Plea in Madurai Bench to get back baby leads to a network of brokers and seller

In a shocking case before the Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court, a probe into a habeas corpus petition has led to revelations about a thriving racket involving sale of babies to childless couples.

Here’s the likely scenario that has emerged before the court: K. Balamurugan of Dindigul filed a habeas corpus petition saying that a woman took his baby and did not return it because Balamurugan owed her Rs. 5,000. During the court’s enquiry, a couple from Theni came forward and said they had adopted the baby through Balamurugan, but returned it when Balamurugan asked for more money. The Theni couple told the Bench that the petitioner was a habitual offender who had so far exploited three destitute women and sold the babies he had with them through brokers. They also produced a compact disc containing a telephonic conversation recorded by them in which the petitioner had allegedly admitted involvement in such illegal activities.

Police found that Balamurugan subsequently arranged to sell the baby again, this time to a couple in Erode through another broker who is also named as a respondent in his petition. Further enquiry will likely reveal why Balamurugan filed the habeas corpus petition and if he did not get his share of the money from the Erode couple.

After culling out the sordid facts hidden behind the case through persistent enquiry, a Division Bench of Justice M. Jaichandren and Justice S. Nagamuthu has now decided to get to the bottom of the issue. The court has suo motu included many people whose names cropped up during the enquiry, and ordered notices to all of them.

It all began when Balamurugan of Dindigul district filed the HCP last year accusing a woman, M. Mariyammal, of Palani of taking away his newborn male baby for not repaying a loan of Rs. 5,000 he had taken for his wife’s hospital expenses. The petitioner also accused the woman, employed in a local hospital, of indulging in child trafficking.

According to his affidavit, Mariyammal lured pregnant women visiting the hospital and made them sell their babies to those in need. When he pressured her to return his son, Mariyammal gave him a girl child suffering from asthma until she returned his male baby.

He also suspected that the woman might have sold his son to a couple belonging to Periyakulam in Theni district. Taken aback by such allegations, the judges ordered notices to all the respondents in the case. Subsequently, the Theni couple appeared in court and told the Bench that it was the petitioner himself who had given his baby in adoption to them for Rs.1.1 lakh.

However, when he pestered them for more money — after the deal was struck through Mariyammal — the issue reached the Palani Town Police Station, where a compromise was brokered and the baby given back to the petitioner on return of Rs. 90,000. A deed was also executed acknowledging the return of the child and the money.

However, despite their testimony that the baby had been returned, Balamurugan feigned ignorance about the baby’s whereabouts. The judges directed the Dindigul Superintendent of Police to enquire into the allegations. The police found that the baby was in the custody of another childless couple residing in Mugasi Pulavan Palayam in Erode district. The Erode couple and the child were produced before the court.

On enquiry, the judges found that after taking back the child from the Theni couple, the petitioner (Balamurugan) had handed him over to another woman named N. Pandiammal, also an alleged broker involved in child trafficking in Palani. She, in turn, approached R. Mathammal of Erode for finding a suitable purchaser.

The Erode couple had been taking treatment from a Siddha practitioner, who had suggested that they take a child in adoption. Passing off the baby as her grandson and arranging two of her neighbours to pose as the baby’s parents, Mathammal sold the baby to the Erode couple for Rs. 1.50 lakh. Another Rs. 35,000 was paid to the Siddha practitioner towards expenses.

An adoption deed was prepared and signed in the presence of a Notary Public-cum-advocate of Bhavani in Erode district and two individuals had also signed the deed as witnesses. Producing the deed before the judges, the Erode couple broke into tears and begged with the court to let the child be with them as they had got attached with it emotionally.

After recording their submissions, the judges suo motu included the Erode couple, the Siddha doctor, the notary public and the two witnesses as parties to the case and ordered notices to them returnable by January 18. In the meantime, they directed the police to continue the investigation and conduct a DNA test to find out the child’s biological parents.

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