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Supreme Court questions West Bengal and Delhi for not providing data on children orphaned since March 2020

"All the other states have understood it properly and have uploaded the information, how is it that only West Bengal doesn't understand the order...Don't take refuge under confusion. All other states have provided it, there is confusion only for West Bengal?" the Apex Court asked.

On Monday (June 7), the Supreme Court pulled up the Delhi and West Bengal governments for failing to provide data about children orphaned since March last year. Last month, the apex court had directed all states to upload information about these children on the portal of the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR).

The suo motu case regarding the Contagion of Covid in Children Protection Homes was heard by a 2-Judge Bench of Justices Aniruddha Bose and Nageswara Rao. During the hearing, the court observed that only the states of West Bengal and Delhi had failed to upload correct information about the children who had become orphans after March 2020.

West Bengal government cites ‘confusion’ for not submitting data

The Counsel for West Bengal claimed that the data could not be submitted due to the confusion over ‘six stages’ mentioned in the web portal of NCPCR. This was despite the apex Court’s order dated June 1 wherein it said that the states need not provide data for all the six stages immediately and provide the data for the first two stages only.

While pulling up the counsel for the state of West Bengal, the Bench said, “We said gather information pertaining to children orphaned after March 2020, and include CNCPs(Children in Need of Care and Protection) also. All the other states have understood it properly and have uploaded the information, how is it that only West Bengal doesn’t understand the order…Don’t take refuge under confusion. All other states have provided it, there is confusion only for West Bengal?”

The Bench then directed the state of West Bengal to immediately upload the data of children who have lost one or both parents after March 2020 onto the NCPCR portal.

Delhi government claims ‘difficulty’ in data collection

Counsel for the Delhi government, Chirag M Shroff, submitted before the Supreme Court that the data could not be uploaded on the NCPCR website owing to problems in ‘data collection.’ He said that the Delhi government had recently decided to depute government officers at the grassroots level for data collection and upload the information immediately.

Shroff added that the basic needs of orphaned children would be taken care of by the government, including steps enshrined in the Juvenile Justice Act, 2015. The Supreme Court directed Delhi to follow the suit of other states, which had collected data through the constitution of District Task Officers (comprising of revenue officers, the District Collector, and the Magistrate). It added that the data could be broken up in Divisions for easy collection.

Tamil Nadu shares incorrect, selective data in contravention of the Court’s orders

Meanwhile, Tamil Nadu had also provided ‘incorrect information’ about the children who had lost one or both parents since March last year. The Court observed that not even one child was produced before the Child Welfare Committee (CWC). Moreover, the state had provided data for those children whose parents died due to the Wuhan Coronavirus infection. However, the apex court had directed States to upload information about all children orphaned since March last year, irrespective of the cause of the death of the parents.

As per an affidavit filed by the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR), data uploaded on its portal until June 5, 2021 showed that 30,071 children had lost one or both parents or have been abandoned. Since March 2020, a total of 3621 children had become orphans while 26,176 children had lost one parent. About 274 children were abandoned by their parents during the said period.

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