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Monday, April 22 2024

Crack down on illegal adoption of kids orphaned amid Covid: SC

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New Delhi: In a significant direction, the Supreme Court on Tuesday ordered a crackdown on NGOs or individuals involved in illegal adoption of children orphaned amid the Covid pandemic.

A bench of Justices L. Nageswara Rao and Aniruddha Bose said: “The state governments/Union Territories are directed to take action against those NGOs/ individuals who are indulging in illegal adoptions.”

Additional Solicitor General K.M. Nataraj, appearing for the National Commission for Protection of Children Rights (NCPCR), had expressed his anguish about certain NGOs collecting funds in the names of the affected children.

“It has come to the notice of the NCPCR that the identity of the affected children is being disclosed in public announcements by certain unscrupulous agencies and individuals who are inviting interested persons to adopt the affected children,” he submitted.

The NCPCR and some women and child welfare NGOs had informed the bench that there are several advertisements in the public domain, including on social media, inviting people to adopt orphans.They submitted that many of them are fake and no adoption is permissible without the involvement of the Central Adoption Resource Authority (CARA).

The top court specified that no adoption can be allowed in violation of the Juvenile Justice Act and also without the involvement of the CARA.

“We share the concern of the Additional Solicitor General and Shobha Gupta about the illegal adoption of affected children. The state governments/Union Territories are directed to prevent any NGO from collecting funds in the names of the affected children by disclosing their identity and inviting interested persons to adopt them. No adoption of affected children should be permitted contrary to the provisions of the JJ Act, 2015,” it said in its order.

The bench, in a detailed order in a suo moto matter, added that invitation to persons for adoption of orphans is contrary to law as no adoption of a child can be permitted without the involvement of the CARA, and emphasised on stringent action against those involved in illegal adoption.

The top court passed a slew of direction to ensure children, who have been orphaned amid the pandemic, should get access to basic needs, including continuance of education in government or private schools. It also stressed that states should continue identifying children orphaned during Covid-19 pandemic.

The bench said there should be continuous monitoring regarding the welfare of the child by the District Child Protection Units (DCPUs) even after the financial order is passed by the Child Welfare Committee (CWC), which should be done periodically every three to six months.

“After the identification of the children who have become orphans or lost one parent, prompt action has to be taken to provide the basic needs of the children. The District Child Protection Officer should act swiftly to contact the child. The DCPUs shall ensure that adequate provision is made for the ration, food, medicines, clothing etc to the child,” it said.

The bench also accepted a suggestion by amicus curiae Gaurav Agrawal, and directed states/UTs to make provisions for continuance of education of the children both in government as well as in private schools.

It said the identification of the affected children can be done through Childline (1098), health officials, Panchayati Raj Institutions, police authorities, NGOs etc.

The NCPCR has informed the top court that as many as 3621 children were orphaned, 274 were found abandoned and 26,176 lost either parent since April 1, last year and June 5, 2021, amid the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. The commission said there are 30,071 children, who need care and protection, after collecting data from the states and UTs, on its Bal Swaraj portal.

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