A Meghalaya minister on Tuesday warned of legal action against a state-based society which sent 20 minor girl to Tamil Nadu earlier this year without the knowledge of the Child Welfare Committee (CWC) in violation of the Juvenile Justice Act.
Twenty girls, aged between 8 and 13 years from West Khasi Hills, East Khasi Hills and Jaintia Hills districts were taken by officials of the Lei Shynshar Cultural Society to the Sri Nivideta Seva Trust in Tamil Nadu six months ago.
"We are examining the legal action to be taken against the Lei Shynshar Cultural Society for sending the minor girls outside the state without the knowledge of CWC which is a violation of the JJ Act," Social Welfare minister Deborah C Marak told reporters here.
Denying allegations that the girls were being trafficked, she said that under section 51 of the Juvenile Justice Act no child below the age of 12 years could be taken outside the state without the consent of the CWC.
The matter came to light when the the district administration of Krishnagiri and the CWC there rescued the girls and accommodated them at the Narendra Nambikkia Natchathiram, a children's home registered under the JJ Act in Tamil Nadu.
Officials from the state had met the chairperson of Krishnagiri CWC and sub-collector of the district who informed them that the Sri Nivedita Seva Trust had appealed to the high court which ordered for maintaining status quo.
Marak said the girls would be brought back only after the Madras High Court gave the transfer order. The next hearing was on January 2, 2014.
Stating that the government was concerned about the safety, health and education of girls, she assured that a formal inquiry would be set up to investigate the matter.
The minister said that the parents of the girls were against them being brought back according to a report by the District Social Welfare Committees of Shillong, Jowai and Nongstoin to the state government.
She said that the parents claimed that the girls were were happy there.
A child protection officer who had met the girls had informed that 15 of the girls were eager to return home while the rest were hesitant, she added.