After minor girls test COVID-19 positive in Kanpur shelter home, plea in SC seeks better facilities for children in childcare homes
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After minor girls test COVID-19 positive in Kanpur shelter home, plea in SC seeks better facilities for children in childcare homes

Of 57 girls found COVID-19 positive, it is noted that 5 girls are pregnant while 1 is HIV positive. Earlier, the Court had taken cognizance of children testing positive for COVID-19 in a shelter home at Chennai.

Shruti Mahajan

After as many as 57 minor girls tested positive for COVID-19 in a shelter home in Kanpur, a plea has been filed in the Supreme Court seeking better facilities for the inmates of the childcare institutions.

Advocate Aparna Bhat, in her capacity as an amicus curiae, has filed an application before the Supreme Court seeking better facilities and implementation of the Court's guidelines as regards prevention of spread of COVID-19 in child care institutions (CCI).

In her plea, Bhat has highlighted the reports concerning 57 minor girls in a shelter home in Kanpur testing positive for the contagion.

Out of these 57, five are pregnant while one is also HIV positive, the plea points out. These minor girls were all lodged in a State-run shelter home and the incident has been taken cognizance of by the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), it is said in the plea.

Earlier, the Supreme Court had taken cognizance of news reports pertaining to children in a shelter home in Chennai testing positive for COVID-19. As such a response from the State of Tamil Nadu was sought by the Supreme Court.

In light of these two instances, the petition points out that the children may not have been COVID positive back in April when the Apex Court had taken suo motu cognizance of the concern regarding the spread of the virus in children shelter homes and passed directions and guidelines to prevent the spread as such.

In April, the Court had said that the directions passed were in line with the available information regarding preventive measures. However, considering the dynamic nature of the situation, the Court had also asked state departments and concerned authorities to keep abreast with the latest information and advisories.

However, at this stage, it is pertinent to take further preventive steps to curb the spread of COVID-19 in such CCIs, the application says.

As per the April guidelines, various steps such as conduction of inquiries, circulation of information of the pandemic and the virus, preparation of plans with the District Child protection units, budgetary allocations, et al ought to have been taken by the concerned authorities, Bhat's plea says.

It is also added that the CCIs, shelter homes and such ought to have had taken preventive measures such as ensuring social distancing, medical screening, and ensuring hygiene and hand-wash routines in these facilities.

In case of suspected cases, another set of prescribed guidelines were also laid down by the Court, which should have been followed by these shelter homes, such as monitoring and identification, immediate quarantine, among others. But it remains unclear as to what are the steps that have been taken thus far, the Amicus says.

"It is apparent that the rights of children housed in CCIs are currently in dire straits with the challenges posed by the pandemic and the bare minimum requirements for a good management protocol."
- the application says.

The CCIs need to ensure that any child referred to them by the Child Welfare Committees (CWCs) are placed in adequate quarantine and ensured to not be COVID-19 positive before they are housed in the CCIs. Similarly, there is a need for taking other preventive measures at this time to ensure the prevention of the further spread of COVID-19 among children in these facilities.

For the benefit of the 57 COVID-19 patients from Kanpur shelter home, appropriate medical treatment and facilities ought to be provided, the plea says as regards the minor girls. Further, the plea also goes on to say:

"It is equally important that a daily data on the status of the health of the children must be made available to authorities at the State and Central level for better and urgent intervention should any more children report positive for COVID-19"

Bhat has, therefore, prayed before the Court to pass necessary directions to the concerned authorities for provision of better facilities in these institutions and for the directions to touch upon the aspects of:

  • Issuance of advisory to all CWCs to suitably quarantine newy admitted children before placing them in CCIs

  • Provision of PPE kits, sanitizers, masks, and clean drinking water at the CCIs as well as Juvenile Justice Boards (JJBs) where the children are produced.

  • To dispense with the requirement of production of children before JJBs and CWCs unless absolutely necessary and for the formalities to be completed via video conferencing instead.

  • Immediate activation of a centralised database of all children living in CCIs

The application adds that the Centre may also indicate steps taken till now to activate the said database of children in CCIs.

The application has been filed by Advocate Aparna Bhat.

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