COVID Coverage: Children in Protection Homes, February 21st 2022

On February 21st 2022, the SC directed all States and UTs to implement NCPCR's suggestions for the care of children in street situations.

Justices Nageswara Rao and B.R. Gavai directed all State governments and Union Territories (UTs) to implement the National Commission of Child Protection Rights’ (NCPCR) latest suggestions for identifying, rescuing and rehabilitating children living on the streets. The Court had previously directed the NCPCR to devise these suggestions after amicus Advocate Gaurav Agrawal pointed out that there was no uniform standard for the care of street children across the country. 

The concerns of trafficked children came to the Court’s attention while hearing an earlier suo motu case. In the earlier case, the Court attempted to ensure that children in protection homes were treated in accordance with the Juvenile Justice Act (2015) during the pandemic. The Court’s concern soon expanded to include children who were yet to be rescued from the streets for rehabilitation in child protection homes. 

The NCPCR’s latest suggestions specify the responsibilities of all relevant officials in the care of children in street situations. The suggestions list immediate services that the States and UTs must provide to such children as well. Finally, the suggestions enumerate additional measures to be taken to protect children who have been victims of offences such as sexual abuse, child labour, trafficking and drug peddling. 

Rao J commented that the suggestions form a comprehensive policy on the subject. The Bench directed State governments and UTs to work on implementing the suggestions immediately. NCPCR was directed to conduct periodic, preferably monthly, reviews of the implementation. Additional Solicitor General K.M. Nataraj, appearing for the NCPCR, stated that State governments and UTs have failed to attend past meetings. The Bench once again directed States and UTs to cooperate with the NCPCR. 

Mr. Sachin Patil, appearing for the State of Maharashtra, stated that the Union government had rejected Maharashtra’s proposal for the construction of  26 Open Shelters in different parts of the State. He requested the Court’s attention in this matter. The Bench directed Mr. Patil to file an application to this effect. The issue will be heard as soon as this application is filed.