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Child Rights Violations Amidst Lockdown: Calcutta HC Directs Investigation Into Trafficking In Garb Of Child Marriages [Read Order]

Mehal Jain
28 Jun 2020 7:38 AM GMT
Child Rights Violations Amidst Lockdown: Calcutta HC Directs Investigation Into Trafficking In Garb Of Child Marriages  [Read Order]
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The Calcutta High Court, taking strict stock of child rights violations amidst the lockdown, recently pulled up the state police on several accounts.

Taking note of the affidavit of the Home Secretary, the Calcutta High Court observed that while there have been no instances of child trafficking, however, child marriages during this period in most of the districts have been rampant.

"This alarming rise of child marriages during this lockdown period has given us a strong impression that these child marriages may be in the garb of child trafficking and we, accordingly, direct the Superintendent of Police of every districts to investigate into the cases regarding child marriage and to find out if such child marriages are for economic consideration or under the garb of child trafficking", said the Division Bench.

The Court required that the perpetrators of these child marriages should be dealt with in accordance with law and cases should be registered against them without any delay.

From a newspaper report, the Court learnt that a minor Bengali girl has been recently recovered by the Maharashtra police with the help of the N.G.O.s . "The trafficking took place in the year 2018 and although complaints were made against three traffickers, it is reported that no attempt was made by the Bagda Police Station in recovering the female child", remarked the bench, calling for a report to be filed with regard to the investigation of the said child trafficking case from the date of lodging of the complaint till date, together with an explanation for not being able to recover the child until intervention of the Maharashtra police.

The Court also brought it to the attention of the learned Advocate General that 13 C.C.L. boys from an Observation Special Home had escaped, which incident was culminated in registration of FIR on March 8 under Section 363 of the Indian Penal Code. "Two of such C.C.L. boys have surrendered but the fate of the 11 C.C.L. boys are stillunknown. We are not happy with the investigation. The Police have not yet been able to recover the said 11 C.C.L. boys", stated the bench.

Recording Of 164 Statements Within 48 Hours

"We have received reports from the District Judges and the POSCO Courts that the investigating officers in most of the districts are delaying in production of the victim and/or filing application for recording of statement under Section 164 of the Criminal Procedure Code which only can enure to the benefit of the perpetrators of the crime", reflected the bench.

It accordingly directed the Superintendent of Police of all the districts to ensure that the victims are produced immediately and not later than 48 hours before the Magistrates for recording of the statement under Section 164 of the Criminal Procedure Code. All delays attributable to the prosecution should be immediately addressed and all attempts should be made that the progress of the trial takes place without any delay.

"We understand that during the lockdown period police officers and the public prosecutors are facing difficulty. But we find no reason for not ensuring the recording of the statement of the victims under Section 164 of the Criminal Procedure Code", said the bench, adding that the Superintendent of Police of all the districts must also ensure that there is no delay in investigation of the cases relating to child rights violation and charge-sheet are filed in time.

Inadequate Infrastructure Of Juvenile Justice Boards and CWC

The Court took note that the reports shared by the Visitors and Principal Magistrates of the Juvenile Justice Boards and the Chairperson of the C.W.C. showing that in most of the districts, the J.J.B.s are functioning under tremendous stress and the infrastructure is extremely inadequate:

i. No chamber for the Principal Magistrate and other members of the committee,

ii. Lack of office space,

iii. No separate room for vulnerable child witnesses,

iv. No separate entrance for the C.C.L. and vulnerable witnesses,

v. No official vehicle is assigned to the Principal Magistrate,

vi. Lack of broad-band connection and inconsistent bandwidth,

vii. Lack of hardware and software infrastructure required for audio video linkage,

viii. Inadequate and/or no support staff like bench clerk, lower division clerk-cum-typist, counsellor etc.,

ix. No separate provision of wash-room for female staff/members/lady officers,

x. No separate room for counselling for the C.C.L.s and for sitting of social worker members,

xi. Lack of maintenance of public toilets and wash-room of Principal Magistrates.

The bench recorded the assurance of the Advocate General that he would immediately take up the issue with the Home Secretary and on the adjourned date would apprise as to the steps taken to remove such deficiencies.

COVID Testing Of Children Of Migrants

Taking note of the report filed by the Secretary, Department of Health and Family Welfare, the Court observed that 75 children of the migratory workers have been found to be Covid-19 positive and subsequently they were referred to designated covid hospitals, samples were collected from asymptomatic children of migratory workers and 43 of such samples were reported as positive. Those 43 children were admitted at designated covid hospitals and as of now, those children have been discharged from such hospitals after recovery.

"However, considering the safety of the children we would like to know if any random test was carried out of the children of the migratory workers and if so, disclose the result of such random test with specific comment as to whether anyone of them tested positive, save and except the particulars already disclosed", demanded the bench. 

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