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Consider Releasing Children From Observation Homes On Interim Bail Amid COVID-19 : SC Directs JJBs, Children's Courts [Read Order]

LIVELAW NEWS NETWORK
3 April 2020 4:58 PM GMT
Consider Releasing Children From Observation Homes On Interim Bail Amid COVID-19 : SC Directs JJBs, Children
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In order to de-congest child care institutions in the wake of COVID-19 pandemic, the Supreme Court on Friday directed the Juvenile Justice Boards and Children Courts to consider releasing all children alleged to be in conflict with law on temporary bail, unless there are clear and valid reasons for the application of the proviso to Section 12, JJ Act, 2015.

The order has been passed by a bench of Justice L. Nageswara Rao and Justice Deepak Gupta in a suo moto case registered by it on the conditions of children protection homes across the country.

The bench also issued detailed directions to the Child Welfare Committees, Juvenile Justice Boards and Children Courts, Child Care Institutions (CCI) and the state governments to prevent the spread of Corona virus amongst children.

"There are children who need care and attention and are kept in or children in conflict with law who are kept in various types of homes. There are also children who are kept in foster and kinship care. In these circumstances, it was felt that the interest of these children should be looked into," the bench said while taking cognizance on the matter.

The court has asked all these institutions to consider whether children should be kept in the respective institutions, considering the best interest, health and safety concerns. It has been directed that families be counseled to ensure that institutionalization is the last resort. Further, they have been asked to ensure safety and availability of personal hygiene products in the institutions.

The court suggested that these institutions should turn virtual so as to provide help desks and conduct requisite inquiries and hearings.

The bench also expressed concern regarding safety of these children and said that it is important to protect them from violence including sexual and gender ­based violence which may be exacerbated in contexts of anxiety and stress produced by lockdown and fear of the disease.

Broadly, the following directions were made:

Measures To Be Taken By Child Welfare Committees

  • Monitor cases telephonically for children who have been sent back to their families and coordinate through the District Child Protection Committees and Foster care and Adoption Committees (SFCACs) for children in foster care
  • Online help desks and support systems for queries to be established at the state level for children and staff in CCIs

Measures To Be Taken By Juvenile Justice Boards And Children Courts

  • Online video sessions be organized for conducting inquiries
  • Children alleged to be in conflict with law, residing in Observation Homes, JJB shall consider taking steps to release all children on bail, unless there are clear and valid reasons for the application of the proviso to Section 12, JJ Act, 2015
  • Video conferencing or online sittings can be held to prevent contact for speedy disposal of cases.

Measures To Be Taken By Governments

  • Work with Persons in Charge of CCIs and District Child Protection Units to plan staffing rotations or schedules to reduce in-person interaction by CCI staff.
  • Ensure diligent performance of all government functionaries and take strict action against any dereliction of duty as per Rule 66(1) of Juvenile Justice Model Rules, 2016.
  • Ensure adequate budgetary allocation to meet the costs that are likely to arise for the effective management of the pandemic.

Directions To CCIs

  • Take necessary steps to practice, promote and demonstrate positive hygiene behaviors and monitor their uptake;
  • Conduct regular screening of children lodged in institutions and follow Health Referral System.

The court clarified that such directions will also apply to to children in foster and kinship care.

The court lastly remarked that the State Government and the nodal departments should keep abreast with all relevant advisories and circulars as issued by the government from time to time, along with guidance issued where required.

Last month, a bench of SC headed by Chief Justice S A Bobde had directed all states and Union Territories to set up 'High Level Committees' to determine the class of prisoners who could be released on parole for four to six weeks. It was also observed that the prisoners convicted of or charged with offences having jail term of up to seven years can be given parole to decongest jails.

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