Don’t Delay the Process of Identification of Children in Streets, Supreme Court Directs States

Team SoOLEGAL 14 Dec 2021 3:15pm

Don’t Delay the Process of Identification of Children in Streets, Supreme Court Directs States

NEW DELHI: On Monday, the Supreme Court urged the State Government and Union Territories to finish the identification procedure without delay in a suo moto case involving the condition of Children in Street Situations (“CiSS”) across the nation. Once the children to be rescued and rehabilitated are identified, the Apex Court clarified that the State Government and Union Territories do not need to wait for further direction from the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (“NCPCR”) or from the court to proceed to the subsequent stages set out in the NCPCR’s SOP 2.0.

Following a review of the NCPCR’s affidavit, the bench of justices L Nageswara Rao and BR Gavai expressed the concern that the number of children identified by the states appeared to be quite low, and that the process of identification, which is the first stage of the rehabilitation process, had not yet been completed.

At the outset, the Bench took up the affidavit filed by the NCPCR and inquired about its status at the request of the Amicus Curiae, Mr. Gaurav Agarwal. Mr. Nataraj, Additional Solicitor General, informed the Court that certain states had requested further time to file their affidavits.

Based on NCPRP’s affidavit, the number shown appears to be rather low, the bench stated -
“As we have seen from you affidavit, the numbers that are shown on the basis of the information uploaded on the website appear to be very less, only 3655. We were told that there are 70 – 80 thousand on streets in Delhi alone. There must be lakhs. The reporting seems to be incomplete. You have given stages at page 6. Stage 1 pertains to identification, which is the most important stage…We are still stuck at Stage one, with the numbers being very less…Can you send them (States) a reminder…The should not delay this matter…You are dealing with children. The faster, the better…We saw some scheme, which is placed on record by the Delhi Govt. If the NCPCR can also on the basis of this and other aspects be taken into account, if you can come up with some comprehensive scheme…Amicus, we will list it after vacation. In the meanwhile let’s see what the State Governments are doing…”

Mr. Agarwal recommended that the NCPCR develop consistent criteria that states may use to rescue and rehabilitate children living on the streets. “What strategies the states will adopt for second and third categories also NCPCR can guide.”   Advocate Shobha Gupta, testifyinf on behalf of WWI, said that a parallel procedure for adoption might be initiated -
“Qua this particular exercise when your lordships are directing w.r.t. collection of data of children who are found on streets…The initial data was undertaken with respect to children who were orphans or abandoned or surrendered. This is w.r.t. children on the street..With my lord’s order there is sufficient information on the portal…If they side by side start doing the further exercise required under the Juvenile Justice Act…Regulating them for the purpose of adoption. Now we have enough data on the portal…We have number of parents waiting in the list who are registered and can give them shelter and home…We can achieve that if parallel exercise is undertaken.”

The Bench noted that, “In their website they have indicated 6 stages and now we are talking about 3, 4 and 5. We will ask them to simultaneously take these steps also.”

The bench further stated that the topic of adoption might not be relevant for youngsters living on the streets –
“This can be only in respect of abandoned children and children who are orphans or have no parents. We see that most of the children who are identified or half of them are children on the streets in the daytime and go back in the evenings to their prents. So, this adoption might not be relevant for them. We will have to find a way to remove them from the streets and provide them with facilities…We will have to look at those schemes.”

Ms. Gupta stated that they may be eligible for the category of relinquished children and therefore be eligible for foster care and sponsorship.

“The Act refers to 4 categories of children. Orphan, abandoned, surrendered. So, surrendered may be where parents and family are there, but not able to take care. Institutionalization to the extent of providing foster care..or sponsorship.”

The Bench noted that -
“We will go into these details on the next occasion. Let more information come…We will take up this matter in detail, we will list this in the second week of January.”

Hearing the concerned parties, the bench dictated the order -
“Pursuant to the order passed on November 15th, 2021, an affidavit has been filed on behalf of NCPCR bringing it to the notice of this court that the commission conducted meetings with the concerned authorities for implementation of SOP 2.0.. On 02.12.2012, 03.12.2021 and 06.12.2021, 28 states/UTs have participated in meetings and provided info for identification of children in street situations. Data provided by State Govt. with respect to rehabilitation of children in street situations have been placed on record. Looking at the number of children in street situation who have been identified it appears that the process of identification is at a slow pace. It was brought to the notice of this court…on 15.11.2021 that ‘Save the Children’ mapped 2 lakhs children in 10 districts in the States of UP, Maharashtra, WB and Delhi. There might be lakhs of children in street situations in remaining part of the country who need to be rescued and rehabilitated. Stage 1 in Bal Swaraj CiSS  portal related to identification of children. As stage 1 is crucial, State/UTs are directed to take immediate action to identify children in street situations without any delay. The required info shall be uploaded on the web portal of NCPCR…The concerned authorities in State and UT need not wait for any further direction from NCPCR or directions of this court for proceedings with collecting the social background…, identification of benefits…, enquiries to be conducted by the chaired welfare committees under JJ Act, 2015, linking the scheme/benefits with the children or families/guardians.

NCPCR is directed to file a status report of the information received from the State Govt./UT’s on Bal Swaraj CiSS portal within a period of 4 weeks from today. In the meanwhile the DMs shall upload relevant info, not restricted to stage 1…the state Govt. and UT to file a status report on rescuing and rehabilitation of children in street situation in 3 weeks from today…List this matter (2nd and 3rd week) in Jan.”

The Bench added – “We will have this also on the 17th.”

NCPCR has submitted affidavits in connection with the Children in Streets issue, one in accordance with an order dated October 26th, 2021, and the other in accordance with an order on November 15th, 2021. In the affidavit produced by NCPCR in response to the Court’s ruling of October 26th, 2021, it was stated –

·       The NCPCR created the Standard Operating Procedure for the Care and Protection of Children in Street Situation 2.0 to replace the previous SOP (2016 – 2017), which did not operate for a non – homogeneous population of diverse categories of CiSS. The SOP 2.0 was created with the goal of strengthening the procedures and interventions for “Children in Street Situations” based on the lessons learned from the previous SOP (CiSS).

·       The SOP 2.0 aims to bring together numerous officials, institutions, government programs, and policies to provide a comprehensive approach to the care, preservation and restoration of CiSS. The following are the key characteristics of SOP 2.0:

1.     Identifying the concerns and obstacles that children experience on the streets.

2.     Identifying and categorizing CiSS.

3.     Children are classified for appropriate intervention.

4.     Authorities must follow a process and procedure to ensure the care and protection of CiSS, as well as define each authority’s duty when dealing with the CiSS.

5.     This SOP 2.0 is only a compilation of all legislative frameworks and processes for implementation used by all the States and UTs.

·       Three broad categories of CiSS were identified –

1.     Children who are unable to sustain themselves are living on the streets alone.

2.     Children spend the day on the streets and return home at night to their family who live in a neighboring slum/hutment.

3.     Children and their families live on the streets.

·       NCPCR compiled the responses of the States of Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Sikkim, Arunachal Pradesh, Bihar, Delhi, Chandigarh and Gujarat to the SOP 2.0 action.

·       It was stated the ‘Save the Children’ has mapped the data of 2 lakhs street children in 10 cities across UP, West Bengal, Maharashtra and Delhi and make it available to NCPCR. Except for West Bengal, no other state had filed a report outlining the steps taken to rescue and rehabilitate the aforementioned children.

·       NCPCR had identified the 51 religious places in the states of Goa, Karnataka Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Odisha, Assam, Gujarat, Uttarakhand, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, West Bengal, Delhi and Jharkhand to rescue and rehabilitate children found in the street life, child beggary, and child labor.

·       The commission has created a website called ‘Bal Swaraj’. At the meantime, a new link called ‘CiSS’ has been created on the Bal Swaraj webpage to gather data on Children in Street Situations. There are two action points in the ‘Bal Swaraj Portal – CiSS Link’: one for the 2 lakhs children already recognized by ‘Save the Children”, and the other for identification by other states.

·       NCPCR has identified eight steps for rescue and rehabilitation, including the following stages of follow – up action.

Stage 1: For information on the Child’s identify.
Stage 2: Uploading the information to learn about the child’s social background.
Stage 3: Benefits and suggestions from the child’s individual Care Plan (ICP) are to be submitted.
Stage 4: The Child Welfare Committee’s order is to be uploaded.
Stage 5: Contains the names of schemes/benefits that can be associated with the kid, family or guardian.
Stage 6: A checklist for the kid’s follow – up is provided based on the three categories of the child indicated in the SOP 2.0.

In the affidavit filed by NCPCR in response to the order dated 15.11.2021, it was stated –

·       NCPCR sent letters on 23.11.2021 to all Principal Secretaries, Department of Women and Child Development/Social Welfare of each State/UT inviting them to virtual meetings with the Commission on 02.12.201, 03.12.2021 and 06.12.2021 to discuss the measures/steps they have taken to implement the SOP 2.0.

·       During the discussions, the states informed the commission of the actions they had taken to identify youngsters on the streets. According to NCPCR, most states are still in the identification stage, however certain states, such as Gujarat, Kerala, Telangana, Assam and Madhya Pradesh have already begun rescue and rehabilitation efforts.

·       According to the Court’s ruling, certain states have begun uploading data to the NCPCR site ‘Bal Swaraj – CiSS’, which is being compiled further by NCPCR for greater understanding.

·       According to statistics compiled from data submitted by stated as of 09.12.2021, the number of children living on the street has been recognized as 3655.

Tagged: Supreme Court   Directs States   State Government   Union Territories   National Commission   Protection of Child Rights  
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