The Allahabad High Court has issued interim guidelines for the management of shelter homes in the State of Uttar Pradesh.
The Bench comprising Chief Justice DB Bhosale and Justice Yashwant Varma has directed all District Judges in the State to constitute monitoring committees of 3-4 members, comprising the Secretary of District Legal Services Authority (DLSA), and judicial officers. It has further issued the following directives:
The directions were issued while the Court was hearing the suo motu petition initiated in the Deoria Shelter Home case. At the outset, the Court took note of an unconditional apology tendered by three people who had attempted to interview a few of the affected children housed at an institution on Court’s orders.
Accepting their apology, the Court noted, “Since the three individuals have shown genuine repentance and have furnished an unconditional apology, we accept the same and discharge notices issued to them taking on record the statements made in the affidavits tendered on their behalf today.”
Thereafter, it recalled that during the hearing on 27 August, the Court had noticed the “systemic failure of monitoring and audit of shelter homes” and had made a few suggestions for consideration of Additional Advocate General, Mr. Manish Goyal.
The Court now took note of an affidavit submitted by the authorities informing it of the directions issued to the Director, Academy of Management Studies, Lucknow to undertake a social audit of all shelter homes, in accordance with the norms formulated by the Centre. It further noted that the State has constituted a seven-member committee to formulate and prescribe long-term directives for all shelter homes in the State.
The Court, however, assumed that no audit of shelter homes has been conducted so far, in view of the absence of any such disclosure having been made by the authorities. Besides, while the State submitted that presently there are no codified norms for shelter homes which are not established or run under the purview of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015, the Court highlighted the detailed provisions contained in the Swadhar Greh Scheme framed by the Centre.
Examining such submissions, the Court emphasised on the necessity of issuance of interim directions, leaving it open for the State to formulate long-term directives. It observed, “We, therefore, find ourselves unable to accept the contention advanced on behalf of the State respondents of a complete absence of guidelines governing these shelter homes. However, from the tenor of the affidavits filed and the submissions advanced on behalf of the State it does appear that no monitoring or audit was ever conducted or mandated in the past. This position cannot be permitted to continue and prevail.”
The Court further highlighted the assertion made by the Additional Chief Secretary in an affidavit, which had stated that the funding for infrastructural facilities for Child Care institutions and Shelter Homes, their operational costs and requirements of staff is “totally inadequate and the Department is unable to provide funds and facilities to fulfill the mandate of legal provisions and the directions of Hon'ble Courts given from time to time”.
Censuring the State for the abdication of its duty in providing adequate funds for such facilities, the Court then observed, “These assertions, if they be correct, can only be viewed as an admission of a deep-rooted malaise and cannot possibly be countenanced by this Court. It is the obligation of the State to ensure that the weak and the vulnerable who are housed in these shelter homes are provided basic amenities and in any view of the matter are not forced to live in either sordid conditions or be subjected to physical or mental abuse. The State, therefore, is obliged to make available the requite funds so that the requisite budget required for the upkeep and maintenance of all shelter homes is met.”
It thereby directed the Chief Secretary, Government of U.P. to file a personal affidavit clarifying its stand with respect to the inadequacy of funds.
The Court considered the report submitted by Ms. Shreya Agarwal, the rehabilitation psychologist appointed by it as well, taking note of her interactions with four of the victims. Taking stock of their mental stability and behaviour, it directed relocation of two of the victims. The matter will now be heard on 26 September.