Migrant Children’s Rights during Pandemic
Child Right's Trust v Union of India
The Supreme Court will monitor the steps taken by the Central and State Governments to address the fundamental rights violations of migrant children and children of migrant workers caused due to the pandemic.
Petitioner: Child Right's Trust; Nina Nayak
Lawyers: Jayna Kothari; Rukhsana Choudhury
Respondent: Union of India; Ministry of Labour and Empowerment; Ministry of Women and Child Development; Ministry of Food and Public Distribution; National Disaster Management Authority; National Commission for Protection of Child Rights.
Are the Central and State Governments fulfilling their obligation to protect the rights of migrant children and the children of migrant workers?
The petition has been filed by Child Rights Trust, and children’s rights advocate and activist Nina Nayak. They argue that the children of migrant workers, and migrant children were already a vulnerable group. The pandemic has only worsened the situation.
The Central and State governments have made efforts to address the precarious situation of migrant workers during the pandemic. However, there have been no plans to understand and address the harms to migrant children, and children of migrant workers. This petition has been filed seeking the intervention of the Supreme Court to rectify this situation.
Due to a lack of transit camps, labour colonies and quarantine facilities, migrant children have been forced to live in dangerous, informal conditions. Despite increased funding to the mid-day meal program by the Central Government, migrant children have been facing food insecurity ever since anganwadis and government schools were shut down at the beginning of the pandemic due to mismanaged implementation of schemes. There have been increases in the number of deaths in infants and children due to starvation, malnutrition and tiredness. This indicates an alarming deterioration in the healthcare provided to migrant children during the pandemic. The shift to online modes of learning at government schools without plans to provide access to technology to migrant children has resulted in a denial of their right to free education.
Due to the inaction of the government in addressing these problems, the petitioners have argued that the fundamental rights of migrant children guaranteed under Articles 14, 19, 21, 21A, 39, 45 and 47 are being violated. The petition sets out numerous obligations of the government under international conventions, in addition to constitutional commitments, that make such inaction unlawful.
A bench comprising of CJI S A Bobde, and Justices A S Bopanna and V Ramasubramanian has issued notice to the state governments to inform the court of the number and condition of migrant children.