“Children are our future” said Nelson Mandela. As the pandemic continues to grip the country and the future looks bleak, children’s rights must be first safeguarded.The Supreme Court took suo motu cognizance of the contagion of the virus among children of a child care centre in Royapuram, Chennai(Tamil Nadu) and has since issued various directives to safeguard the health and safety of children in child care institutions(CCI). Let us take a closer look.
Directives issued by the Supreme Court to CCIs following Covid-19
In its advisory dated 28 March,2020 the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) advised childcare institutions to send back home children who are in conflict with the law & stated that this directive was in line with a Supreme Court order (writ petition (c) No 1/2020) directing all states to release prisoners on parole or interim bail to reduce overcrowding in jails. However CCIs house not only children in conflict with the law, but also children with nowhere to go.
The Supreme Court in In Re Contagion of Covid 19 Virus in Children Protection Homes, Suo Moto Writ Petition No. 4 of 2020, on 3rd April, 2020, issued directives for CCIs, by bringing to the fore the issue that the interest of children who are housed in CCIs needs to be looked into.
Directions to CCIs-
- The Person in Charge of the CCI and all other staff working to be proactive and diligent to keep the children safe from COVID-19.
- New National Helpline number has been set up, for any help on COVID-19.
- Spread awareness about the causes and spread of COVID-19.
- If the staff or any child residing in CCI develops symptoms they can call the helplines or go to a local doctor.
- No one exhibiting symptoms should be allowed to enter the premises of the CCI.
- Social distancing should be promoted.
- Measures related to hygiene such as regular washing of hands, clean toilets and kitchens should be enforced.
- Proper disinfection, clean drinking water and sanitation facilities should be provided.
- Reduce activities such as reading, dining and television at 25% participation.
- Meetings to go virtual.
- Extensive cleaning and disinfection of premises must be done.
- Couriers and packages should be sanitised.
- If a staff or a child becomes unwell, procedures set up by the government should immediately be followed.
- A quarantine section should be provided where children or infected persons can be isolated.
- The person in-charge should have a pre-emptive emergency plan in place.
Directions to State Governments
The Supreme Court advised all states to file affidavits regarding the compliance with above directives and steps that are being taken to protect the children in the CCIs. Upon submissions by certain states, the Court issued the following general directives and also state wise orders:
- Providing for educational needs of children in CCIs including online education of released children
- Staying in touch with the children who have been released and follow up if institutionalization is required post Covid-19
- Explore the possibility of re-uniting more children with families
- Assess the need for financial support for living and educational expenses
- Compliance of safety protocol against Covid-19
Child Care Institutions were already bridled by multiple challenges, as can be seen in the next section. The Supreme Court has pro-actively issued directives and is continuously following up on the implementation of the same, in the interest of the children of these homes. In addition to safety and welfare of the children, educational needs of the children will also need to be met. The hope is that civil society organisations carry out programs and interventions that benefit the inmates of these homes. The absence of examinations can be used as an opportunity facilitate joyful learning and fostering safe spaces for these children.
 Sec. 2(21), JJ Act, 2015.
 Sec. 2(19), JJ Act, 2015.
 Sec. 2(27), JJ Act, 2015.
 Sec. 2(40), JJ Act, 2015.
 Sec. 2(41), JJ Act, 2015.
 Sec. 2(56), JJ Act, 2015.
 Sec. 2(57), JJ Act, 2015.
 https://www.childlineindia.org. in/pdf/MWCD-Child-Abuse-Report.pdf
 In Re Contagion of Covid 19 Virus in Children Protection Homes, Suo Moto Writ Petition No. 4 of 2020. https://main.sci.gov.in/supremecourt/2020/10820/10820_2020_0_4_21584_Order_03-Apr-2020.pdf