‘Apathy of authorities’: Delhi HC issues guidelines for functioning of child care institutions

Published on Sep 30, 2022 12:04 AM IST

The judgment comes on a plea by a man seeking a magisterial enquiry into an incident concerning the escape of his daughter and four other girls from a children’s home in the city on March 27, 2021, and other similar incidents reported in the past.

In its ruling, the court said that security measures cannot be limited to CCTVs and security guards, especially in view of how children are also entitled to their right to privacy and confidentiality. (File)
In its ruling, the court said that security measures cannot be limited to CCTVs and security guards, especially in view of how children are also entitled to their right to privacy and confidentiality. (File)

New Delhi It is unfortunate that the “apathy of authorities” is seeping through the cracks and hampering the development of those at a vulnerable age, the Delhi high court said, issuing a slew of guidelines for the better functioning of child care institutions (CCIs) in the Capital.

Issuing a number of directives to the authorities including periodic checks at these institutions, justice Subramonium Prasad in a judgement on Wednesday said that there is a “clear schism between the promulgation of provisions and their implementation on the ground”.

“It is unfortunate to observe that the apathy of the authorities is seeping through the cracks and hampering the development of those who are at the age wherein they require consistent nourishment: mental, physical and nutritional,” the court said.

“Even though the legal framework for ensuring proper functioning of the CCIs is in place, this court can take judicial notice of the apathy in the functioning of the CCIs and the failure on the part of the CCIs in not providing a conducive environment for the children housed at the CCIs. It appears that there is a complete lack of direction and initiative amongst the persons manning these institutions as to how they must guide the children towards a better future,” justice Prasad said in his 47-page judgment.

The judgment comes on a plea by a man seeking a magisterial enquiry into an incident concerning the escape of his daughter and four other girls from a children’s home in the city on March 27, 2021, and other similar incidents reported in the past.

The judge said that the state cannot conflate non-availability of funds to shirk their obligations with inefficient utilisation of grants and it is the constitutional obligation of the state government that adequate funds are available for the child care institutions.

“The recurrent running away of these young girls reveals that there is clearly a certain dissatisfaction that they are experiencing at these CCIs which incites their need to escape from the CCIs; it could either be that their basic needs remain unmet or that they are not receiving the physical or mental nourishment that they so desire or require at that age…It is indeed a sorry state of affairs which requires rectification at the earliest,” the court said.

Asserting that staffing of the CCIs requires urgent intervention, the court said that a “wide-awake” supervision staff member must be assigned each night.

“The safety of the children remains of primary importance, and to improve supervision at night and to prevent incidents such as the one on March 27, 2021, a “wide-awake” supervision staff member must be assigned each night. Female security guards should be provided at CCIs housing girls, and security personnel should be available in reserve for any emergency situation,” the court said.

In its ruling, the court said that security measures cannot be limited to CCTVs and security guards, especially in view of how children are also entitled to their right to privacy and confidentiality.

“In such circumstances, there is a need for the sensitisation of the workers, security guards and other workers. They must be taught how to deal with children, especially those children approaching maturity and are prone to exhibiting rebelliousness, with kindness and patience. Specific teaching should be imparted to these individuals that breaks down gender stereotypes. Cooking, for instance, should be taught to all children by virtue of the same being an important life skill, and not from the perspective of it being a duty that solely resides in the realm of the female gender,” the court said.

“In this regard, it has been brought to the notice of this Court that the children are made to take up menial jobs, such as cooking and cleaning, in the name of chores. This practice needs to be stopped. While children should be taught these basic life skills, they should not be utilised to only perform these chores in place of those who are engaged to conduct these jobs,” the court said.

The court directed the secretary, Department of Women and Child Development, and the chairperson, Delhi Commission for Protection of Child Rights, to conduct periodic meetings at least once in every three months to monitor the functioning of the CCIs, and said a report of the same must be filed in court “on every July 31st and January 31st of each calendar year”, the court said.

The court directed that the data of the number of functioning CCIs and children residing there should be collected and updated every quarter of the year, adding that the exercise with regard to the children should be conducted by the said CCI, and a consolidated report should be prepared on the same at the end of the year, which should be analysed by the Union ministry of women and child development, with professional help being sought from the National Institute of Public Cooperation and Child Development (NIPCCD).

The findings of the analysis of the data, along with the data, should be published on a public portal, it added.

The single-judge bench also said that individual care plans must be formulated for every child within seven days of the child being brought to the CCI, asserting that they should not be prepared in a mechanical or a casual manner.

“The plans should be tailored not only to psychological and physical capabilities of the child, but it should take into consideration the future aspirations of the child, based on their case history, circumstances and individual needs. These plans should be cultivated by the resident counsellor who has had interpersonal interactions with the child and has considerable understanding of the psyche of the child,” the court said.

Justice Prasad also emphasised on a gender-neutral education plan with special emphasis on reproductive health for the children between the ages of 11-18.

“While more often than not, reproductive health is taught only to young adolescent girls as it is assumed that this area of learning only pertains to them, this presumption should be done away with, and the teachings should be extended to everyone housed at all CCIs. A gender neutral plan will not only create awareness amongst all genders, but will also incite empathy and sensitivity with regard to reproductive health,” the judgment read.

The court also said that even though it is necessary to ensure that every CCI has access to the requisite number of gadgets that can be allocated accordingly amongst the children and no child should be deprived of their right to education on account of lack of access to any technological device, the minors should be explained the implications of unhampered access to internet and basics of cybercrime.

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    Reports from the Delhi High Court and stories on legal developments in the city. Avid mountain lover, cooking and playing with birds 🐦 when not at work

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