New Delhi [India], July 27 (ANI): The Supreme Court on Tuesday slammed the West Bengal government for not uploading correct information of children who were orphaned during the COVID-19 pandemic since March 2020.
A Bench of Justice L Nageswara Rao and Justice Aniruddha Bose directed the District Magistrates of West Bengal to collect necessary information relating to children who have become orphans, either they lost both parents or the lone surviving parent, after March 2020 and upload it at the portal earliest.
The apex court's order came after it was informed by the Additional Solicitor General (ASG) KM Nataraj, appearing for the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR), that the number of orphans uploaded by some states like Punjab, West Bengal and Jammu and Kashmir appear to be unrealistic.
During the hearing, the counsel appearing for West Bengal objected to ASG's statement and asked on what basis ASG is saying that data is incorrect.
To this, the Bench asked West Bengal's counsel, "Are you sure only 24 children have become orphans in your state? We will record your statement that this is the truth and then order a separate investigation?"
The West Bengal later clarified that information was sought of children who became orphans because of the death of parents due to COVID-19 and not during the pandemic and the information will be collected thereafter a report will be submitted.
The apex court told the counsel that orders passed by it was to upload information of all children who have become orphans after March 2020 and it was made clear in order that the information is not restricted to deaths due to COVID-19.
The Bench also directed the Punjab government to continue with the process of identification of orphans and upload information at the earliest.
It further directed all State and Union Territories to file status reports giving particulars of the number of children who have become orphans or lost one parent after March 2020, a number of children produced before the Child Welfare Committee (CWC) and particulars of children who have been provided with benefits of schemes by States.
During the hearing, the top court observed that the welfare schemes for orphans, such as the one announced under the PM CARES Fund, should cover all children who became orphans during COVID-19, and not just those who got orphaned due to the pandemic.
It also directed states to ensure that the children who have become during the COVID-19 pandemic are permitted to continue in the same schools for this academic year whether it is private or government school.
The apex court added that if in case there is difficulty in continuing in the same schools they may be accommodated in the neighbouring school under the RTE Act. States shall also furnish details about children who have been accommodated in government and private schools, the Bench added while posting the matter for hearing on August 26.
The top court initiated the hearing in a suo motu case in 2020 to address the issue of COVID-19 spread in juvenile homes, child care centres etc. This year, the Bench took note of the issue of children who became orphans during the COVID-19 pandemic. (ANI)