The Bombay high court on Thursday refused to protect the owner of the Navi Mumbai day care centre, where a 10-month-old girl was brutally assaulted by a staff member in November, from being arrested.
Rejecting her anticipatory bail plea, the court said the owner — who pleaded she had “no idea the maid could have behaved in such a ghastly manner” — could not claim ignorance and shirk “responsibility”.
“She does not deserve any relief,” the court said while taking note of how CCTV footage submitted by the prosecution “clearly showed” the incident was not an isolated one.
Footage recorded between November 10 and November 24 showed the same maid assaulting other babies.
Justice Sadhna Jadhav said this showed the owner was callous, failed to keep track of her employees’ actions, and “above all, lied to the mother of the child by telling her the girl had sustained injuries while playing”.
It was also revealed during arguments the playschool was running for more than a year without a license. This came to light when the owner’s counsel told the court the playschool secured a license only in January this year, but had been running for more than a year before that . The counsel justified this saying the “same set of staff members worked at the school for months” and her client had “never encountered a problem”.
The counsel went on to say the owner was running the playschool on a provisional basis, before applying for a license as she wanted to check “if she was capable of running it or not”. This enraged the court.
“This wasn’t a grocery shop they were talking about, but a facility promising care and safety of children of a tender age.”
Justice Jadhav also came down heavily on the state for not having a mandatory uniform licencing policy for playschools and crèches. Currently, most of these centres in the state are allowed to operate with a registration certificate granted by the state under the Bombay Public Trust Act.
Justice Jadhav said the Juvenile Justice Act mandated, besides observation and special homes, that all facilities committed to providing care for children requires a license. “Unsuspecting parents feel the safety of their children is ensured at such facilities, that it is fit especially for working women. It is unfortunate the state has failed to consider this aspect of the Act and has let untrained staff handle young children,” justice Jadhav said.
On November 24 this year, the child was brutally assaulted by a maid at the playschool. The accused maid, and the owner were booked for causing hurt and under provisions of the Juvenile Justice Act. They were later also charged with attempt to murder under the Indian Penal Code.
While the maid is currently in judicial custody, the owner had got bail the day she was arrested. After the police booked her for attempt to murder, the court asked her to present herself. When the owner did not do so within the time-frame given to her, the Alibaug session court cancelled her bail on December 9. “We have been searching for since bail was cancelled by the Alibaug court. Now with the Bombay HC also rejecting her anticipatory bail plea, we have declared her a wanted criminal and will arrest her soon,” said Dilip Kale, senior police inspector of Kharghar police station.