Del HC | In light of COVID-19, Magistrates should record statements of children under S. 164 CrPC over video conferencing or by visiting observation homes

Delhi High Court: A Division Bench of D.N. Patel, CJ and Prateek Jalan, J., directed that the statements under Section 164 of the Code of criminal Procedure, 1973 of children in need of care and protection should be recorded by the Metropolitan Magistrate over video conferencing or by visiting the observation homes.

Petitioner has established a Child Care Institution under the provisions of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015.

Reason for filing the present petition was that, out of a rescue operation in July, 2020 ten minors who were working as child labour were rescued and brought to the Mukti Ashram.

Contention of the petitioner is that the children were compelled to leave Mukti Ashram and physically attend the Court of the Metropolitan Magistrate for recording of their statements under Section 164 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 and for giving samples for COVID-19 testing.

Respondents should lay down procedures for recording of the childrens’ statements and their medical testing, which does not require them to leave the institution or at atleast to attend at crowded public places.

Bench stated that in the interest of the children who require care and protection it should be necessitated that their exposure t crowded environments be avoided in the prevailing circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic. As far as possible, they shouldn’t be required to leave the premises of the Child Care Institution in which they are housed.

Court directed as follows:

  • Statements under Section 164 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 of children in need of care and protection can be recorded by the Metropolitan Magistrate over video conferencing or if the Metropolitan Magistrate deems it necessary, he/ she can visit the concerned observation homes/Child Care Institutions where such children are housed, for recording the statement in person.
  • Proceedings before the Child Welfare Committees and other bodies where the children are required to participate, are already being conducted by video-conference. We direct that this process should be continued, and the requirement of taking the child out of the home/ Child Care Institution should be avoided as far as possible.
  • Covid-19 tests will also be carried out by the State authorities for the children in need of care and protection who are staying at different homes/Child Care Institutions under the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015. The sample shall be collected for this purpose either at the home/Child Care Institution or at the office of the Sub-Divisional Magistrate of the area. The authorities will ensure that all precautions for the welfare of the child are taken, and that the sample is expeditiously collected, so that the child can return to the home/ institution.

In view of the above observations, petition was dismissed. [Bachpan Bachao Andolan v. GNCTD, WP(C) No. 4361 of 2020, decided on 28-07-2020]

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