Scarlett Keeling case: NGO challenges Children's Court's order

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Panaji, Aug 19 (UNI) City-based NGO, Utt Goenkara, today moved the Bombay High Court at Panaji challenging the order of the Children's Court, which had disallowed the police to investigate the role of Fiona Mackeown into the death of her minor daughter Scarlett Keeling.

Earlier on August 11, President of the Children's Court Desmond D'Costa had disallowed the complaint filed by the NGO's spokesman Adv Aires Rodrigues on the ground that as per Section 20 of the Children's Act, cognizance of any offence under the Act could be taken only on a complaint filed by the child, her parents, guardians, close relatives, police or a competent authority under the Children's Act.

Challenging the order of the Children's Court, Adv Rodrigues submitted to the High Court that the Children's Court had totally misconstrued the nature and scope of his application, which merely sought orders for investigation into the offences committed by the mother under the Children's Act in relation to her child, and was not a complaint under section 20 of the Act.

He submitted that the order of the Children's Court, which rejected his application solely on the ground that he did not fall within the persons who were authorised to make complaints to the court, was entirely without jurisdiction.

He also stated that the Children's Court be conferred with the powers of a Sessions Court to direct investigation into the alleged offences under the Children's Act.

Mr Rodrigues prayed that the order of the Children's Court be set aside and the authorities be directed to investigate the offences under the Children's Act against Ms Fiona, for having abandoned her minor daughter with an unrelated adult male, and to file a report before the Children's Court accordingly.

He filed the appeal in the High Court under Section 482 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) and article 227 of the Constitution of India.

In his complaint, Adv Rodrigues stated that Scarlett Keeling had come to India with her mother Fiona Mackeown, who left the minor girl in the company of one Julio with the intention that he would take care of the girl by providing her with food, shelter and money, while the mother along with some male companion and her other children went on a holiday at Gokarna in neighbouring Karnataka.

He stated that Ms Mackeown was fully aware that her daughter, Scarlett, was a minor and that the law mandates that all the children within Goa be provided a safe environment, wherein the parents are responsible to ensure that the child is not abused.

He submitted that the conduct of Ms Mackeown was in violation of Section 8(1)(2) and Section 8(12) of the Goa Children's Act 2003 and needed to be investigated in respect of her behaviour and her activities in the state.

It may be recalled that Ms Fiona was due to arrive in Goa from the UK in the first week of this month to depose before the CBI as the complainant in the case. However, she deferred her visit.

Ms Keeling's body was recovered from the Anjuna beach in North Goa on February 19. The police suspect that she was drugged heavily before being raped and murdered. Two post-mortems were conducted on the body, after Ms Mackeown suspected foul play. The second autopsy report revealed the drug and rape angle, while the first failed to prove it.

The case drew global media attention, resulting in handing over of the investigation to the CBI.

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