India’s Supreme Court has rejected bail for a Missionaries of Charity nun arrested and remanded in custody in the eastern state of Jharkhand six months ago on suspicion of child trafficking. The top court turned down the plea from MC Sister Concilia on Jan. 29 on grounds that police had not yet pressed charges in the case. However, the court left the door open for her to file another application and also told the police to file formal charges soon. Sister Concilia, who headed the Nirmal Hriday (tender heart) home for unmarried mothers in Jharkhand's state capital Ranchi, was initially remanded in judicial custody for 14 days on July 5. The 61-year-old nun was arrested along with a staff member at the home following complaints that the staff member accepted money from a childless couple to give them a baby and then failed to do so. She has since been denied bail
twice, prompting her plea to the Supreme Court. “We feel very sad that an innocent and physically unwell nun is behind bars,” said Indian bishops’ conference secretary-general Bishop Theodore Mascarenhas. The nun is known to suffer from diabetes. “We are pained that an aged innocent nun remains in jail when murderers and other hardcore criminals get bail,” the bishop told ucanews.com. The denial of the bail comes amid media reports that the Jharkhand state government has revoked Missionaries of Charity’s license to run the Nirmal Hriday home. Authorities also canceled licenses for 15 other childcare centers run by other organizations, reports said. The nuns told ucanews.com on Jan. 31 that they have not received any official notification that their license had been revoked. “We heard something via the media but have not received any order confirming it from the government,” said Sister Sabastino, the Ranchi regional superior. However, Kamalesh Prasad Sinha, head of the Ranchi district child welfare committee, confirmed that the home's license had been canceled. “If they haven’t got the order, I am sure it will be delivered shortly,” he added. The license cancellations follow a state-level investigation into children's care homes in the state.
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State Chief Minister Raghubar Das of the pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) ordered the investigation following the Nirmal Hriday case. The investigation’s report was submitted last August after officials visited all 126 childcare centers in the state. At least 31 were found to be violating norms and an explanation was sought. The licenses of 16 centers were canceled as their explanation was unsatisfactory, reported Indian Express
daily. Christian leaders say the action against the nuns and their home is part of a pro-Hindu agenda
to tarnish the image of church people. Projecting missioners as criminals remains a tactic used by Hindu groups in their attempt to make India a Hindu-only nation. They believe such cases will keep villagers away from missioners and Christian institutions, say Christian leaders. St. Mother Teresa of Kolkata started the Missionaries of Charity
congregation in 1950 to serve the "poorest of the poor." Working for unwed mothers and orphans continues to be a priority of these nuns, identified with their trademark blue-bordered sari.