ThE Delhi High Court has directed the state government to ensure officials working for rescue and rehabilitation of child labourers know their roles, “appalled” at the way child welfare committees dealt with a case.
The bench of Justice Kailash Gambhir and Justice P S Teji directed the Delhi chief secretary to issue guidelines “for fixing the responsibility of the officers” responsible for lapses “so as to make them accountable if there arises any lapse or inaction without there being sufficient or cogent reasons for the same”.
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The bench also directed the chief secretary to “collate” all the rules and directives regarding child labour, rescued children and child welfare “in form of a booklet” and ensure “every department and the officer concerned should mandatorily possess such a booklet, in a bid to prevent any such officer from pleading ignorance of his own duties”. The court also directed the government to create a “proper scheme to address the issue of rehabilitation of these rescued children by providing some kind of economic help so that the parents or guardians do not force them to work as child labourers again.”
The directions were issued on a habeas corpus plea filed by the mother of a 12-year-old boy, who was rescued while working at a welding garage and sent to an NGO’s children’s shelter home.
The woman approached the High Court after child welfare committee (CWC) officials delayed hearing her plea to be allowed to take her son back home, and also did not allow her to meet him at the shelter.
During proceedings, the bench issued notice to labour department officials and also summoned the chairpersons of CWC Lajpat Nagar and CWC Kalkaji over questions raised in the case.
In its judgment on September 4, the bench expressed “shock” as the chairpersons of the two CWCs said they were “totally ignorant” of the action plans and standard operating procedures (SOPs) put in place by the department of women and child development.
The chairpersons of the two CWCs are responsible for implementing the provisions of the Juvenile Justice Care and Protection Act and Rules, and empowered with all authority for the welfare of children in need of protection.
The court also said it was “appalled” that CWCs had adjourned hearings instead of speedily dealing with cases.
The chairperson of Lajpat Nagar CWC, Jas Ram Kaim, told the court that he was “not aware of any such SOP nor has he been given any kind of training to know how the cases of such children are to be dealt with”.
“To our consternation and dismay, if the capital of the country, which is endowed with better infrastructure and other backups, fails to take effective steps in its drive to rescue the children and doesn’t succeed in properly rehabilitating them in terms of the directives given by the Hon’ble Apex Court and the guidelines issued by the SOP, then we fail to fathom what would be the providence or fate of other states/districts of the country where good infrastructural facilities and manpower are scant and not adequate,” the bench observed.