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The Calcutta High Court on Friday took critical note that there has been neither conviction nor acquittal in the cases pending for adjudication relating to the violation of child rights (In re: Contagion of COVID-19 Virus in Children Protection Homes)..
While perusing an affidavit filed by the Labour Department, the Court further observed, "It appears from the chart disclosed in the said affidavit that in 2019 about 176 cases and in 2020 about 199 cases regarding infringement of child rights are pending. Even during the lockdown period cases of infringement have been detected."
In view of the same, the Bench of Justices Harish Tandon and Soumya Sen has now called for a detailed affidavit on the issue, directing as follows,
The Bench was hearing a suo motu case registered to monitor the welfare of children, particularly children lodged in child welfare homes and children of migrant labourers, amid the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown.
Last week, the Court had expressed concern over the possible spurt in child trafficking cases that may follow the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown, after a perusing a report filed by the West Bengal Commission for Protection of Child Rights Chairperson.
On Friday, the Court also expressed its dissatisfaction in a report submitted on the details of child rights violation cases that occurred in the state amid COVID-19 lockdown.
The Court was informed that 32 cases of child marriages were prevented and one child was rescued. Child marriage cases had also been been reported under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012 (POCSO Act) during this lockdown period. However, the Court found that the affidavit filed on the same appeared to be incomplete.
Calcutta High Court
The Court has also taken into consideration an article by “The Indian Express” which quoted the Chairperson of the West Bengal Commission for Women that there had been a spike of domestic violence cases during the lockdown period, which also included child sexual abuse and violation of other child rights.
The Court has now directed the Chairperson of the West Bengal Commission for Women to share information pertaining to this issue with the Advocate General so that it may be placed on record.
This apart, the Court has also recorded the submissions made by the Child and Social Welfare Department that a system had been developed to conduct post-restoration follow up on a regular basis in Childrens' Homes.
The follow up included the collection of general information about the physical and mental health of the restored children, economic condition of the families, food security, sensitisation about taking precautionary measures against COVID-19 etc.
Direct interaction with the child over phone calls has been established, the Court was told. Regular follow ups at least once a week were being conducted with the aid of a structured questionnaire, it was further submitted.
While appreciating these measures, the Court has now directed for an affidavit to be filed disclosing further details for a better appreciation of the measures taken.
The matter has been posted for hearing on June 25.