Supreme Court: Considering the need for continuous monitoring of the implementation of the schemes in favour of the affected children, the bench of L. Nageswara Rao and Aniruddha Bose, JJ has issued a series of directions after it was submitted before it by amicus curiae Gaurav Agarwal that identification of children who have become orphans or have lost one of their parents during this pandemic does not brook any delay. Immediate relief should follow the identification of such children without any delay.
The information provided by the State Governments/Union Territories on the ‘Bal Swaraj’ Portal upto 05.06.2021 shows that there are 30,071 children who have become orphans or have lost one parent or abandoned. There are 3,621 orphans, 26,176 children who have lost one parent and 274 children who have been abandoned.
- the DCPO should meet the child and the guardian immediately after receipt of information and ascertain the willingness of the guardian to take care of the child apart from making an assessment of the immediate needs of the child and the financial condition of the guardian.
- DCPO should ensure that adequate provision is made for ration, food, medicines and clothing etc. for the child.
- An amount of Rs.2,000/- per month should be released in favour of the child till CWC passes an order after due inquiry.
- follow-up with the child at least once a month to ascertain his/her well being.
- The financial benefit that was announced by Integrated Child Protection Scheme (ICPS) to the tune of Rs.2000/- per month per child has to be provided immediately by the DCPOs.
- There should be continuous monitoring regarding the welfare of the child by the District Child Protection Units (DCPUs) even after the financial order is passed by the CWC. This should be done periodically every three to six months.
- the affected children should not face a situation of discontinuance of their education. If the affected children are studying in Government schools they should be permitted to continue. In so far as the children who are studying in private schools, the State Governments/Union Territories should take steps and direct the continuance of the children in those schools at least for period of six months by which time some arrangement can be worked out.
- the protection of property rights of the children, further education of the children including employment opportunities, special care to be taken in respect of the girl child ( to be taken up on the next date of hearing.)
Illegal adoption of affected children
The State Governments/Union Territories are directed to prevent any NGO from collecting funds in the names of the affected children by disclosing their identity and inviting interested persons to adopt them. No adoption of affected children should be permitted contrary to the provisions of the JJ Act, 2015. Invitation to persons for adoption of orphans is contrary to law as no adoption of a child can be permitted without the involvement of CARA.
“Stringent action shall be taken by the State Governments/Union Territories against agencies/individuals who are responsible for indulging in this illegal activity.”
(1) The State Governments/Union Territories are directed to continue identifying the children who have become orphans or lost a parent after March, 2020 either due to Covid-19 or otherwise and provide the data on the website of the NCPCR without any delay. The identification of the affected children can be done through Childline (1098), health officials, Panchayati Raj Institutions, police authorities, NGOs etc.
(2) The DCPU is directed to contact the affected child and his guardian immediately on receipt of information about the death of the parent/parents. Assessment shall be made about the suitability and willingness of the guardian to take care of the child. The DCPU should ensure that adequate provisions are made for ration, food, medicine, clothing etc. for the affected child. Financial assistance to which the disconsolate child is entitled to under the prevailing schemes by the Central Government and the State Governments/Union Territories should be provided without any delay.
(3) The DCPO should furnish his phone number and the name and phone number of the local official who can be contacted by the guardian and the child. There should be a regular follow up by the concerned authorities with the child at least once in a month.
(4) If the DCPO is of the prima facie opinion that the guardian is not suitable to take care of the child, he should produce the child before the CWC immediately.
(5) CWC should provide for the essential needs of the child during the pendency of the inquiry without fail. The inquiry should be completed expeditiously. CWC shall ensure that all financial benefits to which the child is entitled are provided without any delay.
(6) The State Governments/Union Territories are directed to make provisions for continuance of education of the children both in Government as well as in private schools.
(7) The State Governments/Union Territories are directed to take action against those NGOs/individuals who are indulging in illegal adoptions.
(8) Wide publicity should be given to the provisions of the JJ Act, 2015 and the prevailing schemes of the Union of India and the State Governments/Union Territories which would benefit the affected children.
(9) DPCO shall take the assistance of government servants at the Gram Panchayat level to monitor the welfare of the disconsolate children who are devastated by the catastrophe of losing their parent/parents.
[IN RE CONTAGION OF COVID 19 VIRUS IN CHILDREN PROTECTION HOMES, 2021 SCC OnLine SC 422, order dated 07.06.2021]
FOR NCPCR Mr. K. M. Nataraj, Ld. ASG, Ms. Swarupama Chaturvedi, AOR, Ms. Indira Bhakar Adv., Ms. Neha Rai, Adv.
Union of India: Mr. Aishwarya Bhati, ASG Mr. Akshay Amritanshu, Adv Mr. B.V. Balram Das, AOR Mr. S.S. Rebello, Adv. Ms. Swati Ghildiyal, Adv. Mr. Prashant Singh B, Adv. Mr. G.S. Makker,Adv. Mr. Raj Bahadur, AOR Mr. Rana Mukherjee, Sr. Adv. Ms. Anitha Shenoy,Sr.Adv. Ms. Srishti Agnihotri, AOR Mr. Abhishek Jebaraj,Adv. Ms. Sanjana Grace Thomas,Adv. Ms. Anmol Gupta,Adv. Mr. Chandratanay Chaube, Adv.