Ensure Education of Children Who Lost Parents to COVID-19: SC
7th June 2021 the Supreme Court of India in a suo moto case, “In Re Contagion of Covid 19 Virus in Children Protection Homes1”, accepting the suggestions of amicus curiae passed an order directing States, particularly, Telangana, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Karnataka, Gujarat, Rajasthan Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Bihar, and Jharkhand not to deny children education who have lost their parents amid COVID-19.
Mr. Gaurav Agrawal, the amicus curiae, was permitted to conduct interactions with the nodal officers of all State Governments of India and to take into account the recourse taken by the States for the children orphaned due to losing their parents to the pandemic. Accordingly, the above-mentioned states were identified for the purpose of obtaining relevant information further to which a report was furnished.
The suggestions included:
- Identification of children who are orphaned or lost either of their parents;
- Immediate relief to be given to such children;
- Child Welfare Committees (CWC) should conduct inquiries and pass suitable orders expeditiously and its implementation for welfare without delay;
- CWC and District Child Protection Officer (DCPO) should stay updated on children’s wellbeing periodically;
- Such children should not encounter any problems or discontinuance in education.
- For children studying in government schools, they should be permitted to continue the same.
- For children studying in private schools, the State Governments/Union Territories should take steps and direct the continuance of the children in those schools at least for period of six months by which time some arrangement can be worked out.
The Court accepted the above suggestions and gave the following direction to the above-mentioned States:
- The State Governments/Union Territories are directed to continue identifying the children who have become orphans or lost a parent after March 2020 either due to Covid-19 or otherwise and provide the data on the website of the NCPCR without any delay. The identification of the affected children can be done through Childline (1098), health officials, Panchayati Raj Institutions, police authorities, NGOs etc.
- The DCPO is directed to contact the affected child and his guardian immediately on receipt of information about the death of the parent/parents. Assessment shall be made about the suitability and willingness of the guardian to take care of the child. The DCPU should ensure that adequate provisions are made for ration, food, medicine, clothing etc. for the affected child. Financial assistance to which the disconsolate child is entitled to under the prevailing schemes by the Central Government and the State Governments/Union Territories should be provided without any delay.
- The DCPO should furnish his phone number and the name and phone number of the local official who can be contacted by the guardian and the child. There should be a regular follow up by the concerned authorities with the child at least once in a month.
- If the DCPO is of the prima facie opinion that the guardian is not suitable to take care of the child, he should produce the child before the CWC immediately.
- CWC should provide for the essential needs of the child during the pendency of the inquiry without fail. The inquiry should be completed expeditiously. CWC shall ensure that all financial benefits to which the child is entitled are provided without any delay.
- The State Governments/Union Territories are directed to make provisions for continuance of education of the children both in Government as well as in private schools.
- The State Governments/Union Territories are directed to take action against those NGOs/individuals who are indulging in illegal adoptions.
- Wide publicity should be given to the provisions of the JJ Act, 2015 and the prevailing schemes of the Union of India and the State Governments/Union Territories which would benefit the affected children.
- DPCO shall take the assistance of government servants at the Gram Panchayat level to monitor the welfare of the disconsolate children who are devastated by the catastrophe of losing their parent/parents.
In conclusion, the Court said:
It is concerned with the implementation of the schemes that are in place to meet the essential needs of the affected children forthwith. There is a need for continuous monitoring of the implementation of the schemes in favour of the affected children.
The Supreme Court noted in the order that 30,071 children have become orphans or have lost one parent or abandoned due to COVID-19 as per data collected till June 6, 2021.
Rasmita Behera | Research Intern | EduLegaL
Swapna Iyer | Legal Editor | EduLegaL