Kolkata: The National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) has issued summons to senior Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officers in West Bengal and Bihar over the “poor response” of the two states to the NCPCR’s child marriage review meetings, ThePrint has learnt.
From Bengal, the NCPCR has summoned Sanghamitra Ghosh, principal secretary, Women and Child Development and Social Welfare department.
Sent Wednesday, the summons were issued to Ghosh under Section 14(1) of the Commissions for Protection of Child Rights Act, 2005. ThePrint has accessed a copy of the document, which asks Ghosh to appear before NCPCR chairman Priyank Kanoongo in New Delhi, at 3 pm on 3 April.
The child marriage review meetings were held after the NCPCR on 12 January wrote to principal secretaries of women and child development departments across states and Union Territories to conduct awareness programmes, hold meetings, and prepare a school-wise list of student drop-outs. ThePrint has a copy of the letter. Citing media reports the NCPCR had observed that in India many child marriages take place in the run-up to ‘Akshaya Tritiya’, an annual springtime festival.
According to the letter sent to Ghosh by Kanoongo Wednesday, a review meeting with officials of all 23 districts of West Bengal was scheduled on 16 February, but officials from only four districts, Alipurduar, Birbhum, Darjeeling and Malda, joined the proceedings.
“Observing the poor response, the virtual meeting was re-scheduled (for) 15 March, 2023, in two shifts (before & afternoon) for 19 districts. On 15 March 2023, a CDPO (Child Development Project Officer) representing DPO Murshidabad, an official representing (District Education Officer)… Malda, an official from Bankura district and DDPO, education department, Purulia, had joined the meeting, (but) none of them responded with the information desired by the commission except Purulia district,” stated the NCPCR’s letter to Ghosh.
Unhappy with the response, the NCPCR chairperson further wrote that “it seems that you (Ghosh) have not issued appropriate orders/directions in respect (to) the commission’s letter dated 12.01.2023”.
Speaking to ThePrint, Kanoongo said: “If the principal secretary fails to appear before the commission on the said date, action under Rule 10 and Rule 12 of Order XVI of the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908, will be initiated.” Rules 10 and 12 refer to a scenario where a person fails to comply with summons and possible action against him or her.
ThePrint reached Sanghamitra Ghosh for comment on email, WhatsApp and text messages, but received no response till the time of publication of this report.
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What the NCPCR has told Bihar
From Bihar, the NCPCR has summoned the secretary in the social welfare development, IAS officer Prem Singh Meena.
In its letter to Meena, dated 15 March and accessed by ThePrint, the NCPCR has said, “The commission scheduled a virtual review meeting with district officials of all districts of your state on 14 February, 2023, wherein only some officials from eight districts — Araria, Banka, Begusarai, Kaimur, Katihar, Munger and Nalanda — joined the meeting… The commission has observed a poor response from all districts. It seems that you have not issued appropriate orders.”
Meena has also been asked to appear before the commission on 3 April 3, at 4 pm, failing which the NCPCR has said it will initiate action for non-attendance, according to the summons.
ThePrint also reached Meena on email. The copy will be updated once a response is received.
(Edited by Nida Fatima Siddiqui)
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