Municipal commissioner Jairaj Phatak faced severe criticism from the Bombay High Court on Wednesday for filing a “pathetic” affidavit wherein he compared the kidnap of a newborn to that of ornaments and cellphones.
Condemning the “heartless” attitude of the municipal commissioner, the high court directed the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) to pay a compensation of Rs 5 lakh to Chembur residents Mohan and Mohini Nerurkar — who lost their three-day-old son on January 1 from Lokmanya Tilak Municipal General Hospital, also called Sion hospital.
Three days after she delivered at the government-run hospital, Mohini claims that an unidentified woman stole her son from the maternity ward. The Nerurkars later moved court after the police failed in tracing the woman.
On Wednesday, the bench, comprising Justice Bilal Nazki and Justice A.R. Joshi, asked the compensation amount to be deposited with the registrar general of the court, who would then invest the same in a fixed deposit and monthly interests would be paid to the Nerurkars.
The high court, however, clarified that the amount would be refunded to the BMC, if after hearing the case it concludes that the parents do not deserve the compensation.
“This is so that the corporation does not become ‘further poor’,” remarked Justice Nazki.
In his seven-page affidavit, Phatak justified the BMC’s denial of compensation stating that people often lose valuables like ornaments, watches and cellphones on properties belonging to the municipal corporation such as gardens and hospitals.
Besides, this [paying of compensation] would set a wrong precedent as it could encourage consensual temporary thefts of babies through friends/relatives with a view to claim the compensation, the affidavit said.
“This superior [Phatak] has a very wrong notion. He is comparing stolen goods with children, which is very unfortunate. He seems to be heartless,” remarked Justice Nazki.
Expressing displeasure towards the attitude and manner in which the affidavit has been filed, the court has now sought assistance from Advocate General Ravi Kadam and appointed senior advocate Rafiq Dada as amicus curie (friend of the court).
Deputy Commissioner of Police Sanjay Baviskar on Wednesday submitted a confidential report in the court. “The police report raises some hopes to locate the child, but the fact is the parents are still suffering,” observed the bench, while directing the report to be kept secret.
“The police have called us twice to identify two babies at a children’s home in Nerul, Navi Mumbai. But none of them was ours,” Mohan Nerurkar, father of the stolen newborn told Hindustan Times after Wednesday’s hearing.
“But what is more troubling is that my two daughters, Tejasvi (9) and Anushka (5) keep asking ‘When is our brother coming home?’”