Don't Delay The Process Of Identification Of Children In Streets, Supreme Court Directs States

Sohini Chowdhury

14 Dec 2021 3:26 AM GMT

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  • Dont Delay The Process Of Identification Of Children In Streets, Supreme Court Directs States

    On Monday, in a suo moto matter regarding the plight of the Children in Street Situation ("CiSS") across the country, the Supreme Court directed the State Governments and the Union Territories to complete the identification process without any delay. The Apex Court clarified that the State Governments and the Union Territories need not wait for any further direction from National...

    On Monday, in a suo moto matter regarding the plight of the Children in Street Situation ("CiSS") across the country, the Supreme Court directed the State Governments and the Union Territories to complete the identification process without any delay. The Apex Court clarified that the State Governments and the Union Territories need not wait for any further direction from National Commission for Protection of Child Rights ("NCPCR") or from the Court to proceed to the subsequent stages set out in the SOP 2.0 developed by the NCPCR, once the Children to be rescued and rehabilitated are identified.

    On a perusal of the affidavit filed by the NCPCR, the bench comprising Justice L Nageswara Rao and BR Gavai expressed its concern that the number of children identified by the States appeared to be quite low and even the process of identification, which is the first stage of the process of rehabilitation has not yet been completed.

    Issue of Children in Street Situation

    At the outset, on the request of the Amicus Curiae, Mr. Gaurav Agarwal, the Bench took up the affidavit filed by NCPCR and enquired about its status. Additional Solicitor General, Mr. Nataraj apprised the Court that some States have sought more time to file their affidavits.

    Pointing out from NCPCR's affidavit, that the numbers reflected seem to be quite low, the Bench stated -

    "As we have seen from your affidavit, the numbers that are shown on the basis of the information uploaded on the website appear to be very less,only 3655. We were told there are 70-80 thousand children on streets in Delhi alone. There must be lakhs. The reporting seems to be incomplete. You have given stages at pg. 6. Stage I pertains to identification, which is the most important stage…dWe are still stuck at stage one, with the number being very less…Can you send them (States) a reminder…They should not delay this matter…You are dealing with children. The faster, the better…We saw some scheme, which is placed on record by the Delhi Govt. If the NCPCR can also on the basis of this and other aspects be taken into account, if you can come up with some comprehensive scheme…Amicus, we will list it after vacation.In the meanwhile let's see what the State Governments are doing…"

    Mr. Agarwal proposed NCPCR can set out uniform guidelines that can be adopted by the States for rescue and rehabilitation of the Children in Street Situation.

    "What strategies the States will adopt for second and third categories also NCPCR can guide."

    Advocate Shobha Gupta, appearing on behalf of WWI submitted that a parallel process for adoption can also be initiated -

    "Qua this particular exercise when your lordships are directing w.r.t. Collection of data of children who are found on streets…The initial data was undertaken with respect to children who were orphans or abandoned or surrendered. This is w.r.t. Children on the street.. With my lord's order there is sufficient information on the portal…If they side by side start doing the further exercise required under the Juvenile Justice Act…Relegating them for the purpose of adoption. Now we have enough data on the portal…We have number of parents waiting in the list who are registered and can give them shelter and home…We can achieve that if parallel exercise is undertaken."

    The Bench noted, "In their website they have indicated 6 stages and now we are talking about 3,4, and 5. We will ask them to simultaneously take these steps also."

    A further observation was made by the Bench, that the issue of adoption might not be relevant for the children in street situations -

    "This can be only in respect of abandoned children and children who are orphans or have no parents. We see that most of the children who are identified or half of them are children on the streets in the daytime and go back in the evenings to their parents. So, this adoption might not be relevant for them. We will have to find a way to remove them from the streets and provide them with facilities…We will have to look at those schemes."

    Ms. Gupta pointed out that they might be eligible for the category of surrendered children and can avail the benefits of foster care and sponsorship.

    "The Act refers to 4 categories of children. Orphan, abandoned, surrendered. So, surrendered may be where parents and family are there, but not able to take care. Institutionalisation to the extent of providing foster care..or sponsorship."

    The Bench noted -

    "We will go into these details on the next occasion. Let more information come…We will take up this matter in detail, we will list this in the second week of January."

    Hearing the concerned parties, the Bench dictated the order -

    "Pursuant to the order passed on 15.11.2021, an affidavit has been filed on behalf of NCPCR bringing it to the notice of this court that the commission conducted meetings with the concerned authorities for implementation of SOP 2.0.. On 02.12.2012, 03.12.2021 and 06.12.2021, 28 states/UTs have participated in meetings and provided info for identification of children in street situations. Data provided by State Gov with respect to rehabilitation of children in street situations have been placed on record. Looking at the number of children in street situation who have been identified it appears that the process of identification is at a slow pace. It was brought to the notice of this court ….on 15.11.2021 that 'Save the children' mapped 2 lakh children in 10 districts in the States of UP, Maharashtra, WB and Delhi. There might be lakhs of children in street situations in remaining parts of the country who need to be rescued and rehabilitated. Stage I in Bal Swaraj CiSS portal related to identification of children. As stage I is crucial, State/UTs are directed to take immediate action to identify children in street situations without any delay. The required info shall be uploaded on the web portal of NCPCR…The concerned authorities in State and UT need not wait for any further direction from NCPCR or directions of this court for proceedings with collecting the social background…, identification of benefits…, enquiries to be conducted by the chaired welfare committees under JJ Act, 2015, linking the scheme/benefits with the children or families/guardians.

    NCPCR is directed to file a status report of the information received from the State Gov/UTs on Bal Swaraj CiSS portal within a period of 4 weeks from today. In the meanwhile the DMs shall upload relevant info., not restricted to stage I… the State Govt. and UT to file a status report on rescuing and rehabilitation of children in street situations in 3 weeks from today...List this matter (2nd and 3rd week) in Jan."

    The Bench added -

    "We will have this also on the 17th."

    NCPCR has filed affidavits with respect to the Children in Street situation - one in compliance with order dated 26.10.2021 and the other with order dated 15.11.2021.

    In the affidavit filed by NCPCR in compliance with the Court's order dated 26.10.2021, it had stated -

    • The NCPCR developed the Standard Operating Procedure for Care and Protection of Children in Street Situation 2.0 to replace the older SOP (2016-17), which did not work for a non-homogenous population of different categories of CiSS. The SOP 2.0 was developed with the learning from the working of the older SOP and with the aim to strengthen the process and interventions regarding "Children in Street Situations" (CiSS).
    • The SOP 2.0 seeks to create a convergence amongst the various functionaries, institutions, government schemes and policies for a holistic approach in providing care, protection and restoration of CiSS. The crucial features of SOP 2.0 are -

    1. Identification of issues and challenges faced by children in streets

    2. Recognising and categorising CiSS

    3. Categorisation of Children for Appropriate Intervention

    4. Process and Procedure to be followed by authorities for ensuring care and protection to CiSS as well as defining the role of each authority while dealing with the CiSS.

    5. This SOP 2.0 is a mere collation of all legal frameworks and procedures for implementation of all the States and UTs.

    • Three broad categories of CiSS were identified -

    1. Children without support living on the street alone.

    2. Children stay on the streets in the day and are back home in the night with their families who reside in a nearby slum/hutments

    3. Children living in the streets with their families.

    • NCPCR collated the response of the States Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Sikkim, Arunachal Pradesh, Bihar, Delhi, Chandigarh and Gujarat with respect to the Action taken by them as per the SOP 2.0.
    • It was pointed out that 'Save the Children' had mapped the data of 2 lakh children in the streets in 10 cities of UP, WB, Maharashtra and Delhi and the same was made available to NCPCR. None of the states other than West Bengal had filed a report to show steps taken to rescue and rehabilitate the said children.
    • In the State of Goa, Karnataka, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Odisha, Assam, Gujarat, Uttarakhand, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, West Bengal, Delhi and Jharkhand, NCPCR had identified 51 religious places to rescue and rehabilitate children found in the street life and child beggary and child labour.
    • The Commission had developed a portal "Baal Swaraj". At present, a new link "CiSS" has been devised on the Baal Swaraj portal to exclusively collect data with respect to Children in Street Situations. There are two action points in "Baal Swaraj Portal-CiSS Link" - one is with respect to the 2 lakh children already identified by 'Save the Children' and the other is with respect to identification by other States.
    • 8 stages have been identified by NCPCR for the rescue and rehabilitation including following stages of follow-up action.

    Stage 1: for information relating to identification of child.

    Stage 2: for uploading information for knowing the social background of the child.

    Stage 3: identification of benefits and recommendations under the Individual Care Plan (ICP) of the child are to get uploaded

    Stage 4: the order of the Child Welfare Committee is to be uploaded.

    Stage 5: has the name of schemes/benefits, which can be linked with the child or the family or the guardian.

    Stage 6: a checklist for the follow up of the child is given as per the three categories of the child identified in the SOP 2.0.

    In the affidavit filed by NCPCR pursuant to the order of 15.11.2021, it has pointed out -

    • NCPCR has sent letters on 23.11.2021 to all the Principal Secretaries, Department of Women and Child Development/Social Welfare of each State/UTs to attend virtual meetings with the Commission scheduled on 02.12.2021, 03.12.2021 and 06.12.2021 to discuss the measures/steps taken by them for implementing the SOP 2.0.
    • At the meetings the States intimated the Commission the steps taken by them to identify children in street situations. NCPCR has noted that most of the states are still at the identification stage, although some states like Gujarat, Kerala, Telangana, Assam and Madhya Pradesh have already taken steps for rescue and rehabilitation.
    • As per the order of the Court, some states have started uploading data on the NCPCR portal "Baal Swaraj-CiSS", which are being collated further by NCPCR for better understanding.
    • As per the data collated based on data uploaded by States as on 09.12.2021, the number of children in street situations have been identified as 3655.

    [Case: In Re Children in Street Situations Suo Moto Writ (C) No.6/2020]

    Click Here To Read/Download Order

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