Child marriages may be in the garb of child trafficking: Calcutta HC orders investigation into child marriage cases

Child marriages may be in the garb of child trafficking: Calcutta HC orders investigation into child marriage cases

On June 27, 2020, Division Bench of the Calcutta High Court, consisting Justice Harish Tandon and Soumen Sen, directed the Superintendent of Police of every district to investigate into the cases of child marriages and identify whether such child marriages are for economic consideration or under the garb of child trafficking.

Previously on June 10, 2020, while expressing concerns over the rampant growth in child marriages amidst the COVID-19 pandemic and induced lockdown, the Bench had emphasized that all children require constant supervision and safety measures, whether they are in protection homes or temporarily released to their parents and guardians on account of the pandemic. The Government was directed to furnish reports by way of affidavits.

The direction of June 27 was passed on account of an affidavit filed by the Home Secretary containing district-wise details of the cases about the violations of child rights of all forms. The Bench also ordered the Home Secretary to furnish a report regarding “other violations of child rights” and measures taken by the police authorities to curb it.

The Bench taking note of reports from district judges and POCSO courts, observed the delay in the production of the victims and filing of application for recording of statements by the investigating officers and demanded the Superintendent of Police to take adequate measures to ensure that the victims are produced before the Magistrates within 48 hours without delay, for the recording of statements under Section 164 of the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973 and there is no delay in the investigation of the cases relating to child rights violation.

“We understand that during the lockdown period, police officers and public prosecutors are facing difficulty. But we find no reason for not ensuring the recording of statements of the victims under Section 164 of the Criminal Procedure Code.”

Taking cognizance of a trafficking case of 2018, wherein a young Bengali girl was recovered recently by the Maharashtra police, the Bench sought a report from the Advocate General concerning the investigation of the said child trafficking case from the date of lodging of the complaint till date along with reasons for not being able to recover the child until the intervention of the Maharashtra police.

Thereafter, the Court expressed its concern over the unimproved situation of infrastructure of the Juvenile Justice Boards in various districts based on the report of the Secretary, Women and Child Development and Social Welfare Department, and required the Advocate General along with the Home Secretary to undertake measures to eliminate infrastructural deficiencies which impedes the functioning of the J.J.B.s, as a result, whereof the children are suffering.

The said report of the Secretary, Women and Child Development and Social Welfare Department contained guidelines regarding the nature of information sought for as a follow-up action of children restored to families since March 2020. It also revealed some cases where follow up action had been taken through phone calls to safeguard the interest of children restored to their families.

The report also exhibited that 75 children of migrant workers were found to be COVID-19positive and 43 were positive out of samples collected from asymptomatic children of migratory workers. Concerning the testing and treatment of COVID-19 positive children, the Court required a report disclosing results of random testing carried out on the children, apart from particulars already disclosed.

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