States & UTs to take steps to enable children to move back to CCIs if they so desire: SC

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New Delhi, Feb 2 (PTI) The Supreme Court has said that states and Union Territories (UTs) should take steps to enable children, sent from child care institutions to their parental or guardians' homes amid the COVID-19 pandemic, to move back to CCIs if they so desire.

A bench of Justices L Nageswara Rao and S Ravindra Bhat noted that some states have opened schools in view of the improving situation of COVID-19 and children who were restored to their parents or guardians might be willing to move back to CCIs.

The apex court also asked all the states and UTs to furnish information relating to vacancy position in child welfare committee (CWCs) and juvenile justice board (JJBs) to advocate Gaurav Agrawal, who is assisting it as an amicus curiae in the matter, within two weeks.

“In view of the improving situation relating to COVID-19, some states have opened schools. Children who have been restored to parents/guardians might be willing to move back to the child care institutions. Suitable steps shall be taken by the state governments/ UTs to enable the children to move back to the child care institutions, if they so desire,” the bench said in its order.

The bench noted that the amicus has referred to the affidavit filed by Tamil Nadu as per which it is clear that 9,852 out of 33,892 families to which children have been restored are financially unstable.

“It is important to find out the financial stability of parents/guardians of children who have been restored from the child care institutions due to the pandemic. The state governments/UTs are directed to furnish information to the amicus curiae about the financial stability of the families of children who were sent from the child care institutions to their parental homes/guardians, within a period of two weeks from today,” the bench said in its February 1 order.

It noted that the apex court had on December 15 last year directed the states and UTs to consult the district child protection units and provide necessary infrastructure, stationery, books and other facilities required for online classes to the children in CCIs.

It said that 18 states have responded and furnished information to the amicus about the number of children in CCIs and those who have been restored to their parents or guardians and the steps taken for providing education to them.

The bench, while posting the matter for hearing after three weeks, granted two weeks to states and UTs which have not yet filed their affidavits to comply with the December 15 last year order.

In December last year, the apex court was told that 2,27,518 children were in CCIs when the COVID-19 pandemic had started and 1,45,788 have been restored with their families or guardians.

The top court is 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. PTI ABA SA