The state government, in an affidavit filed before the Bombay High Court, has said it is not willing to provide funds to NGOs for initiatives to rehabilitate children of women prisoners. While the government accepted other suggestions made by NGO Prayas for the welfare of such children, it told the court that an alternative would have to be found for financial support to carry out welfare measures.
A division bench of Chief Justice Manjula Chellur and Justice N M Jamdar was hearing a suo motu petition based on a report filed by Prayas, which had pointed out the need to protect children of women prisoners and provide them a safe environment, and made suggestions for this.
In the last hearing, the court had asked the state to file a reply to Prayas’s recommendations, and the Secretary of Women and Child Development department to be present.
Some of the suggestions made in the report by Vijay Raghavan, the project director of Prayas and amicus curiae in the matter, include the mandatory presence of a legal aid lawyer during the interrogation of a child whose parents are accused in a case, setting up of anganwadis in the women’s section of prisons to look after the educational and nutritional needs of children, and informing every prisoner of her right to take her infant child with her in custody.
The NGO also suggested to the state that a recognised NGO be appointed for each prison to ensure that the inmates’ children are taken care of. The affidavit by the state says that instructions have been given to prisons and officials concerned to abide by the suggestions. The court has been given the list of the number of functional anganwadis near prisons.
“There was a meeting between the officials concerned. Most of the suggestions have been agreed upon, except providing financial assistance to NGOs for rehabilitation purposes. An alternative solution is being looked into,” state counsel Hiten Venegaonkar told the court.The Secretary of Women and Child Development department, who was present in the court, was asked by the bench to take the issue seriously and not delay implementing the measures. “There has been a lot of delay in taking these suggestions into consideration. We want you to be serious about this issue,” the court said. The state has also given prison-wise data on the number of women prisoners and anganwadis across prisons to cater to the children, as directed by the court. The matter will be heard again after two weeks.