Twenty five-year-old Shravani [name changed] was left humiliated and broken when she visited Narender Lingala’s house, who was taking care of her then two-year-old girl child, in August last year. Not only did Narender and his wife Lalitha say that they didn’t recognise Shravani, they also feigned ignorance when Shravani asked them to return her baby girl. The couple assaulted Shravani in front of their neighbours, and she finally left the place dejected, in disbelief.
After a long fight, on April 2, Shravani was finally reunited with her two-and-a-half year old, who was sold off to a childless couple by Narender.
The High Court, on Tuesday, ordered the toddler to be handed over to the mother and reprimanded the Hyderabad police for the inordinate delay of six months to file an FIR in a child-trafficking case.
How the child was trafficked
According to the petition filed at the High Court on January 8, 2019, Shravani, a single mother, had left her toddler in the care of Narender and Lalitha in December 2017, after she found it difficult to take care of the child while preparing for her MBA ICET exams. She met Narender, a compounder at the People’s Hospital in Kukatpally, through a hospital staff. He promised to take care of the toddler at their house through an oral agreement, as his wife was a staff at a daycare, provided Shravani paid a sum of Rs 8,000 per month.
As Shravani began preparing for her exams, in the course of the following months, she visited her daughter whenever she could at Narender’s house. After finishing her exams in August 2018, Shravani called Narender to return the kid, but Narender didn’t turn up despite repeated calls.
“Shravani paid a visit to Narender’s house the very next morning, but she didn’t find her toddler inside the house and Narender simply claimed he didn’t recognise Shravani. As she began to raise a hue and cry, Narender threatened to file false cases against her, and the couple claimed they were never in custody of the kid. After repeated visits and calls, Shravani decided to file a complaint with the Kukatpally police,” says Jhansi, Shravani’s lawyer.
Police apathy at its worst
Shravani’s misery did not end there. On August 29, she filed a complaint with the Kukatpally police station and requested the cops to trace her missing kid. They made her wait at the station for long hours and soon Shravani realised her toddler was sold off to one Satyanarayana, a relative of Narender, for a hefty amount. She requested the cops to take action with the information at hand, but they brushed aside the complaint after receiving a few calls from local leaders, the petition said.
Running from pillar to post with her complaint, an FIR was finally filed in the case in January 2019, after Shravani approached the Cyberabad police commissioner alleging indifference from the Kukatpally police in pursuing the case.
“Soon after the Cyberabad police took cognisance of the case, a group of six goons attacked Shravani at her house on the night of January 26, and took away all the photographs of her toddler and also the memory card from her phone. Meanwhile, the traffickers also created fake ID cards and Aadhaar card of the child to disprove the identity of the child in the court,” Jhansi says.
The court steps in
When the case didn’t move after the filing of an FIR, Shravani filed a petition at the High Court on February 11. Things began to pick up pace as the court interfered and reprimanded the police for not filing an FIR for six months after receiving the complaint.
Meanwhile, Shravani also filed a complaint with the Child Welfare Committee (CWC), who pursued the matter. Contrary to media reports, it was CWC and not the police who traced the two-year-old at Satyanarayana’s house and handed over the protection of the child to Sishu Vihar, a state-run home, since the case was still not heard at the court.
The case was finally listed for hearing on April 2, and Justice Ragahavendra Singh Chauhan and Justice T Amarnath Goud ordered Shishu Vihar to return the toddler to the mother’s custody.
“We do not know if the police have been in cahoots with the traffickers and we still do not know what action will be taken against the traffickers. They have got anticipatory bail and a chargesheet in the case will be most probably filed on March 4. But most importantly, Shravani has got custody of her kid, and that’s all that matters now,” says Jhansi.