Former inmates refuse to go back to Saint Joseph’s hospice after Madras HC order

The Madras High Court, on Tuesday, granted the custody of 282 former inmates back to the infamous Saint Joseph’s Hospice. The HC’s order comes after the deaths of 12 elderly inmates in different state recognised care homes.

The HC has ordered the Kancheepuram police to immediately send the 282 inmates back to the hospice. After 294 inmates were shifted to various care homes in the state, the founder of the hospice, Father RV Thomas, who runs the place, has petitioned the Madras High Court for the custody of the inmates.

According to reports, a division bench headed by Justice C T Selvam also ordered the Kancheepuram District social welfare officer to appear before the court and explain the causes of the deaths.

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The inmates, however, are reportedly in distress upon hearing the court order. According to reports, many have expressed their unwillingness to go back to the hospice. A 61-year-old inmate Muthammal has reportedly stated that she would rather die at her current care home in Vilvarayanallur than be sent back to the hospice. Many of the inmates have recollections of harrowing treatment they received at the hospice ranging from ill-treatment to lack of basic sanitary conditions, even physical abuse.

The officials of the district social welfare department have also reportedly stated that people have been condemning the HC order. They stated that upon visits to the government recognised care homes where the former residents are currently placed, they have received desperate requests from many of them not to send them back to the hospice. They added that they are in the process of collecting evidence for the former residents’ unwillingness to move back so that the authorities would take appropriate action.

Saint Joseph’s hospice became the centre of grave allegations and controversy last month when complaints of abuse towards sick inmates and bone harvesting emerged after a series of media reports. The Hospice was founded by father RV Thomas in 2011.

The registration of the hospice had expired in September 2017. Several criminal complaints against the hospice had surfaced after a dead body being transported along with vegetables inside an ambulance was caught. The dead body belonged to one of the hospice’s inmates. The Kancheepuram police had shifted the 294 inmates to government recognised institutions.

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