“A time has come when we have to make compassion go viral in the months ahead, so that together we wither the storm and emerge stronger. The children need our compassion, attention and support.”
Calcutta High Court: The thought above was recorded by a Special Bench of Soumen Sen and Harish Tandon, JJ. constituted to hear a suo motu writ petition in connection with contagion of COVID-19 in Children Protection Homes passed a series of directions concerning welfare of children/juveniles in the State. The proceedings took place via video conferencing.
In view of the COVID-19 being declared a pandemic, the Court gave certain directions which include that the Principal Secretary, Child Welfare, is to ensure that the Superintendent attached to Children Homes in the State shall not leave the Home until the lockdown is lifted. Proper screening of the children should be made at regular intervals and if any child is reported to have the symptoms of COVID-19, immediate steps to have taken for his/her treatment. The superintendent must remove fear from the minds of the children and change the channel of their thoughts from corona worry to joy channel through dancing, art, music, gardening, yoga, meditation etc. The District Judges shall ensure that the JJBs and the Child Rights Courts are functioning, and file a comprehensive report on or before the next date of hearing.
On 3-4-2020, the Supreme Court in Contagion of COVID-19 Virus in Children Protection Homes, In re (Suo Motu WP (C) No. 4 of 2020) had passed various directions upon State Governments and nodal departments. Having regard to this order of the Supreme Court, the High Court highlighted certain measures that require immediate attention, including:
a) Video conferencing and special online sittings should be ensured in JJBs, CWCs and Children Homes.
b) Release of the children to their respective families as far as feasible.
c) Periodical visits shall be made by the Health Department to ensure proper health and hygiene of the children.
d) Isolation rooms shall be established in every Homes.
e) The Superintendent attached to each Homes shall monitor each child and upon noticing any symptom of COVID-19 shall take immediate steps to isolate such child and report the matter to the CMOH to ensure examination of the child clinically and pathologically including test for COVID-19, if there are infections to that effect.
f) The Superintendent must also be attentive towards the staff of the Home and shall not allow any staff who may have developed such symptoms unless the said staff is fully quarantined and certified by the Medical Officer that the staff is fit to resume his duties.
g) Any child produced for the first time whether before CWC or JJB and required to be sent on CCIs or any other Homes, should be first put in isolation to complete the quarantine period before being allowed to interact with the children of such Home. The Superintendent must ensure regular monitoring of such child.
h) Exodus of migrants has been noticed. The children of the said migrants may be in need of care and protection. The Government must take care of the children of the migrant labourers and migrant families arrived in the State since the outbreak of COVID-19 and shall identify the children who may be considered as CNCP. The rights of such children shall be protected. In the report to be filed by the Government, the children of such migrant labourers and families as may be identified as CNCP, shall be disclosed. The report must also indicate the steps taken to protect the child rights of such migrant children.
The Principle Secretary, Department of Women and Child Development and Social Welfare and the Principle Secretary, Health Department, Government of West Bengal were directed to file a comprehensive report with regard to the steps taken in terms of the directions passed by the Supreme Court on 3-4-2020 and by the High Court in the instant proceedings on or before the next date of hearing.
The matter was adjourned till 21-4-2010 for consideration reports to be filed by all the stake holders in the meantime. [Contagion of COVID-19 Virus in Children Protection Homes, In re, 2020 SCC OnLine Cal 796 , dated 8-4-2020]