Against the backdrop of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, the Supreme Court on Monday directed all District Magistrates to engage with District Legal Service Authority (DLSA), and voluntary organisations to rehabilitate children in street situations.
A bench of Justices L. Nageswara Rao and B.V. Nagarathna said: “We direct all DMs to involve DLSA and voluntary organisations in the identification of children on streets without any further delay.”
It added that immediate steps are required by the Central and state governments to provide shelter to children in street situations. It emphasised that children should be shifted to shelter homes and also directed the DMs to upload the information at all stages on the web portal of the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR).
The bench further added that state governments and Union Territories should engage with authorities concerned to identify and rehabilitate children, without any further delay.
Additional Solicitor General K.M. Nataraj, representing the NCPCR, contended that several states have not uploaded the details of children in street situations on the Bal Swaraj Portal.
The amicus curiae pointed at the absence of information by states and UTs in connection with steps taken for rehabilitation of children who have not been identified.
Citing harsh winters, the bench said there are children who don’t have anybody to take care of them and their condition would become worse in northern parts. “Just imagine how they are surviving on the streets. You have to immediately shift them to ‘rain basera’, shelter homes. This is your duty…Act immediately,” said the bench.
Also, citing the third wave of Covid, the top court said it cannot become an excuse for the delay in the rehabilitation of children in street situations, and reiterated that children cannot be ignored.
Additional Advocate General for Uttar Pradesh Garima Prasad submitted before the top court that nearly 30,282 children were identified in the state in five districts by NGOs, and the government is attempting to reach them.
The top court also directed the states to develop a rehabilitation policy for children and seek the NCPCR’s assistance in this matter.
It asked states to file a status report within three weeks and scheduled the matter for further hearing after four weeks.
The top court is hearing a suo motu case in connection with children who have been impacted by the pandemic by losing either one or both the parents.