New Delhi: The Supreme Court Monday said the process of identifying “children in street situations”, adversely hit by Covid-19 pandemic, is at a “very slow pace” and directed the states and union territories (UTs) to take immediate steps to identify such children and rehabilitate them without waiting for its directions.
A bench comprising justices L Nageswara Rao and B R Gavai, hearing a sup motu case about the children who are adversely affected by the pandemic by losing either one or both the parents, said that there might be “lakhs of children in street situations” in the country.
The top court took note of the affidavit of the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR), which had conducted meetings with the state and UTs, on the issue such as identification and rehabilitation of such children.
“The data provided by the state governments in respect of the scheme of rehabilitation for such children has been placed on record. Looking at the number of the ‘children in street situations’ who have been identified, it appears that the process of identification is at slow pace,” the bench noted in its order.
It said when the matter was brought to the notice on November 15 by NGO “Save the Children” which had reported that there were two lakh such children in ten districts of Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, West Bengal and Delhi.
“There might be lakhs of children in street situation in the remaining parts of the country who need to be rescued and rehabilitated,” it said.
“The state governments/UTs are directed to take immediate action for identifying children in street situation without any delay. The required information shall be uploaded on the web portal of the NCPCR (Baal Swaraj). The concerned authorities of the state government/UTs need not wait for any further direction from NCPCR or from this court..,” it ordered.
The top court said the process of collecting the information with regard to social background of the children, identification of benefits under the individual care plan and the inquires have to be conducted by the Child Welfare Committees under the Juvenile Jusitce (care and protection) Act.
It also directed the NCPCR to file a status report based on the information to be received from states and UTs and upload them on its portal within a period of four weeks from today.
“In the meanwhile, District Magistrates shall upload relevant information, not restricted to stage one (identification), but also the information relating to the other stages (welfare). The state government and UTs shall file status reports about steps taken for identifying and rehabilitating the children in street situation in period of three weeks from today,” it said.
The bench then fixed the case for further hearing of the in January and ordered that the copies of the status reports be given to amicus curiae and the counsel for NCPCR.
Earlier, the bench had directed all the District Magistrates states and UTs to take steps for care and protection of children in street situations prepared by the NCPCR in 2020.
It was also brought to the court’s notice that there are about 70,000 children in the streets of Delhi alone.
Additional Solicitor General K M Nataraj, appearing for NCPCR, had submitted that in his estimate, the number of such children might be 15-20 lakh across the entire country.