The city police have registered a case on its own in connection with the alleged sale of an infant, born to an unwed mother at the government-owned SAT Hospital in July, to a childless couple at Kayamkulam.

The allegation was that the mother, a 47-year-old epileptic patient hailing from a poor family in Kollam district, had sold the child to the couple for Rs.5,000. A temporary employee of the hospital had allegedly facilitated the illegal transaction.

Quoting her statement, Medical College Circle Inspector T. Shyam Lal said the child was fathered by a rubber tapper with whom the woman had a secret extramarital relationship. She learned she was pregnant when she visited a local hospital. Terrified, the woman got herself admitted to the SAT on July 27 without telling her relatives. She delivered the child on July 30.

The woman told the police that she had set out to deposit the child anonymously at the State Child Welfare Council office at Thycaud. The temporary employee, a woman, convinced her to give the child to the couple. She told the police that there was no threat or money involved in the transaction.

When she went home, some scandal mongers, including the local panchayat president, spread tales that she had conceived illegitimately, secretly delivered the child and sold the infant to a rich couple for Rs.5 lakh, she said. Fearing that she would be ostracized by members of her community, the woman met the sweeper and demanded her child back. Their conversation was overheard by some persons who informed the police.

The police summoned the couple and handed over the child to the mother on August 16. The police said they maintained secrecy in the case to protect the interests of the woman and the child. The woman was unwilling to give any complaint against the sweeper or the couple.

Subsequently, a television news channel broadcast a report that the woman had been coerced and bribed into selling her child to the couple.

Consequently, the police registered a case against the woman under Section 317 of the Indian Penal Code and Section 23 and 24 of the Juvenile Justice Act, 2000. The sections pertain to exposure and abandonment of a child less than 12 years of age, by parent or guardian, and carry a punishment of up to seven years of imprisonment, fine or both.

The SAT Hospital authorities said the alleged incident had occurred outside the precincts of the institution and after the woman was discharged from their care. They have dismissed the sweeper.