OBSERVING that it is the Maharashtra government’s responsibility to protect and provide shelter to the children of women prisoners, the Bombay High Court Thursday directed the government to submit a comprehensive reply on what steps it has taken towards implementation of suggestions made by an NGO regarding a policy for such children, and what more it proposed to do in this regard.
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The High Court was hearing a suo motu petition on the issue after a Supreme Court order in December 2014, which directed all high courts in 24 states in the country to examine the “rights of prisoners, especially females and children with them”.
Prayas, a field project of the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, has been assisting the HC in the 2014 case.
It has made several suggestions through a report that emphasised the need for better facilities, protection and welfare of children of women prisoners.
Taking note of the fact that mothers of these children often do not have any family support, the court pointed out that the state was under greater obligation to look into this matter.
“Under the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act 2015, a clear separation has been provided for, between children who are in need of care and protection and those children who are in conflict with law. Children who do not have anyone to take care of them have to be sent to a shelter home with proper and basic facilities and infrastructure,” the high court said.
“Prayas, which is working along with Tata Institute of Social Sciences, has given detailed suggestions on how to combat the issue,”said Chief Justice Manjula Chellur.
“The state government is obligated to look into the suggestions and take appropriate steps. We are concerned about the welfare of such children,” added Chellur.
A division bench of Chief Justice Chellur and Justice G S Kulkarni directed the state government to file an affidavit, stating what steps it has taken towards implementation of the suggestions made and what else it proposed to do. The state has been asked to file its reply in four weeks.