The Supreme Court Tuesday asked the Centre to file an affidavit within two weeks giving details about the funds made available to all states and Union Territories for running Child Care Institutions (CCIs).
The top court also asked advocate Gaurav Agarwal, who has been appointed as amicus curiae to assist the court in the matter, to submit a note on the good practices that are being adopted by various states for the care and welfare of children.
A bench of Justices L Nageswara Rao, Hemant Gupta and S Ravindra Bhat said in its order, “Aishwarya Bhati, additional solicitor general appearing for the Union of India requests for two weeks’ time to file an affidavit giving particulars of the funds to be made available to all the State Governments and Union Territories”.
It said, “The amicus curiae is requested to prepare a note on the good practices that are being adopted by various States for the care and welfare of the children on the basis of which we propose to issue certain directions as sought for by him. The note may be circulated to all the Advocates on Record of the States and Union Territories”.
The top court posted the matter for further hearing on August 13.
On July 15, Agarwal filed a note and sought directions of the court with regard to education of children in CCIs, contact with those released, review of their cases, need for institutionalisation and COVID-19 related measures.
The top court had noted that in Andhra Pradesh, which had 27,243 children in CCIs before the lockdown due to the pandemic, have restored 24,611 children with their parents/guardians and at present there are 2,632 children in care homes.
After perusing the report of Andhra Pradesh, the court had said that only 70.06 per of the proposed funds for the year 2019-2020 were received by the state and the status pertaining to the balance funds was not clear.
It had noted that in Assam about 550 children out of 2,406 children, who were in CCIs prior to the lockdown, were restored to their parents and guardians and asked the state to furnish details with regard to education of children and follow up action after the release of children.
Similar submissions were made by Bihar, Delhi, Chattisgarh and Gujarat with regard to restoration of children to their parents or guardians.
The Gujarat government had said that it was giving Rs 1,500 as financial assistance to the children after their release from the CCI after which the top court asked the counsel for the state to specify whether it was one-time payment or monthly payment.
On July 7, the top court had appointed senior advocate Gaurav Agarwal as amicus curiae to assist the court in the matter.
On June 11, the top court had taken note of 35 children out of 57 testing positive for COVID-19 in a government-run shelter home at Royapuram in Tamil Nadu and sought a status report from the state government including steps taken to protect other children at the facility. It was later informed that most of the children have recovered from COVID-19.
The top court had sought status report from different state governments on steps taken to protect children in shelter homes amid the pandemic, and also compliance of its April 3 order in this regard.
It had said a detailed order was passed by the Court on April 3 dealing with all issues pertaining to children in conflict with law and several directions were given to the State Governments for taking preventive measures to protect children from the spread of COVID-19.
The top court had said that Juvenile Justice Committees of high courts will circulate a questionnaire of the court among state governments seeking information in relation to the care and protection of children in conflict with law and submit their feedback before June 30.
It had said that answers to the questionnaire would help the court to review the challenges faced by the authorities, child welfare committee, juvenile justice boards and district child protection units in holding virtual sessions, restoring children back to families as well in following up to the constraints of the lockdown and develop measures to deal with these.
On April 3, the top court had taken suo motu (on its own) cognizance of the condition of children in protection, juvenile and foster or kinship homes across the country amid the coronavirus outbreak and had issued directions to the state governments and various other authorities to protect them.
The top court had said as the COVID-19 pandemic is intensifying in the country, it is important that urgent measures are taken on a priority basis to prevent the spread of the virus in CCIs, children in need of care and protection (CNCP), children in contact with the law (CICWL) in observation homes and children in foster and kinship care.
It had said the juvenile justice boards (JJBs) should consider steps to release all children alleged to be in conflict with law residing in observation homes on bail, unless there are clear and valid reasons not to do so.
The top court had issued directions for the child welfare committees (CWCs) across the country and said they would monitor cases telephonically of children sent back to their families and coordinate through the district child protection committees and foster care and adoption committees for those in foster care.