COVID-19| Financial disability of parents/guardians should not hinder education of children restored from Child Care Institutions; Supreme Court issues directions

Supreme Court: The 3-judge bench of L. Nageswara Rao, Hemant Gupta and Ajay Rastogi, JJ has issued directions to ensure education of children in Child Care Institutions which has suffered due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Amicus Curiae Gaurav Agrawal suggested the Court that infrastructure available in the Child Care Institutions for providing education to children needs to be assessed. On the basis of the assessment of the infrastructure, Child Welfare Committees and the Juvenile Justice Boards through the District Child Protection Units shall inform the State Governments about the deficiencies in the infrastructure, stationary/books etc. It is necessary to ensure that extra classes should be held for children residing in Child Care institutions to make them holistically prepared to take the examinations in March-April, 2021.

Amicus Curiae also highlighted that State of Telangana is providing extra classes for children in Child Care Institutions. The other states should also follow the lead of the State of Telangana and ensure that such extra classes be provided for students/ the children restored to the families due to coronavirus pandemic.

“2,27,518 children were in the Child Care Institutions before the pandemic and 1,48,788 children have been restored to their families/guardians and other foster care homes, as a result of the pandemic. Educational needs of those children who have been handed over to their parents or guardians should be assessed. They might not have attended schools due to various reasons including the financial distress of the parents.”

Further, State of Tripura is following a practice of providing financial aid of Rs.2160 per month to the parents or guardians of the children who have been restored from the Child Care Institutions.

Taking note of the aforementioned submissions of the amicus curiae, the Court issued the following directions

  1. State governments to provide the necessary infrastructure, stationary, books, printers along with the other equipment that is necessary for children to quantitatively attend online classes on the basis of the recommendation made by the District Child Protection Units, within 30 days from the date of the order.
  2. State Government shall also ensure that the required number of tutors are made available for teaching the children in various Child Care Institutions. Extra classes, if necessary, should also be taken for the children to help them in preparing for the final examinations to be held next year.
  3. District Child Protection Units shall inform the District Legal Service Authorities about the progress made in the infrastructure being provided to the Child Care Institutions and the functioning of online classes periodically i.e. once in a month.
  4. District Child Protection Units to make an assessment of the children who are restored to their families or guardians or foster homes during the lockdown by taking the assistance of other statutory bodies like the Child Welfare Committees and Juvenile Justice Boards.
  5. District Child Protection Units to enquire about the financial position of the parents or guardians of the children. If it is found that the children are not being sent to school in view of the financial disability of their parents or guardians, the District Child Protection Units are directed to recommend to State governments to grant financial aid to the parents or guardians concerned. On such recommendation being made by the District Child Protection Units, the concerned authorities of the State governments are directed to release an amount of Rs.2000/- per month for each child, to the parents or guardians of the children in distress, which shall be used for the purpose of the education of the children.
  6. District Care Protection Units to ascertain the number of children who are restored to their families due to lockdown in a particular geographical locality and organize a guide or a teacher for each group of 25 children.

The Court will now hear the matter in February, 2021.

[IN RE: CONTAGION OF COVID 19 VIRUS IN CHILDREN PROTECTION HOMES, 2020 SCC OnLine SC 1026, order dated 15.12.2020]

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