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States Resisting Social Audits By NCPCR Appear To Be “Hiding Something”: SC

The Supreme Court on Wednesday rapped the States for non-utilisation of funds under the Integrated Child Protection Scheme (ICPS).

Condemning the trend, the Bench comprising Justice M.B. Lokur and Justice Deepak Gupta observed, “This is extremely unfortunate. Since funds are made available for the benefit of children, if the State Governments do not utilise them, the loss is that of children of the State.”

The Court also noted that apart from non-utilisation of funds, some States have neither given utilisation certificates nor prepared any plan of action for the financial year 2018-19. Besides, it was informed that the States which had in fact utilised the ICPS funds had failed to file performance audits of the programmes for utilisation of such funds.

The Court, therefore, directed the States to comply with these stipulations, and also ordered the Ministry of Women and Child Development to issue an advisory in this regard at the earliest.

The observations were issued after the Court was informed on the progress made on its order issued in May, 2017, when it had spelled out significant directives to the Centre and State Governments to ensure safety and welfare of children living in orphanages and child care institutions.

Thereafter, in April this year, it had also directed the Ministry of Women and Child Development to ensure that individual child care plans are implemented in “letter and spirit”. The matter has now been listed on 10 August.

List of Child Care Institutions

During the hearing on Wednesday, the Court was specifically addressed by Senior Advocate Mr. Balgopal, representing the State of Kerala, who informed the Bench that there are 1189 orphanages under the control of Orphanages and Other Charitable Homes (Supervision and Control) Act, 1960.

The Court, however, noted that there existed “lack of clarity” in the facts and figures submitted by the State. For instance, it noted that the State hadn’t specified the number of charitable institutions registered under the Act, the number of child care institutions that have been converted into hostels and Madrassas, and the number of children in these institutions.

The State was therefore directed to supply the necessary information on affidavit. Details pertaining to the financial grants and their utilisation have also been directed to be put on record.

Social audits

With regard to social audits, the Court noted with concern the fact that a large number of States have not permitted the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) or its agency to conduct such audits. It in fact opined that the States’ resistance in complying with the Court’s directive indicates that they might have something to hide.

“We make it clear that since there is a direction of this Court and if the State Governments are resisting in conducting the social audits, it appears that they are trying to hide something and so they do not want social audits to be conducted under the directions of this Court. It is unfortunate that these State Governments are playing hide and seek game,” it observed.

The Court then reiterated its direction to the NCPCR to conduct the audit, and also directed the Centre to issue an advisory to all State Governments regarding the same. It ordered, “The Union of India will also issue an advisory to all the State Governments to comply with the directions more particularly since it involves financial implications and we would not like any allegation of corruption to be made against the State Governments due to resisting social audits.”

Utilisation of software

On being informed that a Management Information Software (MIS) was being utilised under the aegis of UNICEF in the states of Bihar and Assam, the Court directed the Ministry of Women and Child Development to get in touch with them to consider the use of the MIS for storing full details of all children in various child care institutions and plans for their rehabilitation.

Re: Exploitation of Children in Orphanages in the State of Tamil Nadu

The Apex Court had, in May last year, asked the State Governments to ensure that the process of registration of all child care institutions is completed before the end of the year. It had further issued the following directives:

  • Ensure that the process of registration of all childcare institutions is completed positively by December 31, 2017, with the entire data being confirmed and validated.
  • The information (pertaining to institutions) should be available with all the concerned officials. The registration process should also include a data base of all children in need of care and protection which should be updated every month. While maintaining the database, issues of confidentiality and privacy must be kept in mind by the concerned authorities
  • Enforce the minimum standards of care as required by and in terms of the JJ Act and the Model Rules positively on or before 31st December, 2017.
  • Set up inspection committees as required by the JJ Act and the Model Rules to conduct regular inspections of childcare institutions and to prepare reports of such inspections so that the living conditions of children in these institutions undergo positive changes. These inspection committees should be constituted on or before 31st July, 2017.
  • These inspection committees should conduct the first inspection of the child care institutions in their jurisdiction and submit a report to the concerned government of the states and union territories on or before 31st December, 2017.

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