New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Friday asked district authorities in various states to upload, within 24 hours, information of the children who became orphans since the beginning of the Covid-19 in March last year, and urged the state government to provide immediate relief to them.
A bench of Justices L. Nageswara Rao and Aniruddha Bose said: “The district authorities are directed to upload the information of children who have become orphans after March, 2020 on the portal ‘Bal Swaraj’ before tomorrow (Saturday) evening. They are further directed to immediately take charge of such children and attend to their basic needs without waiting for any further orders from this Court.”
Advocate Gaurav Agarwal, amicus curiae in the matter, had filed this interlocutory application seeking directions in respect of children who are adversely affected due to the current Covid pandemic by losing either one or both the parents and the increased instances of child trafficking, especially of the girl child. The application added that the cataclysmic Covid-19 pandemic devastated vulnerable sections of society.
The bench said it has been brought to its notice by the amicus that there are a number of children who have become orphans due to the demise of either the breadwinner of the family or of both their parents. “The amicus curiae expressed his concern about the well-being of such children. The Union of India has already issued instructions to the concerned authorities regarding the steps to be taken for protection of children who have lost their parents due to Covid-19,” noted the bench.
It said the provisions of Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015 make it clear that there is an obligation on the part of the authorities to take care of children in need.
Additional Solicitor General Aishwarya Bhati, and counsel appearing for the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) submitted that portal ‘Bal Swaraj’ is operational and all the concerned district authorities have been given access, along with instructions to upload the information pertaining to identification of children who have become orphans during the pandemic.
At this, the court said: “We are of the view that Additional Solicitor General appearing for Union of India and the counsel appearing for the state governments should furnish the latest information about the identification of children who have become orphans post March, 2020, whether it be due to the pandemic or otherwise, and steps taken for attending to their basic needs.”
The top court asked the amicus curiae to prepare a note after receipt of the information from the Centre, the NCPCR and the state governments and circulate it to them by Monday evening, as it hear a matter in connection with spread of Covid-19 in children protection homes.
The bench has posted the matter for further hearing on June 1.