New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Tuesday directed all states to provide Rs 2,000 a month for the education of each child who was in a child care institution (CCI) and now been restored to his or her family during the COVID-19 pandemic. The apex court also said state governments should provide necessary infrastructure, including books and stationery, to CCIs for the online classes of children living there on the basis of a recommendation from district child protection units within 30 days.
A bench headed by Justice L Nageswara Rao said states should ensure that the required number of teachers are made available to teach children in CCIs. The bench, also comprising Justices Hemant Gupta and Ajay Rastogi, was told that 2,27,518 children were in CCIs when the COVID-19 pandemic started and 1,45,788 have been restored with their families or guardians.
It said states would pay Rs 2,000 per month for their education and this amount has to be given at the recommendation of the district child protection unit, keeping in mind the financial position of the children's families. Noting the importance and the need for providing education to those who have been restored with their families, the bench directed that district child protection units shall coordinate and oversee the progress made in the matter.
The apex court also directed that child protection unit would inform the district legal services authority about the progress made regarding the issue of facilities for children in CCIs. It observed that teachers should be permitted to teach the children as the pandemic had affected normal life since March this year and the children did not have the opportunity to attend classes.
The bench passed the order while hearing a suo motu case on the condition of children in protection, juvenile and foster or kinship homes across the country amid the coronavirus outbreak. It had earlier issued directions to state governments and various other authorities to protect them.
During the hearing conducted through video-conference, advocate Gaurav Agrawal, assisting the top court as an amicus curiae in the matter, apprised the bench about the number of children residing in CCIs and restored with their families or guardians during this pandemic period. He said CCIs should be assisted by Juvenile Justice Boards (JJBs) and teachers should be provided for students by following COVID-19 guidelines.
“We want a direction from the Supreme Court that they should be provided educational facilities in children care homes,” Mr Agrawal said, adding that state governments should make available necessary infrastructure and equipment for this. He said teachers may be assigned to take stock of academic progress of children in CCIs in the last five months. Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the National Commission for Protection of Children Rights (NCPCR), said he has no objection to the suggestions given by the amicus.
Referring to a provision of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, Mr Mehta said, “We are making a mechanism to inspect the child care homes. We want a direction that states be asked to cooperate with the commission in inspecting the child care homes”.
The bench asked Mr Mehta, “Why don't you do all these things such as monitoring the development of children and their welfare in child care homes?” “You can give the directions to the states on behalf of the commission,” the bench said, adding, “What do you want? Whether we should give the directions or you want to issue them?” Mr Mehta said directions from the apex court would “carry weight” and the commission would do the needful and ensure the implementation.
The bench observed that it is the duty of the child rights commission to ensure the implementation of the law. “We will accept the suggestions of the amicus and will issue directions which have to be followed up scrupulously by the states in child care homes,” the bench observed, adding that the directions will have to be implemented through the states, NCPCR and state commissions.