'Schemes exist on paper but we need to realise them": Supreme Court issues directions in suo motu case concerning protection of children in Child Care Institutions amid pandemic

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Supreme Court today while hearing Suo Motu Writ Petition on Protection Of Children in Child Care Homes, Implementation of Government Benefits to Orphan Children, said,

“The issue of prime importance now is the care of these orphans. The scheme exists on paper, however, we need to bring that into reality.”

A Division Bench of Justice LN Rao and Justice Aniruddha Bose, as a part of the order, noted,

"The immediate concern is finding out ways and means of the identification of orphans and ensuring that the benefits of the scheme announced by the State govt reach them. Involvement of certain AGC's at the grass-root level is suggested.

Court added that a report regarding the deaths and number of children who have become orphans should be submitted immediately to the CWC.

The Court further passed the following directions:

1) The order passed by court of June 7 is to upload info on the portal of all children who've lost parents. The info is not only restricted to children who have died due to covid.

2) The DM's are directed to conduct a drive for identification of orphans of children who have lost their parents due to CoVID with assistance of police. For implementation of PM Cares gram panchayat, anganwadi should be sensitised so that they can report such children to CWC.

3) The DM's are directed to issue necessary instructions to whom the district child protection officers to take assistance of police anganwadi & asha workers for identification of the orphans. This is in addition to the mechanism of the act & the rules. The DM are directed to continue uploading the information as & when recieved on portal of Bal Swaraj of NCPCR.

4) Child welfare committees are directed to specify their provide their assistance.

5) All States & UT's are directed to file their status report indicating the number of children who have lost their parents due to CoVID or during CoVID after March 2020.

6) The state govts shall also provide information regarding the payment of amount of Rs 2k provided to the needy children who have become orphans.

7) We direct the State Govt to continue in the same schools at least for this academic year be it in private or govt schools. In case there is any difficulty wrt to admission, they shall be admitted in schools with regards to RTE Act.

While hearing the matter today, Court pointed out that there were some discrepancies in the data submitted by the State on Affidavit and as updated on the Bal Swaraj Portal.

Attention is required for meeting the immediate needs of children, Court added, while taking note of the fact that a lot of them were sent back from the Child Protection Homes after being infected by COVID.

With respect to the legal course that has to be taken for Orphan Children, Court observed, apart from rehabilitation, 2016 Model Rules enumerate certain other things that are to be taken care of.

Role of Social Welfare Departments and Anganwadi workers were also considered by the Court, while addressing issues related to Orphans.

“Social welfare departments in various states having workers at grass root level should also be brought into the picture to aid orphans. They would definitely be having knowledge of the villages. It won’t be possible for the CWC to monitor everything. Let us identify those Anganwadi workers who can identify the orphans in villages and provide them with immediate assistance,” Court said.

ASG KM Nataraj, for NCPCR, made brief submissions on compliances by the States to NCPCR directives.

The two broad points flagged by Advocate Aggarwal, appearing as Amicus, were:

  1. Whether guardian is taking care of the orphans or not and if not, what should be the rightful recourse.
  2. Government should figure out, devise means to ensure that the child continues his/her education in the same school only.

Background Of The Case

The matter originates from a Suo Moto Writ taken up last year in the wake of emerging cases of COVID 19 throughout the country, and the effect of it over children in Child care/foster homes.

Comprehensive guidelines were issued by the Court by order dated April 30, 2020, on the following fronts, namely;

  1. Measures to be taken by the Juvenile Justice Boards and Children Courts
  2. Measures to be taken by the Governments
  3. Directions to the Child Care Institutions (CCIs)
  4. Preventive Measures for the CCIs
  5. Responsive Measures for the CCIs
  6. Measures for Children under Foster Homes and Kinship Care
  7. Guidance on Measures to ensure well-being of Children

On June 7, 2021 A Division bench of Justice LN Rao and Justice Aniruddha Bose had inter-alia issued directions to the State Governments/UTs to continue identifying the children who have become orphan or lost a parent after March, 2020 either due to Covid-19 or otherwise, and provide data on the website of the NCPCR without any delay.

On June 1, 2021, directions were issued to the Centre for devising a mechanism to identify beneficiaries under recently launched PM Cares for COVID affected Children.

Last year December, Supreme Court had directed the State Governments/UTs to consult District Child Protection Units and provide necessary infrastructure, stationery, books and other facilities required for online classes to the children in Child Care Institutions.

Case Title: In Re Contagion of COVID 19 Virus In Children Protection Homes | SMW No. 4 of 2020