‘Various measures already taken by State to address interests of orphaned children due to COVID’; Delhi High Court dismiss petition

delhi high court

Delhi High Court: In a PIL filed by the petitioner seeking directions to be issued to Union of India to safeguard the interests of children who were orphaned during the COVID-19 pandemic and grant appropriate compensation to the family members of those persons who passed away during COVID-19 on account of denial of access to adequate healthcare facilities, a division bench of Satish Chandra Sharma, CJ., and Sanjeev Narula, J., refused to pass any new orders on perusal of the affidavits placed by the State and held that various steps have been taken by the relevant stakeholders from time to time in furtherance of the cause espoused by the petitioner in the present PIL.

The Supreme Court vide an order dated 03-04-2020 formulated certain guidelines in relation to children in conflict with law and/or children housed in various foster/kinship homes who needed care and attention issued to inter alia Child Welfare Committees, Juvenile Justice Boards, State Governments and Child-Care Institutions. The Supreme Court vide an order dated 15-07-2020 issued further general directions in relation to education of children in CCIs, contact with children released from CCIs, review of cases of children in CCIs, examination by CWCs vis-à-vis institutionalisation / re-admission in view of Section 3 (xiii) of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015 and other COVID-19 related measures along with educational arrangements made to meet the needs of children in CCIs from the Government of NCT of Delhi.

On 21-01-2021, the Supreme Court introduced certain additional guidelines in relation to the education of children in CCIs and education of children handed over to their parents, guardian and foster care. On 07-06-2021, the Supreme Court observed that the affected children should not face a situation of discontinuance of their education. In this regard, the State Governments were directed to also issue necessary instructions to private educational institutions to provide affected children with a 6 (six) month grace period. The Supreme Court took note that although various welfare measures were available to such children, the last-mile penetration was not satisfactory. Thus, the Supreme Court issued 9 pointed directions to various stakeholders in relation to the monitoring and implementation of welfare measures provided to the affected children by the State including inter alia identification of affected children who have been orphaned on account of COVID-19. The Supreme Court vide order dated 27-06-2021 directed the State Government(s) to ensure that orphaned children are permitted to continue in the same school for the Academic Year 2021-2022, and necessary steps are taken towards free admission of affected children under the provisions of the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009.

As per the affidavit placed on record by respondents 4 and 5, it was stated that 2130 children/families have been sanctioned the benefits under the “Mukhyamantari COVID -19 PariwarSahayata Yojana’ MMPASY providing financial assistance to the families of those persons who passed away on account COVID-19 by way of monthly financial assistance to the tune of INR 2,500 and a one-time ex-gratia financial assistance to the tune of INR 50,000. As per the affidavit submitted by respondent 2, the initiatives taken include the establishment of Support, Advocacy & Mental Health Intervention for children in Vulnerable circumstances and Distress i.e., SAMVAD, a national initiative & integrated resource for child protection, mental health & psychological care duly supported by the Ministry of Women and Child Development, Government of India, an advisory regarding the continued operation of all one-stop centers, women help-lines and designated officials under women safety/welfare measures such as Child Marriage Prohibition Officers so as to help violence affected women and children in the circumstances created by the surge in COVID-19 and an advisory dated 01-05-2021 wherein the Ministry has requested State Governments to ensure access to safe and quick health services for women infected with and/or facing hardship on account of COVID-19.

Based on various affidavits filed by all the stakeholders, the Court noted that that between April, 2020 and April 2022 – 7006 children including 143 children who lost either one or both parent(s) on account of COVID-19) who were in need of care and protection because of their circumstances, were identified and (a) corresponding welfare measure and benefits were extended including (i) LADLI Scheme; (ii) Delhi Pension Scheme for Women in Distress; (iii) National Family Benefit Scheme; (iv) Delhi Pension Schemes for Women in Distress and National Family Benefit Scheme; (b) the Department of Women and Child Development, Government of NCT of Delhi in conjunction with the Department of Education, Government of NCT of Delhi facilitated admission and / or continuation of education (as the case may be); (c) various ration kits, dry ration kits and take home rations were provided.

Thus, the Court refused to pass any new order considering various steps have been taken by the relevant stakeholders from time to time in furtherance of the cause espoused by the petitioner herein.

[Jeetender Gupta v Union of India, 2023 SCC OnLine Del 6454, decided on decided on 25-08-2023]

Advocates who appeared in this case :

Petitioner in person.

Mr. Chetan Sharma, ASG and Mr.Ravi Prakash, CGSC with Mr.Amit Gupta, Mr. Aman Rewaria, Mr. Farman Ali, Mr. Saurabh Tripathi, Mr. Vikramaditya Singh & Mr. Ghanshyam Jha, Advocates for respondent/ UOI.

Mr. Anuj Aggarwal, ASC with Ms.Ayushi Bansal, Mr. Yash Upadhyay, Advocates for respondents No.4 & 5/ GNCTD.

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