The Supreme Court directed all the District Magistrates to immediately seek the cooperation of Special Juvenile Police Units, District Legal Services Authority and voluntary organizations for the identification and rehabilitation of destitute children living on the roads adversely affected by the COVID-19 epidemic.
New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Monday directed all the District Magistrates to immediately undertake the work of identification and rehabilitation of destitute children living on the roads adversely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, including Special Juvenile Police Units (SJPUs), District Legal Services Authorities. (DLSA) and voluntary organizations.
Justice L. Nageswara Rao and Justice B.V. Nagarathna said that the problem of destitute children living on the streets would have increased in winter and in such a situation, the states and union territories should take immediate steps to shift them to shelter homes.
“Since further delay cannot be tolerated in implementation of the directions already given by this court regarding identification and rehabilitation of children, we would like to request all the District Magistrates without any further delay to take care of the destitute children living on the streets,” the bench said. Directs the involvement of DLSAs and voluntary organizations in identification. The District Magistrates are also directed to upload the information of all the steps on the web portal of National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (Bal Swaraj).
The top court was hearing the matter by taking suo motu cognizance of children who are adversely affected by the pandemic due to the loss of one or both of their parents.
The top court also directed the states, under the guidance of the NCPCR, to formulate a policy for rehabilitation after their identification and file a status report within three weeks.
The court directed the states and union territories to direct the concerned authorities not to delay the identification and rehabilitation of children.
Additional Solicitor General KM Natraj, appearing for the NCPCR, initially said that many states have not uploaded the details of destitute children living on the street on the Bal Swaraj portal.
With regard to Delhi, the top court noted that while earlier 70,000 children were identified, the AAP government has now said that it has identified only 428 children.
The bench said, ‘This is not a common matter. These children will face a lot of trouble while living on the streets. There are children who have no one to take care of them. The condition of children will be worse in the northern parts of the country. Just imagine how they are living on the streets. You have to immediately shift them to ‘night shelters’, shelter homes. This is your duty. We don’t need to tell you do this, do that. Take immediate action. This one month is very difficult. They should be immediately taken to the shelter home.
The top court also expressed displeasure over the contention of the states that the pace of identification of street children is slow due to COVID.
The bench said, “We are not running away from the reality and we know that the country is in the third wave of Covid and the authorities may be busy trying to control the situation but even children cannot be ignored.” In this case, COVID cannot be an excuse.
Uttar Pradesh Additional Advocate General Garima Prasad told the top court that around 30,282 children have been identified by NGOs in five districts of the state.
He said that the state government is trying to reach out to those children and several teams have been dispatched to search for such children.
The amicus curiae said that the states and union territories have not given any information about the steps taken for the rehabilitation of the children who have not been identified and the states should take a decision on it. The matter will now be heard after four weeks.
According to news agency PTI, the apex court had earlier said that the process of identifying street children adversely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic is very slow and states and union territories have to provide information about such children. He was directed to take immediate steps for identification and rehabilitation without waiting for their instructions.
Earlier, the bench had directed all the district magistrates, states and union territories to take steps for the care and protection of street children as prepared by the NCPCR in 2020.
It was also brought to the notice of the court that there are about 70,000 such children in the streets of Delhi alone.
The National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) told the Supreme Court that as per the data uploaded on ‘Bal Swaraj Portal – COVID Care’ till January 11, the total number of children in need of care and protection is 1,47,492. In which the number of orphans is 10,094 and the number of children who have lost either of the parents is 1,36,910 and the number of abandoned children is 488.
(with input from news agency language)
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