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Friday, June 25, 2021

Supreme Court to districts: Take charge of kids orphaned by Covid

The bench observed that it is not aware of the number of children who are dying of hunger and not in care of the parents in such a large country in this devastating pandemic.

By: Express News Service | New Delhi |
May 29, 2021 4:24:32 am
Maratha quotaThe Supreme Court of India (File Photo)

EXPRESSING ANGUISH over the plight of children orphaned by Covid or abandoned during the pandemic, the Supreme Court Friday asked district authorities to “immediately take charge of such children and attend to their basic needs without waiting for any further orders” from the court.

A bench of Justices L Nageswara Rao and Aniruddha Bose also directed authorities to upload data on the number of affected children since March 2020 on the ‘Bal Swaraj’ portal set up by the National Commission for Protection of Children’s Rights (NCPCR) by Saturday evening.

It pointed out that the pandemic has created an unprecedented situation, which has a cascading effect on vulnerable children.

The bench also asked the Centre and state governments to furnish the latest information about the identification of children who have become orphans after March 2020, “whether it be due to the pandemic or otherwise, and steps taken for attending to their basic needs”.

On Tuesday, the Ministry of Women and Child Development had said that 577 children across the country have been orphaned since April 1 by the second wave.

Hearing an urgent application filed by Amicus Curiae Advocate Gaurav Agrawal in a suo motu case concerning the welfare of children in protection homes in the wake of the pandemic, Justice Rao said the court hoped that authorities will understand the agony of children on the streets without access to food and address the situation without delay.

The bench observed that it is not aware of the number of children who are dying of hunger and not in care of the parents in such a large country in this devastating pandemic.

Justice Rao said that he had seen in news reports that there are about 2,000 such children in Maharashtra and asked counsels to consider preparing charts without delay.

The bench also asked the states to provide the data on the affected children separately by Monday and fixed the case for hearing next on June 1. The court pointed out that the Provisions of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015 make it clear that there is an obligation on part of authorities to ensure that children in need are taken care of.

The Amicus Curiae had filed an application seeking direction in respect of children orphaned by Covid and faced increased chances of trafficking.

Appearing for the Centre, Additional Solicitor General Aishwarya Bhati told the bench that the Government had issued various advisories regarding the care and protection of these children — not just those who lost both parents, but abandoned children as well.

Senior Advocate Bhati also said the Government has declared child protection staff as front line workers for vaccination.

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