The Bombay High Court recently sought to know from the Maharashtra government and Mumbai Police to inform as to whether an online crowdfunding for medical treatments such as cancer and other rare diseases can be done by a private organisation or a company and if the same is permissible, which is the monitoring authority for the same.
The bench sought state’s response while hearing plea by Impact Guru Technology Ventures, a crowdfunding platform, challenging show-cause notice issued to it by Police under the the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000 for displaying child in wrong perspective on its social media advertisements and sought interim relief as it apprehended FIR.
A division bench of Justice Prasanna B Varale and Justice Nitin R Borkar on October 6 was hearing plea by the private firm challenging September 7 show-cause notice issued by the state Special Inspector of General Police, Prevention of Crime Against Women and Children asking the petitioner why crime under section 76 of the JJ Act should not be registered against the firm.
As per Section 76 of JJ Act, whoever employs or uses any child for the purpose of begging or causes any child to beg shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to five years and shall also be liable to fine of one lakh rupees.
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Advocate Niteen Pradhan for the petitioner submitted that it is a private limited company with a primary objective to manage a technology platform, which enables patients to seek funds/ donations for medical treatment such as cancer, organ transplant and other rare diseases; from friends, relatives and public at large through online fundraising.
He submitted that as per the notice, advertisements prepared by petitioner company, which were circulated through various mediums including You-Tube, Facebook etc. are displaying the child in the wrong perspective.
The police had said the advertisements and money collected fall in the category of ‘begging’ under JJ Act and therefore the firm was indulging in activities inconsistent with the 2000 law.
Pradhan submitted that petitioner’s activity is permissible under the National Policy for Rare Diseases, 2021, as there are government portals for crowd funding and therefore, the show-cause notice was misconceived and same be set aside.
He added that petitioner apprehended coercive action through an FIR being initiated by the Police and sought an interim order to protect the company.
The Court noted that there were no avertments made by petitioner to show that it was not retaining any amount out of the funds or donation received and if it was retaining some percentage of amount, it has not shown how much was the same.
The bench noted that Clause 10 of the 2021 policy provides the government to create an alternate funding mechanism through a digital platform for voluntary individuals and corporate donors to contribute to the treatment cost of patients of rare diseases, as it would be difficult for government to fully finance high cost treatment for rape diseases.
“The gap can however be filled by creating a digital platform for bringing together notified hospitals where such patients are receiving treatment or coming for treatment, on the other hand, and prospective individual or corporate donors willing to support treatment of such patients,” the policy states.
The Court perused the policy and observed that it was unable to find any material permitting private organisations or company to display such information about a child on a public platform
The bench then asked the state government and Mumbai Police to file reply to the petition on aspects of which Act or Regulation governs the crowd funding and can the same be done by private companies and if it is permissible, which will be an authority monitoring the same.
After Public Prosecutor Aruna Pai for state on instructions from the concerned police officer submitted that no action/steps will be taken against the petitioner pursuant to the notice till the next hearing, the bench posted the matter to October 19.