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Act against illegal adoption of kids orphaned by Covid or otherwise, SC directs states, UTs

Expressing concern over illegal adoption of children whose parents died of Covid-19, or otherwise, the Supreme Court has directed state governments and Union Territories 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”.

A bench of Justices L Nageswara Rao and Aniruddha Bose asked state and UT authorities to take action against NGOs or individuals indulging in illegal adoptions.

The bench pointed out that no adoption of affected children should be permitted contrary to the provisions of the Juvenile Justice Act, 2015. “Invitation to persons for adoption of orphans is contrary to law, as no adoption of a child can be permitted without the involvement of CARA (Central Adoption Resource Authority). Stringent action shall be taken by the State Governments/Union Territories against agencies/individuals who are responsible for indulging in this illegal activity,” the court said.

The order came Monday in a suo motu matter relating to the welfare of children in protection homes.

Based on data uploaded on its ‘Bal Swaraj’ portal by states and UTs, the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) had told the apex court during the hearing that between April 1 last year and June 5 this year — a period that saw the country battle two waves of Covid-19 — 3,621 children were orphaned; 26,176 lost one of the parents; and 274 were abandoned across the country. These deaths, the Commission said, were not related just to Covid-19 and could have been due to other reasons as well.

Taking note, the court asked the states and UTs to “continue identifying” such children and provide the data on NCPCR website without delay. “The identification of the affected children can be done through Childline (1098), health officials, panchayati raj institutions, police authorities, NGOs, etc,” it said.

The bench also accepted the suggestions of the amicus curiae, advocate Gaurav Agrawal, on education of the affected children and directed that the “State Government/Union Territories should ensure that there is no break in the education of children who have become orphans or lost either one parent during the pandemic”.

It asked the District Child Protection Units (DCPU) to contact the affected child and her/his guardian immediately on receiving information about the death of either one or both parents.

The court observed, “Assessment shall be made about the suitability and willingness of the guardian to take care of the child. The DCPU should ensure that adequate provisions are made for ration, food, medicine, clothing etc for the affected child.”

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