On July 27th, the Bench had ordered all State governments to complete the process of identifying children who were orphaned by the pandemic and ensure their education was not disrupted. The Amicus Mr. Gaurav Agrawal presented a state-wise report on the status of these orphaned children and the measures taken by State governments on August 26th.
SC Asks State Governments to Bear 50% School’s Fees
The Court had previously ordered that States should ensure that orphaned children can complete the on-going academic year in their current schools. This direction was to provide relief to children enrolled in private schools who may now have trouble paying fees.
On August 26th, the Court directed State Governments to work with private schools to ensure that orphaned childrens’ education is not disrupted. They must also work with the Child Welfare Committees and District Education officers. The Court suggested that either private schools should be asked to waive fees, or the State Governments should bear half the fees.
ASG Aishwarya Bhati submitted that the State Governments had registered 2,600 children for benefits under the PM CARES Scheme. Of these, 418 had been approved. She informed the Court that the Scheme would take care of the education expenses of all orphaned children aged 10 years and under.
The Court directed that the investigation and approval process under the PM CARES scheme should be expedited. Further, fees for children who do not qualify under PM CARES must be borne by the State governments.
Court Gives State-Specific Directions to Complete Identification Of Orphaned Children
Amicus Mr. Gaurav Agrawal took the Court through the affidavits filed by each State Government that contained steps taken to identify orphaned children.
The Bench noted that Manipur, Meghalaya, Tripura, Nagaland, Mizoram and Sikkim had made satisfactory progress. Though it noted that, in Manipur, only children who had lost both parents were entitled to benefits under Manipur’s CM Bal Sewa Scheme. The Court urged the Manipur Government to consider children who’ve lost one parent as well.
Advocate Pragya Baghel, for the State of Jharkhand, informed the Court that steps had been taken to ask private schools to waive fees for orphaned children.
The Court then considered the uploading of information to the Bal Swaraj Portal. They emphasised that all six stages of identification and compliance on this portal was necessary so that children’s education was not disrupted. They directed the States of Andhra Pradesh, Haryana, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Telangana and West Bengal to complete uploading the information.
Advocate Manish Kumar, appearing for the State of Bihar, argued that the Union should give more funds for the care of orphaned children. The amicus pointed out that this may upset the separation of powers. The Court directed that this issue be discussed at a later date.
Advocate Shobha Gupta appeared as an intervenor for two orphaned children who were not being permitted to continue their education in Delhi. She was directed to file a fresh application, impleading their school and the Delhi Government. The Bench stated that it would hear the particulars of her case on the next date.