SMW (C) No. 4/2020 (PIL-W)
DATE OF ORDER:
24th January, 2022
Hon’ble Justice Nageswara Rao and B.R. Gavai
PETITIONER: X (IDENTITY UNDISCLOSED)
RESPONDENT: Y (IDENTITY UNDISCLOSED)
On May 19, 2022, Justices Nageswara Rao and B.R. Gavai resumed hearing the suo moto case involving the identification, rescue, and rehabilitation of children living on the streets (CISS).
- In an earlier suo moto case instituted in 2021, the Supreme Court first began to address the concerns of trafficked children. It then attempted to ensure that children in protection homes were treated in accordance with the Juvenile Justice Act of 2015.
- Soon after, the Court expressed concern about CISS who had not yet been rehabilitated into child protection homes. The Bench, with the assistance of Amicus Curiae Mr. Gaurav Aggarwal, has guided State governments through a systematic method of identifying and tracking CISS through successive Orders.
- In today's proceedings, Advocate-On-Record Sachin Patil, representing the State of Maharashtra, informed the Court of the State government's plan to open 20 new Child Protection Homes in Maharashtra. They were tasked with rehabilitating children rescued from the streets. He stated that the Maharashtra government had applied to the Union for funding for the initiative, but that it had been denied.
- In Maharashtra, the Union currently supports 13 Child Protection Homes. The Union has increased the budget for Child Protection Services for the Fiscal Year 2022-23 after rejecting the Maharashtra government's application for 20 new homes. Aishwarya Bhati, appearing for the Union, told the Court that the Maharashtra government's request could be reconsidered in light of the increased budget.
ANALYSIS BY THE COURT
- Hearing a suo motu case about children who have been harmed by the pandemic by losing one or both parents, the Supreme Court also directed states to develop a policy for rehabilitation after they have been identified, and asked them to file a status report within three weeks. It also directed states and UTs to instruct relevant authorities not to postpone child identification and rehabilitation.
- The Supreme Court also expressed its displeasure with the State’s contention that the slow pace in identifying children on the street is due to Covid.
- The Supreme Court had previously stated that the process of identifying children in street situations, which has been hampered by the COVID-19 pandemic, is moving at a glacial pace and directed states and union territories (UTs) to take immediate steps to identify and rehabilitate such children without waiting for its directions.
- The bench had directed all District Magistrates states and UTs to implement the NCPCR's recommendations for the care and protection of children in street situations by 2020.
- It was also brought to the court's attention that there are approximately 70,000 children living on Delhi's streets alone.
- The bench stated, "In the next meeting to be held by NCPCR, the issue of rehabilitation of children without waiting for the entire procedure should be discussed without any delay."
- The bench also directed the state governments to direct all authorities not to delay the identification and rehabilitation of children living on the streets. and scheduled a follow-up hearing in four weeks.
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