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Street children: Supreme Court expresses concern at low numbers in data collected for rehabilitation of children

Additional Solicitor General, KM Natraj requested the Court for some more time as some states are not cooperating as they  require time to update information.

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The Supreme Court on Monday expressed its concern that the number of children identified by the states appeared to be quite low and even the process of identification, which is the first stage of the process of rehabilitation, has not yet been completed.

The bench comprising Justice L. Nageswara Rao and Justice B.R. Gavai, during the hearing of a suo motu matter regarding the plight of the Children in Street Situation (“CiSS”) across the country, directed the State Governments and the Union Territories to complete the identification process without any delay.

Additional Solicitor General K.M. Natraj requested the Court for some more time as some states are not cooperating as they require time to update information.

Justice Nageswara Rao observed,

”The numbers which are shown on the basis of the information uploaded on the website appear to be very less. Only 3,655? Last time we were told that there are 70-80,000 children in Delhi alone. So, there are lakhs of them. Reporting appears to be incomplete. Stage 1 is identification and information. We are still stuck at it. These are issues which cannot wait.”

Therefore, he directed the Learned ASG to remind the states to cooperate and upload the information.

Gaurav Agrawal, also the amicus curiae in this case, submitted a note in which he mentioned that the Delhi government has come up with a scheme regarding the Children in Street Situation (CISS)  issue.

Justice Nageswara Rao observed that if the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR)  can on account of this scheme and other aspects come up with some comprehensive guidelines that also would serve the purpose.

The amicus submitted that loading of data and production of information before the child welfare committees is the first step. After that, how they propose to address this issue for the 3 different categories  of children as under the Juvenile Justice Act, 2015 also may be considered by the state and they may come up with their own schemes as per their financial situation and other considerations for the rescue and rehabilitation of the CISS.

Advocate Shobha Gupta, appearing on behalf of WWI (We the Women of India), submitted,

”The initial exercise was undertaken for the data to be put up on the portal on the children who have either become orphan, are abandoned or surrendered. This was regarding the children on the street. My request is that parallel to this exercise when they are collecting data and putting it on the portal if they start doing the further exercise which is required under the juvenile justice act, which states not only what my lords are directing under the identification, but to see that if their parents or relations are not available then they should be relegated for the purpose of adoption. Now enough data is available in this matter, let us reach to step 3 and 4 also where a number of registered parents are waiting in the list who can give them shelter and home.”

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Justice Nageshwar Rao observed that from the available data it can be seen that many children are on the streets in the daytime and go back in the evening to their parents. So, adoption might not be relevant for them. We need to find a way to remove them from the streets by providing them facilities, etc. For example, the Delhi government has said that they would provide them shelters, etc, and look at those schemes.

The NCPCR has told the Supreme Court that as per the data uploaded on the Baal Swaraj Portal- CoVID care from April 2020 onwards up to December 7, 2021, 9855 children are orphaned, 1,32,113 children have lost either parent and 508 children are abandoned. The NCPCR has stated that in its affidavit dated October 10, 2021, NCPCR had analyzed data of children of 19 States and UT’s that was available on the Baal Swaraj Portal and where the child details/information had been uploaded.

While considering arguments and the affidavit filed by NCPCR, the Apex Court noted that the commission conducted meetings with the concerned authorities for implementation of SOP 2.0 on  02.12.2021, 3.12.2021 and 06.12.2021, 28 states and UTs had participated and have provided information regarding the identification of CISS.

Data provided by the state governments regarding the rehabilitation of CISS has been placed on record. Looking at the number of CISS who have been identified, the Bench noted that the process of identification is at a slow pace.

It was brought to the notice of the court when the matter was heard on 15.11.2021 that ”Save the Children” mapped 2 lakh children in 10 districts of Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, West Bengal, and Delhi. There might be lakhs of children in the remaining parts of the country who need to be rescued and rehabilitated. “That Stage 1 is a crucial stage, the state governments, and the Union territories are directed to take immediate action for identifying CISS without any delay.”

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The required information is to be uploaded on the portal of NCPCR  and ”Bal Swaraj” (CISS).

“The concerned authorities in the state governments and UTs need not wait for any further instruction of the NCPCR  or the directions of this Court for proceeding with the collection of information regarding the social background of the children, identification of benefits under the individual care plan, inquiries to be conducted by the child welfare committees under the juvenile justice care and protection act 2015, linking the schemes/ benefits to the children of the families or guardians,”

-clarified the Court.

“NCPCR is directed to file a status report of the information received from the state governments/UTs on Bal Swaraj CISS portal within a period of 4 weeks from today. In the meanwhile, the district magistrates shall upload the information not restricted to stage 1 but also information relating to other stages. The State governments/ UTs shall file a status report about steps taken for rescuing and rehabilitation of CISS within a period of 3 weeks from today,”

-ordered the Bench.

The Court posted the matter on January 17, 2022  for further hearing. Earlier, the Apex Court had directed all District Magistrates in states and UTs to take steps for care and protection of children in street situations prepared by the NCPCR in 2020.

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