The Ministry of Women and Child Development has developed a Standard Operating Procedure for tracing missing children, in compliance with the Supreme Court directives passed in January, 2015 in the case of Bachpan Bachao Andolan v. Union of India & Ors, Writ Petition (Civil) No. 75 of 2012.
“This Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) envisages to assist Police, Child Welfare Committee and Juvenile Justice Board in dealing with the cases of missing and found or recovered children. The Objective of the SOP is to put in place guidelines while dealing with cases of missing children and to work in coordination with stakeholders and respond with urgency to issues of missing child. Ensure expeditious and effective law enforcement including prosecution. Create mechanism and systems to prevent further victimization of missing children. Ensure that appropriate and timely protection/care/attention is provided to victims/witnesses (sic),” the SOP states.
In Bachpan Bachao Andolan’s case, the Court had noted the formulation of such SOPs by several States, and had directed the Ministry of Women and Child Development to seek assistance from TISS for compilation of a model SOP for all States and UTs.
In conformity with this direction, the SOP has been finalized in consonance with the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Model Rules 2016, and has been shared with all the Director Generals of Police and Principal Secretaries of States/UTs for further dissemination and use.
Citing Rule 92(1) of the Model Rules, the SOP defines a missing child as – a child whose whereabouts are not known to the parents, legal guardian or any other person or institution legally entrusted with the custody of the child, whatever may be the circumstances or causes of disappearance, and shall be considered missing and in need of care and protection until located or his safety and well-being established.
Further, in addition to all the regular means of filing a complaint i.e. in person, over the phone, over the e-mail, or other communications, a missing child’s complaint can now also be filed through an SMS to the authorities. All such information will be recorded in the General Diary, and the FIR will be registered after conducting a preliminary verification of the caller.
It also stipulates that a Station House Officer (SHO), on registration of missing child’s case, will make an assessment of the risk involved and determine the urgency of investigation and areas of inquiry. The SHO will also determine the types of specialist knowledge that might be needed to trace and recover the missing child, and the agencies to be first alerted about the missing child. He will then have to fill up a “Risk Assessment Form” and put these exercises on record.
Furthermore, the SOP brings in an organized crime perspective, directing the investigation to be transferred to the Anti-Human Trafficking Unit in the district, if the child cannot be traced within a period of four months. The Unit is required to submit reports every three months to the District Legal Services Authority regarding the progress made in the investigation.
The SOP goes on to define the roles and responsibilities of various stake holders such as the Police, Child Welfare Committees (CWCs) and Juvenile Justice Boards (JJBs). It further provides a checklist for Investigating Officers that provides a framework of actions, consideration and activities that may assist in performing competent, productive and thorough investigation in such cases.
Read Standard Operating Procedure here.