"Where Necessary, Centre To Bear Expenses Of Education For Children Registered Under PM CARES": Supreme Court

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The Supreme Court today while hearing a suo motu writ petition ensuring government schemes' benefits to children who lost their parents during/ due to Covid-19 observed that, where private schools deny to waive off fees, assistance may be sought by the states from the Centre for the children's fees for the current academic year.

The court also recorded the Centre's submission on registration of 2600 children under the PM CARES Scheme.

A Division Bench of Justice L. Nageswara Rao and Justice Aniruddha Bose, while pronouncing orders in the matter, said,

“According to the submission of the Ld. ASG, beneficiaries under the Scheme shall be given admission to the nearest Kendriya Vidyalaya or in a private school as a day scholar. The fees will be borne by the PM CARES fund – as per the Right to Education (RTE) norms.

It is submitted that about 2600 children have been registered out of which applications of 418 have been approved by the District Magistrates (DMs) - at present, we direct the DMs to complete the process of approval of the remaining children whose names have been registered for benefit under the PM CARES.

In case of necessity, the fee and other needs of children under 2600 which have been registered, shall be undertaken by the Government of India.

The State Govt. shall have a dialogue, with the Pvt. Schools to waive the fee for these students for the current academic year – in case, the schools are not willing, State Govt. shall bear the burden of the fee. In respect of children amongst 2600 registered under the PM CARES scheme, it is open to the State Government to request the Government of India to bear the expense of children studying in Private Schools, for the current academic year.”

Ld. ASG informed the bench that the scheme proposes to take the following steps,

1. Fixed Deposit in the name of child
2. Expense of School Education
3. Health Insurance

By order dated Jul 27 the court had information from all State/Union Territories regarding the identification of children who have lost both or either parent after March, 2020 and the stage of enquiry before the Child Welfare Committees. The court has been informed in an affidavit filed in this regard by the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) that out of 1,01,032 children who have lost their either/ both parents due to Covid-19 or otherwise since Apr 1, 2020, about 63,000 are still in the Stage 1 identification process in the 6-Stage Process set in place for giving out benefits of government schemes.

Information was also sought related to schemes announced by the State and implementation of the same.

Brief Background

The matter originates from a suo motu 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 Apr 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 Jun 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 Jun 1, 2021, directions were issued to the Centre for devising a mechanism to identify beneficiaries under the recently launched PM Cares Scheme for Covid-affected children.

Last year in December, the 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.

Also Read: '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

Also Read: Data On Bal Swaraj Portal Includes All Children Who Lost Their Parent Due To COVID Or Otherwise From The Period Commencing April 2020: NCPCR Tells Supreme Court

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