The Calcutta High Court on Saturday asked the state government and the chairperson of the West Bengal Women’s Commission to submit details of child rights violations during the lockdown, following a report published in The Indian Express on June 19.
In an order, the court said, “We have come across an article published in The Indian Express, where the chairperson of the West Bengal Commission for Women has stated that during the lockdown period there has been a spike in domestic violence cases, including sexual abuse of children and violation of other rights.”
A division bench of Justices Soumen Sen and Justice Harish Tandon requested the Advocate General to look into the matter, and asked the state authorities to submit their report by June 25.
The Department of Women and Child Development and Social Welfare has already submitted a report stating that a system has been developed to conduct post-restoration follow-up on a regular basis.
The report comprises a collection of general information on several matters, including physical and mental health of “restored children”, economic condition of affected families, food security, and sensitisation about taking precautions against Covid-19.
The department claimed authorities had established direct interaction with affected children over the phone. Officials said at least once a week district and state-level officials were following up on these children saved from violence. The department said it had developed a structured questionnaire for this exercise.
Appreciating the steps taken by the government, the court called on the department secretary to file an affidavit by June 24, disclosing the nature of the instructions issued, and materials and documents related to the matter, “including the structured questionnaire, with illustrations of few cases” for a better understanding of the steps taken.
The court expressed unhappiness with a report submitted by the Home Department in which only the details of Bankura district, where 32 child marriages were prevented and one child was rescued, were mentioned.
Even the district data is updated only till April 29.
“We expected a more accurate and detailed affidavit with candid disclosure of all facts. We are unhappy with the affidavit. We have shared our views during the course of hearing and brought to his attention the various gaps in the said affidavit,” the judges said.
A senior home department officer said, “We have started the exercise to construct a detailed report that will be submitted to the Hon’ble High Court in the given time.”
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