The Supreme Court on Monday issued notice to the Centre and State Governments in a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) seeking guidelines from the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) to prevent cases of child trafficking, which have suddenly surged amid the COVID-19 induced lockdown.
The Bench comprising of CJI SA Bobde, and Justices AS Bopanna and Hrishikesh Roy asked Senior Advocate, HS Phoolka, counsel for petitioner, as well as the Solicitor General to do some research on measures to curb the issue of engaging child labour. Attributing this as the reason behind the menace of child trafficking, the CJI asked the counsels to ideate and come up with suggestions before the next hearing.
"We want you to do some homework...Find out a way in which if somewhere a child is employed, what can be done. Can every contractor who does private work also be registered somewhere? This issue exists because there is a market for engaging child labour", said the Chief Justice. "Register contractors, seek list of their employees to ensure no child labour is employed…Only policing won't do…We are the ones who provide them a market since child labour is cheap…We will have to start with contractors", he added.
As Mr. Phoolka went on to urge that a proactive approach is required on behalf of all district Child Welfare Committees, especially the vulnerable ones, SG Tushar Mehta submitted that he would get together with the counsel for the petitioner and collate suggestions.
"This is not adversarial…we'll get together and work out measures", said Mehta.
"We could also have an experts' Committee set up", suggested the CJI in response.
On request of the counsels, the matter has now been listed for consideration after 2 weeks.
The petition filed by NGO Bachpan Bachao Andolan highlights the spike in cases of child trafficking amid the COVID-19 outbreak and urges the Government to immediately frame a policy to not only prevent the same, but also ensure the rescue and rehabilitation of the affected children.
The petitioner, who has worked extensively on issue of child rights, has cautioned that they have received reliable information that cases of trafficking will increase heavily once the lockdown is relaxed, as potential victims are already being approached.