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Supreme Court Pulls Up West Bengal Govt For Not Uploading Information Of Children Orphaned During COVID

Srishti Ojha
7 Jun 2021 9:44 AM GMT
Supreme Court Pulls Up West Bengal Govt For Not Uploading Information Of Children Orphaned During COVID
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During the hearing of its suo moto case regarding Contagion of Covid in Children Protection Homes, Supreme Court has on Monday orally asked the State of West Bengal to comply with the Court's previous orders, and gather and upload the information regarding children who have been orphaned and are in need of care and protection on NCPCR's portal. The Bench, addressing the Counsel appearing...

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During the hearing of its suo moto case regarding Contagion of Covid in Children Protection Homes, Supreme Court has on Monday orally asked the State of West Bengal to comply with the Court's previous orders, and gather and upload the information regarding children who have been orphaned and are in need of care and protection on NCPCR's portal.

The Bench, addressing the Counsel appearing for West Bengal stated that the State Government should direct the authorities to provide the information and upload it on the portal of NCPCR immediately.

" We said gather information pertaining to children orphaned after March 2020, and include CNCPs(Children in Need of Care and Protection) also. All the other States have understood it properly and have uploaded the information, how is it that only West Bengal doesn't understand the order." the Bench remarked.

"Don't take refuge under confusion. All other States have provided it, there is confusion only for West Bengal? " the Bench said addressing the Counsel for West Bengal.

The Bench also asked the Delhi Government to upload the information on the NCPCR's website as soon as it is collected and attend to the needs of the Children without waiting for Court's orders and implement its schemes.

The observations were made after Additional Solicitor General KM Nataraj, appearing for NCPCR, expressed concern regarding two States, who have not given information including Delhi and West Bengal.

Advocate Chirag Shroff appearing for GNCTD submitted that problem being faced by Delhi as compared to other States is that Delhi solely depends on data provided by CWC. However , in other States, the Departments directly provide information to the District Magistrate so the information collected is definitely much more accurate.

The Bench noted that there are States who have constituted District Task Officers, with officers from Revenue, the District Collector, the Magistrate and people from different Departments, Delhi can also be broken up in divisions to collect the data.

Regarding the six stages in which the information is to be uploaded on the NCPCR's portal, the Bench reiterated that information may be provided in respect of first stage and second stage, as the other stages states may take time, and can be completed by the States later.

The Bench has also asked the State of Tamil Nadu to ensure that identification of the children who are orphaned and in need of care and protection in the State is done. While noting that the Covid positivity rate in Tamil Nadu is very high, the Bench stated that the State should activate authorities like CWC, Child protection units, District Authorities, to make efforts for all these children.

The Bench asked Dr Joseph Aristotle appearing for Tamil Nadu to instruct the authorities to expedite the identification, as only when the children are identified can steps be taken for their welfare.

The Bench while noting that in many Districts of Tamil Nadu, no children have been produced before the CWC, asked the Counsel to alert the administration to implement this.

The observation was made by the Court after the Amicus Curiae Gaurav Agrawal submitted that the identification of children by States has been satisfactory except in the State of Tamil Nadu. He added that in Tamil Nadu, they are only identifying children who have lost one or both parents due covid.

'They are using a "top town approach", as the death figures are being taken and then their children are being identified', he said.

Suggestions By The Amicus Curiae:

Based on reports submitted by the States, the Amicus noted that children may also need financial assistance.

He suggested that after receiving information of a child who has become an orphan, the DCPO must meet with child and guardian as soon as possible, and ascertain willingness of guardian to take care of the child, the mental and physical needs of child, assessment of immediate needs of child, and financial condition of the guardian.

He stated that if the guardian appears to have income less than Rs 2 lakhs per year, or it appears to DCPO that the child needs immediate financial assistance, the Competent authority can provide immediate financial assistance upto Rupees 2000 per month per child.

Amicus added that each State Government has schemes, like 'Beta Beti' or 'Palanhar' scheme, under which fixed amounts are given to the child prima facie by the State Committees out of the State government's budget.

"If there is financial requirement, you do not have to wait for bureaucratic procedure, production before CWC, etc to give some interim financial assistance to the child. Whichever modalities the State wants to adopt may be done." Amicus said.

Amicus added that the payment may continue till enquiry by CWC is complete. While its possible that money is given to someone who doesn't need it, that cannot be a reason to deprive thousands of others who needed it .

Amicus also made the following suggestions for the Court's consideration:

• Any child who is prima facie Child in Need of Care and Protection( CNCP), contact details of a Local Officer be provided who the guardian may contact.

• If DCPO is of prima facie view that guardian is incapable of looking after the child, child is not willing to live with guardian, needs of child require special care etc he may be produced before CWC immediately, physically or virtually.

• Information regarding all children attended by DCPO along with steps taken and interim directions of CWC, if any should be shared with State government, every month till CWC passes a final order.

• Central government may be directed to consider an increase in the sponsorship. A procedural thing can be worked out by the State during the pandemic.

• As financial help is only one aspect, CWC should address all aspects of welfare of child, in its individual care plan.

• Monitoring welfare of the child should be carried out by child by DCPO and CWC every 3-6 months so that the well-being of child is looked after. If there is any change in circumstances, the same can be looked after by the CWC. This is important as thr child should not disappear, be trafficked or get into child labour.

• Children in Government Schools, the District Education Officer must ensure that they are continuing the education, for next one year or so at least and if there is some difficulty in attending, the same can be taken care of. If child is of school-going age, they should be enrolled in Government Schools or Private Schools under the RTE Act.

Submissions On Behalf Of NCPCR: Mr Nataraj appearing for NCPCR made the following suggestions, and has sought the Court's directions in their regard:

• Information be given and uploaded by the States, to ensure continuous monitoring, and to achieve objectives of the Act and protect their rights.

• Directions be given to States and Authorities to not disclose information of the child, as that may have an adverse impact on the child and the society.

• NGOs who have been collecting funds in name of child welfare, need to do that without disclosing the identity, in accordance with law and after informing the concerned authorities.

• The Legal Service Authorities at District level may be involved to effect provisions of the Act, so from time to time the information required and status of child may be updated. One Counsellor has to be appointed in every District.

After hearing the submissions and suggestions of the Amicus, Counsel appearing for NCPCR, and other States, a Bench of Justice Nageswara Rao and Justice Aniruddha Bose noted that it will issue its order with directions by tomorrow.

On May 28th, the bench had directed all the district authorities to upload the information of children who have become orphans after March 2020 on portal of NCPCR 'Bal Swaraj' and also directed to take steps to attend to basic needs of children who become.

The National Commission for Protection of Child Rights(NCPCR) has informed the Supreme Court that the COVID-19 pandemic has orphaned 1742 children, and 7464 children lost at least one parent during the pandemic, as per the data available on May 29.


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