New Delhi: Amid reports of Covid-19 spreading in Child Care Institutions (CCIs), an application has been filed in the Supreme Court, highlighting how the Centre has not fulfilled its 2018 directive to prepare a roadmap to improve the management of CCIs, keeping in mind the interest of children in need of protection.
Filed Tuesday by advocate Aparna Bhat, who was an amicus curiae in the 2018 matter, the application claimed the government had submitted before the court at the time that it would develop an interactive database of CCIs to ensure safety and welfare of the children living there.
The database was to give live updates about the children and a change of their shelter home, if any.
This commitment was made to the court in a suo motu proceeding case, which was started after incidents of sexual assault on inmates of a Muzaffarpur shelter home were brought to its notice.
Bhat’s application comes at a time when 57 minor girls at a Kanpur shelter home have been found to be Covid-positive, of which 5 are pregnant and one is also allegedly HIV positive. Two other girls who tested negative are also expecting.
It ordered the Tamil Nadu government to give a report on the causes that led to the spread of the virus at the shelter and enumerate the steps it has taken to ensure the other children remain safe.
Bhat’s application stated the top court had on 5 December 2018 recorded the Centre’s undertaking to prepare a vision document or roadmap to manage shelters and rights of the children. And, it asked the government to share the document with Bhat.
However, according to Bhat, 18 months later, she is yet to receive any such report from the Centre, prompting her to move the court.
ThePrint reached the spokesperson of the Women and Child Development Ministry via email, asking why it has failed to ready a roadmap, but there was no response until the time of publishing this report.
Centre had promised to analyse NCPCR data
Bhat’s application recalled the Centre’s statement to the apex court in which it promised to analyse the data collected by the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights and Ministry of Women and Child Development on CCIs.
The assurance given was to study the data with professional assistance from the National Institute of Public Cooperation and Child Development (NIPCCD) — a premier organisation under the ministry involved in action research, training and documentation — identify the gaps in management of shelters and then plug them with the help of stakeholders, including civil society members.
Wherever necessary, inter-ministerial discussions will take place to fill the gaps keeping the interest of children in mind, the Centre had submitted to the court.
In its 5 December 2018 order, the apex court had noted: “The idea is to have regular reports coming in and institutionalise the process so that this exercise can be carried out year after year in the interest of children.”
Bhat has also asked the top court to direct the Uttar Pradesh government to make available the data on the status of health of the children at the Kanpur shelter to the Union of India.
She Tuesday also wrote to Supreme Court judge Justice Ravindra Bhat, who heads the Juvenile Justice Committee, drawing his attention to the Kanpur case. The judge referred the letter to the Allahabad High Court chief justice for necessary action.
Children should not be produced before juvenile boards
While Bhat wants the Centre to place a status report on what steps it has taken to implement the SC’s 2018 verdict, she has also sought immediate activation of the centralised database of the CCIs with a daily health report of the children living there.
In view of the pandemic, she also said, the appearance of children before juvenile justice boards or child welfare committees should be dispensed with unless it is necessary. A child is produced before the juvenile boards or welfare committees in connection with a case pending against him or her.
But in case children are needed to be produced before the authorities, provision of adequate safety kits, masks, PPE, sanitisers and drinking water should be made available in all CCIs as well as the juvenile boards and child welfare panels.
Bhat also said the Centre must call for a report from each state on CCIs and measures put in place for Covid tests there in accordance with the central government guidelines.