The Delhi high court has asked the Centre to consider developing a unique ‘facial recognition’ software by which information and details of missing children can be matched.
The software, the court believed, will help match faces of children who go missing with those who are found and housed in different childcare homes.
The innovative initiative was proposed by a bench of Justice Sanjiv Khanna and Justice Sunita Gupta while hearing a public interest litigation initiated by the court to check the growing number of minors who go missing.
Earlier, Delhi police had submitted before the court that 7,928 children had gone missing in Delhi in 2015, an increase of almost 1,500 children from the last year.
Currently, Delhi Police as well as other child care institutions upload photographs of children who go missing or are found on ZIPNet (Zonal Integrated Police Network).
The police database can be accessed on www.trackthemissingchild.gov.in and used to search for missing or children who are found. The search option, however, is limited to name, age, FIR number, date on which the child was reported missing and physical features of the missing child.
The high court bench noted that Delhi police and other institutions, working to trace missing children, were facing difficulty in matching details of missing children with children recovered and housed in different institutions.
The bench cited a recent case about a child who had gone missing and the Delhi police had uploaded their details on the ZIPNET on August 31, 2015.
The child was found by Uttar Pradesh Police near Hindon Air Force base in Ghaziabad on August 31, 2015 and sent to Lal Bahadur Shastri Sudarshan Child Home at Vasundhra, Ghaziabad.
However, it took nearly 10 months before the Delhi Police figured out that the child had been recovered and was living in Ghaziabad.
The court asked the Centre if its model standard operating procedure (SOP) on missing children has been revised in view of the change in the Juvenile Justice Act.
The new sections in the Juvenile Justice (care and protection of children) Act, 2015, were notified in January this year. The new sections make it mandatory for any individual or a police officer or a nursing home or hospital or maternity home to report to authorities if a child is found separated from his/her guardian.
The standard operating procedure is meant to trace missing children and also to give training to police officers and sensitize them on ways to handle cases so as to prevent trafficking, child labour, abduction and exploitation.