27 Aug 2021 3:12 PM GMT
To ensure the uninterrupted education of children who lost either or both their parents after the onset of COVID in March 2020, the Supreme Court has asked the State Governments to shoulder the burden of their school fees if the private schools are unwilling to waive it."For children who have lost either parent or both parents after March 2020, the State Governments shall confer with...
To ensure the uninterrupted education of children who lost either or both their parents after the onset of COVID in March 2020, the Supreme Court has asked the State Governments to shoulder the burden of their school fees if the private schools are unwilling to waive it.
"For children who have lost either parent or both parents after March 2020, the State Governments shall confer with private schools to waive the fee of the distressed children for the current academic year. In case, the private institutions are unwilling to effectuate such waiver, the State Governments shall shoulder the burden of the fee", the Court ordered.
A bench comprising Justices L Nageswara Rao and Aniruddha Bose underscored that the states have the obligation to facilitate the education of such children, as per the mandate of Article 21A of the Constitution of India.
"All children have a constitutional right to free and compulsory elementary education which is guaranteed by Article 21A of the Constitution of India. The State has a duty and obligation to facilitate education for children. We have no doubt that the State realizes the importance of continuance of education of the forlorn children", the bench observed.
Assistance only to children in need of care and protection
At the same time, the bench clarified that the assistance is meant for children in need of care and protection alone. The Child Welfare Committees were directed to identify those children who do not need care and protection and financial assistance from the States.
"...we wish to clarify that after completion of the inquiries, the CWCs may identify those children who do not need care and protection and financial assistance from the States. Such of those children need not be given the benefits that are announced by the State Governments. It is only those children who are in need of care and protection, in terms of the Act, who have to be provided with assistance by the State Governments", the bench clarified.
Children registered under PM-CARES Scheme
The Union Government informed that 2600 orphaned children have been registered under PM Cares for Children Scheme. Out of these, 418 applications have been approved by the District Magistrates.
Additional Solicitor General Aishwarya Bhati submitted that education of children under 10 years is part of PM Cares Scheme For Children launched for support of Covid effected children. According to the scheme, beneficiaries under the scheme shall be given admission in nearest Kendriya Vidyalaya or private school and on admission to private school, fee will be given from PM Cares.
ASG Bhati informed the court that PM CARES scheme for children will support children who have lost both the parents or legal guardian or adoptive parents or surviving parent to COVID-19 pandemic.
The Court directed the Union of India to bear private school fee of 2600 orphaned children registered under PM Cares for Children Scheme in case of necessity.
"In case of necessity, fee & other expenditures of children amongst 2600 whose names have been registered for PM CARES shall be undertaken by Government of India." the Bench said.
The bench further said that "in respect of children amongst 2600 registered under PM Cares, it's open for state govt to request govt of India to bear the fee of those children studying in private schools for this academic year."
More than a lakh children lost both or either parents
The Court noted with distress that more than a lakh children have lost both or either of their parents after March 2020.
"More than a lakh children have lost either or both parents during this pandemic. It is heart-wrenching to note that the survival of so many children is at stake", the bench noted.
The bench issued state-wise directions to complete the process of uploading of the information of such children in the portal of the National Commission for the Protection of Child Rights in a time-bound manner.
On the last occasion, Supreme Court had directed the States and Union Territories to take assistance from several agencies at the grass root level for completing the process. The Bench had noted that the identification of children who have lost both or one parent after March 2020 cannot afford any further delay.
The Court had ordered the District Magistrates to issue necessary instructions to the Child welfare & protection Officers to take assistance of the Police, DCPU, Civil Society Organisations, Gram panchayats, Anganwadi and Asha networks for identification of orphans".
The bench was considering the suo motu case In Re Contagion of COVID Virus in Children Protection Homes. The suo motu case was initiated in March 2020 to address the issue of COVID spread in juvenile homes, child care centres etc. This year, during the second wave, the Court took note of the issue of children who became orphans during the COVID pandemic period.
On May 28, the Court had directed the Union and States to identify children who have become orphans post March 2020, whether it be due to the pandemic or otherwise, and upload their information in the 'Bal Swaraj' portal of the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights. The bench has also passed directions to control illegal adoption of such orphans.
Click here to read/download the order