Covid Coverage: Children in Protection Homes-17th January 2022

The Bench was concerned that a majority of State governments were yet to complete the first step of identifying street children.

On January 17th, 2022, the National Commission for the Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) appraised the Court about the efforts of State governments to rehabilitate children in street situations. Justices L. Nageswara Rao and B.V. Nagarathna were concerned that a majority of State governments were yet to complete the first and most crucial step of identifying street children. The Bench noted further that State governments were failing to update this information on the NCPCR’s Bal Swaraj portal. Rao J commented that the street children were in precarious situations and State governments must act fast to rescue and rehabilitate them. 

Additional Solicitor General (ASG) K.M. Nataraj informed the Bench that the Union government’s  model policy document for the rescue and rehabilitation of street children would be ready in two weeks. This policy may be replicated by State governments. Upon amicus Gaurav Agrawal’s insistence, the Bench also sought information from State governments about their policy for the rehabilitation of street children with no support, children who spent the day on the streets and those who lived on the streets with their families. 

The Bench highlighted the need for State governments to work alongside local police and civil society organizations to identify street children. Nagarathna J, however, was skeptical about an intervenor’s suggestion that local authorities of districts in which children continued to live  on the streets should be charged with contempt. Nagarathna J stated that government authorities should not carry out rescue work only under the threat of contempt in a welfare state. 

The Bench relied on personal experience and anecdotal knowledge to identify problems and offer solutions to State governments. Rao J, for instance, questioned the Delhi government’s claim that all street children had been rehabilitated, stating that he saw street children at traffic signals in the biting cold every day. Nagarathna J, formerly a judge of the Karnataka High Court, suggested that State governments study the Karnataka government’s policy of converting old buses to mobile schools. The Karnataka government had used this policy to keep children off the streets during the day.