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Covid-19 orphans: Delhi High Court directs Delhi govt to list steps taken to safeguard children

File by Advocate Jeetender Gupta, the plea alleges that due to the “gross negligence and failure” on part of the Centre and the State Government in containing the spread of the virus and providing healthcare infrastructure and other facilities to the citizens, thousands of persons in the city lost their lives during the pandemic.

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The Delhi High Court on Tuesday directed the Delhi Government to apprise it on steps taken to safeguard the interest of children in the capital who have lost their parents to the Covid-19 pandemic and do not have anybody to take care of them.

The Division Bench comprising Chief Justice D.N. Patel and Justice Jyoti Singh was dealing with a plea filed by a practising lawyer in May last year on account of the complete collapse of healthcare infrastructure in Delhi during the second wave of the pandemic.

File by Advocate Jeetender Gupta, the plea alleges that due to the “gross negligence and failure” on part of the Centre and the State Government in containing the spread of the virus and providing healthcare infrastructure and other facilities to the citizens, thousands of persons in the city lost their lives during the pandemic.

Relying on various media reports, the plea points out that some of the families have lost their sole breadwinner and that many children have become orphaned and are at risk of being victims to trafficking as they have no one to look after them.

The plea reads: “The Respondents have violated the Article 21 of the Constitution of India, by ignoring and compromising the safety and security of General Public.. and cannot continue with its blind eye attitude towards the families who have lost their family members due to complete collapse of health care infrastructure and lapses at the part of Respondents in not augmenting / upgrading the health care infrastructure and in preventing the spread of pandemic.”

The plea, inter alia, sought for granting appropriate financial compensation to the family members of those citizens who have lost their lives during the Covid-19 pandemic after being denied access to adequate healthcare infrastructure and other facilities.

During the course of the hearing, Advocate Gupta informed the Bench that the Delhi Government has failed to submit its response qua the measures adopted for identification of children who have become orphaned on account of the pandemic and to prevent them from being trafficked.

Advocate Anuj Aggarwal, representing the Delhi Government, informed the Bench that there is a policy in place of the State Government wherein one-time compensation is being provided to relatives of those who lost their family members to Covid-19.

At this point,the Bench directed the Delhi Government to file its response only in respect of the measures adopted for identification of children who lost their parents to Covid-19 and to safeguard them from the risk of being trafficked.

The matter will next be taken up on May 31, 2022.

Similar issues are being dealt with by the Apex Court wherein various directions and orders have been passed including a direction to the District Magistrate to expeditiously complete the review process for identification of children who lost their parents during Covid-19 and are entitled for benefits under PM Cares for Children scheme. In respect of children who are not covered by the scheme, the State Governments are directed to formulate schemes to grant support to such children.

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