Indian court bails Mother Teresa nun after 15 months in jail

Church welcomes release of sick Missionaries of Charity sister accused of selling a baby
Indian court bails Mother Teresa nun after 15 months in jail

Missionaries of Charity nuns take part in a prayer meet in Kolkata on Sept. 5, 2018, to mark the 21st anniversary of the death of their founder Mother Teresa. (IANS photo)

The High Court of Jharkhand state in eastern India has granted provisional bail to a Missionaries of Charity nun jailed on allegations of child trafficking 15 months ago.

Police arrested Sister Concelia Baxla, 62, who managed a shelter home under the Missionaries of Charity congregation, in July 2018 following an allegation that she sold a baby born to an unwed mother under her care.

The court in state capital Ranchi provisionally released her on Sept. 27 on furnishing a bail bond of 10,000 rupees (US$150) with two sureties of the same amount.

The court directed her to deposit her passport and not to change her residence in Ranchi without permission of the court. Her case has been listed to be heard in four months.

The nun’s counsel Chandan Kumari argued that Sister Baxla should get bail as there were no direct charges against her. She had been in jail since her arrest on July 4, 2018, and is sick.

Sister Baxla was arrested following a complaint by Rupa Verma, chairperson of the Child Welfare Committee (CWC) in Ranchi.

Verma petitioned police that a childless couple from Uttar Pradesh state complained that they paid US$2,000 to Anima Indwar, a staff member of the shelter house. Indwar promised to give them a baby boy but did not.

Police arrested Indwar along with the nun but she was given bail soon after, the lawyer told the court.

Police claim that the CWC suspected that the home was involved in the illegal trading of children. Police said they recovered 65,000 rupees from Indwar that the couple allegedly paid to her.

"We are happy that the nun is back home after being in jail," said Father Xavier Soreng, a Jesuit social worker. "It is indeed happy news" because the High Court and Supreme Court had earlier denied her bail, he told ucanews.com.

Auxiliary Bishop Theodore Mascarenhas of Ranchi told ucanews.com that the Church is "proud of all our Mother Teresa sisters, who went through this ordeal with courage, patience and prayerful fortitude."

The High Court on Oct. 30 last year had refused her bail on the grounds that the investigation into the activities of her congregation could be hampered if she was released.

On Jan. 29, the Supreme Court turned down her bail application on grounds that police had not yet pressed charges in the case.

Following the nun's arrest, the governments run by the pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the state and in New Delhi initiated a series of investigations into Missionaries of Charity homes.

The federal Ministry of Women and Child Development on July 16 ordered inspections of all childcare homes run by the congregation across India.

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A separate probe was also ordered into foreign donations Missionaries of Charity has received.

Mother Teresa, who was canonized as St. Teresa of Calcutta in 2016, started the congregation in 1950 to serve the "poorest of the poor."

Missionaries of Charity, a global enterprise, has about 5,000 nuns in over 770 houses, 243 of them in India. It runs homes for the destitute and dying as well as orphanages and shelter homes for unmarried mothers.

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