New Delhi, Jun 8 (ILNS) The Supreme Court has directed the State Governments/Union Territories to make provisions for continuance of education of the children, both in Government as well as in private schools, who have become orphaned or lost a parent during the COVID-19 pandemic.
A Bench of Justice L Nageswara Rao and Justice Anirudhha Bose also directed the State Governments/Union Territories to take action against those NGOs/individuals, who were indulging in illegal adoptions.
The Court further directed the State Governments and Union Territories to continue identifying the Children, who have become orphans or lost a parent after March, 2020, either due to Novel Coronavirus or otherwise and provide the data on the website of the NCPCR without any delay.
The Bench also issued a slew of directions in a suo motu plea initiated by it titled as Re: Contagion of COVID-19 Virus in Children Protection Homes.
The Court directed the ‘District Child Protection Unit’ (DCPU) to contact the affected children and their guardians immediately on the 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 and clothing 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,” it said.
The Court said that if the DCPO is of the prima facie opinion that the guardian is not suitable to take care of the child, it should produce the child before the CWC immediately. It directed the CWC to provide for the essential needs of the child during the pendency of the inquiry without fail.
The inquiry should be completed expeditiously. CWC shall also ensure that all financial benefits to which the child is entitled, are provided without any delay, ordered the Bench.
The Court said, “Wide publicity should be given to the provisions of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015 and the prevailing schemes of the Union of India and the State Governments/Union Territories, which would benefit the affected children.
“The 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,” it added.
The Court has directed the Amicus Curiae to contact the nodal officers to be appointed by the States of Andhra Pradesh, Odisha, West Bengal, Assam, Uttarakhand, NCT of Delhi, Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh and UT of Jammu and Kashmir to obtain the information relating to the welfare of the children who are in a dolorous state due to loss of their parent/parents and submit a report.
The Court. during its hearing on June 7, 2021, dealt with the issues which needs its immediate attention relating to the Identification of the Children, Immediate Relief to Affected Children and Education of the Child.
It noted that the information provided by the State Governments/Union Territories on the ‘Bal Swaraj’ Portal up to June 5, 2021 showed that there are 30,071 children who have become orphans or have lost one parent or abandoned. The break-up given in the affidavit filed by the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) is that there are 3,621 orphans, 26,176 children who have lost one parent and 274 children who have been abandoned.
With regard to the “Continuance of Education,” of the affected Child, the Apex Court has accepted the suggestions of the learned amicus Curiae Gaurav Agarwal, who has suggested that 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.
Following which, the Court has directed the State Government/Union Territories should ensure that there is no break in the education of children who have become orphans or lost either one parent during the Pandemic.
With regard to the issue relating to 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, the Court said that it will be taken up on the next date of hearing, on June 27.
The Court also granted four weeks time to the Centre to furnish the modalities for the implementation of the scheme announced by the Prime Minister of India (PM-Cares for Children Scheme) on May 29, 2021. The Court directed the Union of India to file an affidavit setting out the details of the scheme dated May 29 and the manner of its implementation. ILNS/KR/RJ