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Child rights panel’s report on shelter homes frightening: Supreme Court

Referring to the NCPCR‘s social audit report on shelter homes, a bench headed by Justice Madan B Lokur said that out of the 2,874 children homes, only 54 have received positive reviews from the body, set up under the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act.

india Updated: Aug 28, 2018 23:28 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
New Delhi, Hindustan Times
NCPCR,shelter homes,Supreme Court
The Supreme Court said it was “helpless” as any direction to authorities would be called “judicial activism”.(HT File Photo)

The Union government has asked all states to submit a report on shelter homes, which house children in need, by September 15 for their better management, a government official told the Supreme Court on Tuesday.

Astha Saxena, a joint secretary in the Union ministry of women and child development (WCD), told a bench led by justice MB Lokur that inputs from states will help plug loopholes and strengthen the legal mechanism to manage shelter homes. She added that states can get assistance from district magistrates to carry out their surveys.

Saxena said a meeting with the states is likely to be held on September 18.

The Centre’s directive came against the backdrop of an affidavit filed by the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR), which is conducting a survey of all shelter homes – about 9,000 – across the country. Of late, there have been reports of rights abuse and sexual harassment at several such shelter homes.

The judges hearing the matter said the NCPCR survey revealed a “frightening scenario” of shelters where homeless children or those in conflict with law are given a space to live. Justice Deepak Gupta and justice SA Nazeer were the other members on the bench.

In the NCPCR study, just 54 of the 2,874 children homes inspected so far got positive reviews.

After Saxena said her ministry was ready to abide by directions from the judiciary, justice Lokur said he and his colleagues will be accused of “judicial activism” if they issued orders.

“What can we do? We are helpless because if we pass orders then we are criticised and also accused of judicial activism,” justice Lokur said.

Saxena admitted that “the (NCPCR) report is shocking” and added monitoring by authorities at all levels was the need of the hour.

Advocate Aparna Bhat, assisting the court in the matter related to the management of shelter homes for children, said the government must take action on a report prepared by NGO Childline that was submitted two years ago. Childline had conducted the study at the behest of the NCPCR, she said.

The Centre turned down Bhat’s suggestion to have court-appointed state-level and Centre-level committees to oversee the various panels mandated to look after shelter homes.

The court asked Bhat to prepare the draft terms of reference for the committees in consultation with the joint secretary. It said the issue had to be kept open and the court will await the outcome of the September 18 meeting. The next hearing will be held on September 20.

First Published: Aug 28, 2018 19:57 IST