compliance, action will be taken against them.

The high court also directed the social welfare department to submit a report with regard to inspections that should be carried out by responsible officers of the department of all the registered orphanages and they should highlight the features and facilities available to the inmates in the registered orphanages for the consideration of the court.

The petitioner had earlier referred to the high court’s proceedings in a child adoption case and submitted that reports compiled by the advocates with regard to affairs of orphanages painted a dreary picture as they identified that several orphanages were working without registration under the relevant authority. She submitted that welfare trusts/associations had assumed the role of oppressors and elements of human care and concern were visibly absent in the affairs of orphanages.

The PTI MPA submitted that most of the welfare associations/shelter homes and orphanages functioning in the province were not legally recognised by the social welfare department but they continued to function unabated and unregulated.

A counsel for the petitioner submitted that the orphanages law called for maintaining a record of persons admitted or discharged by the orphanages but welfare trusts/associations running orphanages did not maintain such record or had demonstrated a tendency to manufacture record to suit their convenience.

He submitted that welfare associations at present were facilitating adoptions without drawing in the state’s approval as there were various safeguards required to be involved before a child was surrendered to a stranger’s care and custody.

The counsel said that safeguards for adoption must include a formal application process overseen by the social welfare department as well as the evaluation of the applicants, including their background and financial status. The lawyer also called for issuing public notices inviting objections from families regarding adoptions.

The PTI MPA also stressed the need for issuing a direction to the National Database and Registration Authority to take all such measures as may be deemed necessary for the purpose of establishing a database concerning orphans.