New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Tuesday directed state governments and Union Territories to file status reports providing details on the number of children who have become orphans in wake of the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic in March 2020, as it emphasised that schemes meant for orphans should not remain on paper only.
A bench of Justices L. Nageswara Rao and Aniruddha Bose emphasised that “there is a need to ensure the schemes meant for the orphans reach the real beneficiaries and not just remain on paper”.
It directed all District Magistrates to issue necessary directions to district child protection officers to identify orphans, and they could seek assistance from police, civil society organisations, gram panchayats, and ASHA network.
The bench reiterated its direction that state governments should ensure the orphans were permitted to continue in the same schools for the academic year.
It also directed the states to provide details regarding payment of Rs 2,000 monetary assistance given to needy orphans under the Integrated Child Development Services scheme.
“The identification of children who have lost both parents or one parent after March 2020, does not brook any further delay,” it held.
The bench also directed the states to furnish details about children who have been accommodated in government and private schools, and scheduled the matter for further hearing on August 26.
The top court’s direction came after perusing a report filed by advocate Gaurav Agrawal, who has been appointed amicus curiae.
During the hearing, the top court also pulled up West Bengal government on the information on children who were orphaned amid the pandemic since March 2020.
It remarked it is not keen to believe that there were just 27 orphans in the state from March 2020.
“Are you sure only 27 children have become orphans in your state? We will record your statement that this is the truth and then order a separate investigation.”
As the West Bengal government counsel, who submitted that the state is identifying children and then uploaded data of all those identified, reiterated that a total of 27 children have been identified, the bench replied: “Can we record it then? We’ll record and ask the Secretary to appear. You are so steadfast in saying only 27 orphans are there in such a big state.”
The bench told the counsel to look at the figures of other states. “It is not like your state did not have Covid at all. We are not prepared to believe this figure at all,” said the bench.
On June 1, the apex court had asked Centre to provide information on the recently launched ‘PM-CARES for Children’ scheme for children orphaned due to Covid-19. Additionally, it also states to appoint nodal officers to apprise it on identification and welfare measures taken for such children.
The top court was hearing a suo motu case seeking identification of children orphaned due to the pandemic or otherwise, and providing them immediate relief.