ILNS: The Delhi High court bench of Justices Vipin Sanghi and Jasmeet Singh on Thursday, while hearing suo motu proceedings regarding care and protection of children orphaned during Covid as well as disabled and old citizens within the pandemic, flayed the Delhi government for its failure to provide succour.
The court said: “We make it clear, that if we find that these provisions are not implemented, we will ourselves deal with the failure of GNCTD for implementation of the act (the Juvenile Justice Act), and consequences would follow for those don’t perform.”
The entire situation was presented before the court by Prabhsahay Kaur, on behalf of the Bachpan Bachia Andloan organisation. Reading from a report before the court, she said: “There is no system of foster care, there are no guidelines. But today they (the government) have filed it that it’s in procedure.
Justice Sanghi asked: “Who has to prepare these guidelines?”
Kaur: “The child welfare committee. But if they are not able to do it, perhaps the government should help them framing these guidelines.”
Senior Advocate Rahul Mehra, for the state government, said: “Our report should be taken in the spirit that we have not left any point, but at the same time we have stayed few step back, and we accept it. These are work in progress.”
Justice Jasmeet Singh said: “See, Mr Mehra, you can’t say this is work in progress. You have a department in this regard. You can’t say they were not aware about statutory provisions. This is shocking. It’s a 2015 act. Now you are saying in four weeks you will make guidelines?”
Mehra: “All I can say is I have worked with Dr Rashmi Singh, and I have seen her to have courage to accept the default and to identify it and rectify it. All I want to say is, this court made a statutory committee two years back and that’s where things are now. Allow us 4 weeks so that we come before my lord and have…”
Mehra stated that the state is performing it’s part to foster these children at streets to open shelters, also begging is certainly not allowed, but how many of them want to come is a question.
Kaur: “The issue is, we can’t force a child to stay at these open shelters, but during these times these children who don’t wish to stay there should be allowed to have a medical facility. The child who stays there is getting these facilities but the child who is visiting is not getting this facility. This is what I am pointing out. Meeting is done, we have pointed out during the meeting 2 children who had not been given masks. They had to pick up a cloth from garbage and use it as a mask. The facility can’t say no to them. In fact they should allow them to visit and use sanitizers, masks and other facilities.”
Mehra: “I can’t see a reason to deny this, but these are open shelters. Nobody is a resident there. Children come and visit.”
Kaur: “The entire report is regarding this. Also the Delhi government has not publicized it to the street children. We all can see them everyday begging, they don’t know that they can avail this opportunity.”
Mehra: “On the meeting of June 5 this is going to happen. We will surely discuss this.”
Kaur: “If a direction be issued for public announcement…”
Mehra: “I don’t oppose such direction. MCD will also help.”
Justice Sanghi: “Are they here?”
Mehra: “Yes they are.”
Tushar Sannu (for East MCD): “I don’t see anything to deny this request. I’ll in fact call the officer.”
Kaur: (Moving on to next point): “Data collected from orphaned children from all child welfare committee is for only 15 children. The problem is these children are not identified. How can Child Welfare Committee work on it if the children are not known?”
Justice Sanghi: “Mr Mehra, you could also call for information from public also.”
Kaur: “In fact, Amicus pointed out in the meetings that RWAs can be called to help.”
Justice Sanghi: “There has to be some data about the children. How do they get rehabilitated? You are not talking about adoption, but foster homes. How do you identify safe foster homes?”
Kaur: “There are a lot of people who are willing to help and open their homes. All of this needs to start simultaneously.”
Rao: “The ground reality of is that I don’t know how many of them are ready to open their homes. There seems to be some lethargy, and also a problem with donation. There needs to be some plan and guidance.”
Mehra: “I understand these institutions can’t be better than homes. Ideally, they should be like homes, but our endeavour is to achieve them a home-like feelings. But I want to assure that things are not that bad at CCI. As far as foster homes and sponsors are concerned, we need to work on this. We need to be very very cautious about sending the children to persons who are not fit for it. It is better that they stay at CCI, than be abused.”
Dr Nimesh G Desai (Director EBHAS): “I heard that I am being looked for (on a lighter note).”
Justice Sanghi: “There are children we want you to take care of them. Can you? Will you?”
Dr Desai: “Currently, I am with EBHAS. We are willing to help these children. A mobile mental health unit (MMHU) is coming for aid for each district in Delhi, as announced by the Delhi govt. and LG. As Mr Rao said, we have 8 bed isolation, and 8 other beds. So we are happy to take children who have COVID. We have from last year prepared for this.
“One spectrum is adolescent having mental problem with positive case not needing intensive care, and adolescents having mental problem and need hospital, currently we are ready for both. By your order we will take it up with JJB and CWC.
The bench ordered: “Ms Kaur has also drawn our attention to sec. 106 which puts duty on state and district child protection unit and sec. 107 which envisages appointment of child police officer and juvenile care units who would discharge the responsibility enumerated in these provisions
“Sec. 105, wrt JJ fund and highlighted the purpose for which said fund may be utilised. Ms Kaur has particularly highlighted that despite JJA having enacted in year 2015… yet there is now need to identify foster homes for children.
“She submits that during pandemic 100 of children have become orphans and the need of foster care is even greater, since a lot of families have lost children they would be willing to take care of orphan children. There are people who wish to sponsor this. But in accordance of section 45, there is no mechanism for sponsor of foster care for children in need of care. In the same way she has also drawn our attention to section 52 which guides to statutory authority to recognise fit persons to keep the child temporarily for specified period.
“Even though JJA was enacted in 2015, and GNCTD has full-fledged department with mandate to enforce provision of said act, little progress has been made in this aspect. The aspect has been highlighted by Ms Kaur. It appears that only after this court has turned its focus on these aspects has there been some feverish activity undertaken.
“Mr Mehra has given assurance to the court that steps by the state is being undertaken as declared in status report and would culminate into actual action on ground also on time as stated in report would be acted upon.
“We direct GNCTD to ensure every timeline is met fixed for compliance of JJA with Principal Sec. of child welfare and Principal Sec. Women and sec. Child development and sec. social welfare. The only reason that at this stage we are not getting into the aspect of failure of GNCTD to implement the statutory schemes provided in JJA is that we wish to look forward and give another opportunity to GNCTD to cover grounds at this stage.
“We make it clear if we find that these provisions are not implemented we will ourselves deal with failure of GNCTD for implementation of act, and consequences would follow for those who don’t perform.
“Ms Prabhsahay Kaur, who appears for Bachpan Bacho Andolan, has shown exemplary zeal to work in this field. We direct the secretary to take guidance wherever considered necessary and Ms Prabshay Kaur has offered whatever assistance is required in the matter related to provision of this act.
“Miss Kaur has submitted that so far as street children are concerned, there is no plan in place to take care children in need and care on suffering from COVID. She submits there are open shelter be available to these children they could come to use it for toilet, night shelter etc. However basic facility such as mask, sanitizer, primary medical care and check up such as measurement of temperature, Oxygen and basic medicine are not provided. Children may visit to open shelter