New Delhi: In an unusual move, a Supreme Court judge has prepared a questionnaire, which will be handed over to state governments to know about their actions taken to implement the court’s earlier direction to check the spread of Covid at juvenile homes.
The three-judge bench, led by Justice L.N. Rao, disclosed about the questionnaire prepared by Justice Ravindra Bhat — also a part of the bench — while directing the Tamil Nadu government to explain how 35 children at a shelter in Chennai tested Covid-positive despite its 3 April guidelines that required all states to take steps to protect child care centres.
The court took suo motu cognisance of latest media reports, stating that 35 children of the Chennai shelter contracted the virus.
The Tamil Nadu government now has got four days to file its response in the matter as the case will be heard Monday.
On the larger issue of how all states are enforcing the court’s directives, the SC said it will hear the matter on 6 July, once it receives a response from states.
The questionnaire, the court said, will be sent to states through the juvenile justice committees working in various high courts. The central government will also receive the questionnaire by Thursday evening, it said.
Additional Solicitor General A.S. Nadkarni, counsel for the Centre, assured the bench that the central ministry looking after juvenile matters would connect with states for a feedback to the questionnaire.
‘Will provide whatever assistance is required’
Nadkarni told ThePrint courts routinely proceed with public interest matters on the basis of affidavits filed by states. However, in this case the judges appear to have taken the “cudgels” to get a response in an explicit format.
“The Centre has also prepared a chart on what steps have been taken. But I think judges are looking at the specific steps taken. They (judges) have taken pains to frame the questionnaire and we will provide whatever assistance is required from our end,” he said.
The April order was issued after the top court took suo motu cognisance of the potential spread of Covid at shelters where children are lodged under the Juvenile Justice Act. The need to pass certain directions was to ensure the well-being of children.
Directions were passed for Child Welfare Committees (CWC) and the court had laid down measures to be taken by Juvenile Justice Boards (JJB) and children courts regarding preventive measures.
SC took note of media reports
The court referred to media reports on the shelter home that said the children were infected due to the warden having contracted the virus.
“We want to know why did this happen if the precautionary measures were taken,” asked the bench.
The secretary (health) was told to submit a status report, indicating the reasons for the spread of Covid at the protection home. It must also include the steps taken with regard to safeguarding the health of remaining children, who are now lodged in a building near the shelter, the court stated.