KARACHI: The Sindh High Court has directed the provincial home department to constitute a joint investigation team (JIT) to examine the last 10-year record of all the orphanages in the province and conduct a probe into the possibility of human trafficking and organ translocations.

Justice Salahuddin Panhwar directed that the JIT should be notified within 15 days and be headed by the Karachi police chief and comprising members of all investigating agencies including Federal Investigation Agency, Inter-Services Intelligence.

The bench also expressed resentment over the orphanages for not getting them registered with the social welfare department (SWD) despite several directives of the court and said that it was also a complete failure of the department concerned.

The court directs social welfare dept and child protection authority to devise SOPs for child adoption

It said as a last chance, the social welfare secretary must ensure that all measures be taken including coercive actions against such orphanage centres in order to register them and sought a compliance report after two months.

The bench also directed the social welfare department to evolve a mechanism in consultation with the chairman of the child protection authority (CPA) for all orphanages to provide details and invite public for adoption, which must be carried out under the supervision of the area magistrate after obtaining undertaking with regard to the care of minors.

Earlier, the bench had expressed concerns over a report that the marriages of young girls living in an orphanage centre were being arranged without their consent and no record was maintained regarding such weddings. It told the FIA to hold a probe against all orphanage centres and examine the aspect of human trafficking.

At the outset of the hearing, FIA officials submitted an interim report, but the bench expressed displeasure at FIA for not examining the former women development director as witness, adding that police had also failed to provide any details of cases about human trafficking. However, the Additional IG-Karachi undertook to provide the required details.

At this juncture, all the lawyers for respective parties as well as an amicus curiae and officials requested that a JIT would be a proper forum to investigate the issue.

The bench observed that besides aspects of human trafficking and organ translocations, the JIT will also look into the reasons of failure of free-will marriages.

The officials and lawyers also jointly submitted that there should be computerised updated data of all orphanages about registration or admission of orphans or destitute children to be established by the SWD and CPA.

Accordingly, the bench directed the CPA chairman and SWD to launch a website within three months and ensure that updated data must be available on such website as soon as the same is completed.

The amicus curiae submitted that the orphanage centres were not allowing adoption of minors though there were many people interested to adopt them.

The lawyer for the Edhi Foundation argued that there was no law available about adoption.

The bench observed that neither the religion nor the state prohibited adoption and directed the SWD and CPA to develop standard operating procedure or mechanism for adoption.

Published in Dawn, February 28th, 2021

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