Court acquits “disobeying” Catholic nun
By Saramma Emmanuel
Bhopal: A magisterial court in central India has acquitted a Catholic nun who was booked for allegedly disobeying a district collector’s order.
Sister Clara Animoottil told Matters India on March 1 that the case was foisted on her for turning down a bribe demand.
The member of the Sisters of St Joseph of Chembery manages an orphanage for the railway destitute children in Itarsi, a major railway junction in Madhya Pradesh state. She was accused of deliberately disobeying the collector’s order.
The nun’s counsel Sanjay Gupta said Additional Chief Judicial Magistrate Arun Shrivastava acquitted her on February 28 after the court found the charge against her was “false and devoid of any merit.”
He said there was no order from the district magistrate. “Therefore, no case was made out and thus, she was acquitted,” Gupta told Matters India March 1.
The case was registered against her in August 2015.
The charge, if proved, would have sent the nun to jail for six months. “The truth has, at last, triumphed over falsehood,” the 53-year-old nun said. “I knew truth was in my side and I will win the battle,” she added.
According to her, the case started after the state government sanctioned 1.1 million rupees for her NGO, Jeevodaya (dawn of life) in 2014.
The NGO, started in 1999, is engaged in the rescue and rehabilitation of children found on railway platforms. The NGO helps the children join formal education or skills training to become self-reliant. Currently, 35 boys and 30 girls study in her center in the outskirts of Itarsi railway station. She accommodates boys and girls in separate houses.
Some members of the district child welfare committee and other officials asked her to pay 20 percent for releasing the government grant.
She refused and asked them to submit proper bill if they wanted money. This annoyed the officials who waited for an opportunity “to trap me,” the nun alleged.
In July 2015, more than 20 men came with the child welfare committee members to the female hostel around 8 pm and demanded physical photo verification of all students.
Although laws bar men’s entry into female hostel after sunset, the intruders continued their search until 10 ignoring our objection,” the nun recalled.
Later, the men lodged a case against the nun accusing her of deliberately disobeying the district magistrate’s order. They cited the case of a six-year-old girl, who left the hostel with her parents in 2013.
The hostel had taken the girl after her father abandoned her and her mother. The mother had no earning. However, her husband returned and the couple took back their daughter.
Sister Animoottil says she was ignorant of the case until her passport renewal application was rejected terming her as a person with criminal background.
“I was also accused of hushing up my criminal background,” she said. “Even today my passport is not renewed,” she added.
The nun said she harbors no grouse against those who made her life miserable.
She has no plan to start legal proceedings against her accusers. According to her, such an action is against Christian spirit. “Jesus has taught me to forgive those troubled me and thus, I have no complaint against them,” she added.
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