The Delhi High Court has directed the Delhi government to carry out COVID-19 tests for children in need of care and protection who are staying at different homes or child care institutions under the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015.
A division bench of Chief Justice DN Patel and Justice Prateek Jalan passed these directions while partially allowing a petition of Bachpan Bachao NGO and directing the authorities concerned to record the statements of 'children in need of care and protection' in connection with a case related to bonded labour over video conferencing in view of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The High Court said that the authorities will ensure that all precautions for the welfare of the child are taken and that the sample is expeditiously collected so that the child can return to the homes or institutions they are staying.
"We direct that this process should be continued, and the requirement of taking the child out of the home/child care institution should be avoided as far as possible," the court said in a detailed order on Tuesday.
"Looking to the facts and circumstances of the case, we are also of the view that the interest of children who require care and protection necessitates that their exposure to crowded environments is avoided in the prevailing circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic. In fact, as far as possible, they should not be required to leave the premises of the child care institution in which they are housed," the order said.
The PIL filed by NGO Bachpan Bachao Andolan through advocate Prabhsahay Kaur claimed that the investigation officer (IO) had asked the children between the age of 10-12 years, who are staying at a home, to physically go to the Karkardooma court to record their statement.
The NGO has also sought that all proceedings by different authorities under Juvenile Justice (Care and Protestation of Children) Act, 2015 be held by audio-visual means or video conferencing to keep children from contracting the virus.
It has also sought to take measures and propose a mechanism ensuring these 10 children, who were rescued from bonded labour from Vivek Vihar in an operation, are tested for COVID-19 at the earliest, preferably before the child is sent to a children's home or child care institution.
All rescued children were sent to Mukti Ashram, a short-term rehabilitation centre for children run by the petitioner, which is registered as a Child Care Institution under the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act 2000.