Child rights body has requested 8 States to “produce” children living in care homes before local child welfare committees for their ‘immediate repatriation’ with their families
The Supreme Court on Friday sought a response from the country’s apex child rights body, the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR), to its request to eight States to “produce” children living in care homes before the local child welfare committees for their “immediate repatriation” with their families.
Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Mizoram, Karnataka, Kerala, Maharashtra and Meghalaya have 1.84 lakh children in care homes. This accounts for over 70% of the children in care homes.
A Bench led by Justice L. Nageswara Rao asked the NCPCR to respond why such repatriation of the children to their families should not be done on an individual basis. The next hearing is on November 24.
The court is suo motu monitoring the condition and welfare of children places in care homes across the country during the pandemic.
The NCPCR had, in a letter on September 24, explained need for a child to grow up in a familial environment. In an April 6 order, the court had directed juvenile authorities to “proactively consider whether a child or children should be kept in the child care institutions considering the best interest, health and safety concerns”.
However, on Friday, the court wondered whether the NCPCR could issue such general directions to the States without considering the education, health, safety of the children, the consent of their parents and their economical situation.
Amicus curiae Gaurav Agrawal said the NCPCR direction violated the Juvenile Justice Act of 2015. Besides, He argued that the pandemic would make a child more vulnerable to domestic abuse.
Additional Solicitor General Aishwarya Bhati agreed that repatriation ought to be considered in an individual basis.
Additional Advocate General of Tamil Nadu Balaji Srinivasan placed on record a note from the S. Madumathi, Secretary, Social Welfare Department, that a total of 43,083 children have been temporarily placed with their families. Mr. Srinivasan submitted that the department had been keeping tabs on them after the relaxation of the lockdown.
“The children being taken in child care homes, are not only those who are orphans/abandoned children, but also children hailing from downtrodden/financially unstable families. Therefore, if there is any child who is either being brought up by a single parent or comes from a family which is not able to bring up the child properly, then that child can avail all the facilities at a care home. All the children in these care homes are required to study in nearby government schools”, the note said.
“This year, the government has allotted ₹949 crore for providing laptops to children. From the year 2011 till 2020, State Government has spent ₹7,268 crore”, it stated.