The Supreme Court on Thursday took note of 35 children testing positive for Coronavirus in a government-run shelter home in Royapurum, Chennai and sought a status report from the State Government of Tamil Nadu and Secretary regarding reasons for spread of the contagion and steps taken to control its further spread.
A bench of A bench of Justices L Nageswara Rao, Krishna Murari and S Ravindra Bhat also sought status report from different state governments on steps taken to protect children in shelter homes from the deadly Novel Coronavirus and also compliance of its April 3 order.
In light of this, the Court also noted that it shall circulate a questionnaire which is to be communicated to the State Governments which Juvenile Justices Committees of States shall supply, providing requisite information sought for in the questionnaire before June 30, 2020.
"we intend to seek information from the State Governments in relation to the care and protection of children in conflict with law, we are circulating a questionnaire which is to be communicated to the State Governments. The Juvenile Justices Committees of the High Courts shall also be supplied with the questionnaire which is annexed to this order" - SC
The questionnaire has been annexed with the order and states that it has been developed "with the purpose of monitoring the situation of children in institutions and in need of care and protection in COVID 19 based on the order of the Hon'ble Supreme Court dated 3rd April 2020".
"This format will help us to review the challenges faced by the authorities, Child Welfare Committees, Juvenile Justice Boards and District Child Protection Units (CWCs, JJBs and DCPUs)s in holding virtual sessions, restoring children back to families as well in following up to the constraints of the lockdown and develop measures to deal with these. The format will also enable the collection of good practices which may be useful to other states for replication."
During the hearing, the bench said that the questionnaire was prepared by Justice Ravindra Bhat.
On April 3, the top court had taken suo motu cognisance of the condition of children in protection, juvenile and foster or kinship homes across the country amid the coronavirus outbreak and had issued directions to the state governments and various other authorities to protect them.
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.
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.
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