Covid Coverage: Children in Protection Homes – May 28th 2021

The order instructed that the authorities are obliged under the Juvenile Justice Act, 2015 to ensure that children are taken care of.

Order to Upload Information on Abandoned Children on NCPCR Portal

The hearing began with the Amici listing the relevant provisions of the Juvenile Justice Act, 2015.  His note was about children who’ve lost both their parents or guardians and children who’ve lost the earning member of their family.

He stated that section 36 of the Act detailed the scope for aid. Clause 1 deals with orphaned children below the age of 6 who are to be placed in specialised adoption agencies where available. Clause 2 states the role of the Committee following inquiry is to form an opinion based on the available care and support, following which they may send the child to a Specialised Adoption Agency.

He also referred to the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Model Rules, 2016. These rules direct what immediately is to be done if a child is abandoned. In such cases the information must immediately be uploaded onto a portal. On questioning, Agrawal clarified that the district task force mentioned in his note would be an ad-hoc body.

The Bench, after mentioning the differential responses of various states, advised that they wait for each State and the Union to file their response. Agrawal noted that identification of children is a major issue due to the varying methods of the states.

Agrawal then submitted that following identification, addressing the immediate needs of the child was of utmost priority. The Act provides that the children must be presented to the necessary authority within 24 hours. Agrawal suggested that this may not be possible or be sufficient during the current pandemic. District Administrations must find a way to care for the child and the solution may not solely be monetary relief.

Assistant Solicitor General Aishwarya Bhati then made her submissions. She submitted that the Centre had issued an advisory modifying the 24-hour requirement to provide for virtual production. The advisory also mandates that one Child Care Institution (CCI) in each district must be earmarked for these abandoned children. Child protection staff had also been made frontline workers for vaccination and Tele-medicine services had been provided for children and staff alike for physical and mental healthcare.

The Bench asked the Assistant Solicitor General to present a broad picture of the problem and to provide the figures of children who’ve lost one or both parents, and the measures States have taken under the Act to ensure that these children are immediately tended to.

The ASG and the Advocate representing NCPCR, Swarupama Chaturvedi, then made submissions regarding the Balswaraj portal that NCPCR had set up to monitor these children. Each district has been given a login to provide information on the number of orphans and the status of care.

Justice Nageswara Rao then dictated the order. The order instructed that there was an obligation upon authorities under the Juvenile Justice Act, 2015 to ensure that children are taken care of according to the procedure laid out. The order further directed all district authorities to upload all the necessary details onto the Balswaraj portal by tomorrow evening (May 29th 2021). The ASG and State Counsels must also receive and present the latest information regarding identification of children and the steps taken to address basic needs. The case was listed again for next Tuesday (June 1st 2021) with an emphasis from Justice Rao to immediately address the situation.