Suo Moto Cognizance of the Juvenile Adversity Amid the COVID Pandemic

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The ongoing pandemic has become a battle for each group of the country. Each community is facing its own set of challenges. Amid all this, the unsupported juveniles of the country are facing some intense adversity. While the law is impeccable support and protection of this community but amid the chaotic and ghastly situation, the implementation and administrative management seem to have fallen short.

The recent reports from the shelter homes in Chennai and Kanpur have sent shockwaves across the general public leading them in questioning the managing authorities regarding their efficiency and control strategy. The lacking of our system’s capability is not the only reason for the graveness of the matter but the human rights violation of the vulnerable group says a lot about the moral infrastructure of the authority officials. And even when the incidents came into bigger limelight no sufficient aftercare protocol was initiated as the result of which the Suo Moto cognizance by the Supreme Court itself came into the picture.

The action might have provided a sign of relief to the basic conscience of the society but at the same time forces us to question the very organization of the administrative arrangement and their incompetency which forces the highest court of law in the country to get involved and supervise the action. The effort here is not only to address and discuss the loopholes of the system but also to form an analytical report card of the bureaucracy in regards to tackling the sensitive and the vulnerable groups of the society which in this case are the children.

The issue came into prominence when the reports of 35 children getting infected in Chennai made it to the headlines on which the Supreme Court decided to take up a Suo Moto cognizance, the bench comprised of Justices L Nageswara Rao, Krishna Murariand S Ravindra Bhat and they even issued an order to the state government to follow the prescribed guidelines within the Juvenile Justice Act protecting the children in child care institutions (CCIs), children in need of care and protection (CNCP), children in contact with the law (CICWL) in observation homes, and children in foster and kinship care. However only within 10 days after this incident, another similar case surfaced in Kanpur as well, where 57 girls were tested to be positive.

As a consequence of these incidents, notices were sent to various states asking for information about the steps taken by them within the shelter homes to tackle the problem of the pandemic being spread amongst these children. Adding to this a questionnaire had also been regulated for all the authorities by the Child Protection Services to ensure proper transparency in the process of reporting the information. The astonishing fact amid all this anarchy is that on April 3 itself the Supreme Court had passed orders to all the states that preventive measures shall be taken to cater to the needs of these children and all due adherence should be made as per the Juvenile Act to fulfil the necessities of the children. Had those orders been followed in full compliance in the first place such a situation would not have come up.

This has bought us down to today where we question the very functioning of our social welfare arrangement. As a result of which the Supreme Court which showed full trust within the government has yet again failed not only the legal expectations but as a democratic welfare state as well. Further adding to the act of Suo Moto through which the Supreme Court had to overstep the government and taken full charge of the answerability instigates us to do a reality check on the current leading situation and the future as well as it seems that rather than solving the problems the justice system is being put into extreme situations where the acts of Suo Moto become inevitable for the larger good and justice of the society.

If we try to dig deeper into the case we shall be able to see that this is not the first time that such a thing has happened and the life of susceptible children has been put on stake, its rather the wind and pressure of the pandemic which triggers this grave violation of human rights towards children and has grabbed the attention of the society. Numerous such orders have been passed throughout the previous decade. In the case of Sampurna Behrua vs Union of India ((CIVIL) NO. 473 OF 2005) the Supreme Court gave an extremely detailed set of instructions to tighten the implementation of Juvenile Justice Act. Several similar judgments have also been passed about the POCSO Act as well but the common problem which comes out and has been highlighted time and again is that whenever these guidelines or advisories are issued, there is no existing mandate or extent defined to which the court will be able to hold the government accountable.

The scenario seemed as if the independent judiciary as one of the pillars of the democracy showed full confidence and faith in the legislative authorities under the perception that the people of the country had elected them after all, adding to which the guidelines were made for the general welfare of the people due to which it becomes all the more important to ensure the appliance of them. But the ground-level reality turned out to be tainted and far from the idol principles of welfare. As the vagueness of the reporting system remained a sketchy and ambiguous affair thus leading the government in improvising in its ways to go about things that lessen the sense of accountability failing the very idea of guideline regulation framework.

This does not show the ineffectiveness of the leaders but also the misuse of political instruments. On such circumstances, there is a greater need for realization amongst the legislators that protection of human rights is one the essence and efforts towards protecting the fundamental rights of the people and such misuse and casual approach towards power not only weakens the institution of the country itself but also brings down the integrity of the people facing the adversity.

There has been no doubt in the fact that whenever any strict supervisory orders are formulated the results achieved are much more acceptable on both legal and social parameters. This time too, due to the nature of the incident the Supreme Court followed a very direct and straight forward approach to increase the transparency and accountability of the work being done. In the present case, the court directly snatched away the leverage of “choice” which previously existed with the government and issued a specified mandate for reporting the updates of the incident. This very approach has come out in the form of Suo Moto cognizance which, in the long run, if used repeatedly might not indicate a very efficient system of the country. For which the only able solution being is the fixated efforts of the legislators towards the rehabilitation of the affected group.

Steps being taken and implemented, the issue leaves us with a wider area of discussion leaving the public pondering upon the condition of treatment of the children. It asks for a deeper introspection of both past and the present where the children’s rights have continued to be ignored and the basic human rights continue to get violated in numerous ways. It not only falls in the category of administrative concern but also our nation’s capability to meet the human rights standards. With such steps being taken by the court, it sets a clear example that the government is still answerable for their executive loopholes and at the same time sets proper monitoring mechanisms acting as a domino effect where all the involved authority’s working shall slowly and steadily fall into place.

At this difficult time of a pandemic where a country like India is facing a crisis from different dimensions, it becomes all the more important for the leaders to ensure that the less privileged groups of the society who have a little control over their position, do not get ignored where they are left at their fate to face the atrocities of the pandemic. Having said that and analyzed all aspects of the condition it all comes down to the political activism of reform which our country needs at such times and to quote the court itself “the inaction of the states was in the teeth of directions given by the court and additionally the states ought to realize that they have to operate in accordance with the provisions of the constitution of India.”

This brings us to the realization that we are already legislatively and judicially equipped with the idol rights our society needs but it is in the end, to the political will to what extent these regulations will be implemented. In the absence of which, the judiciary as one of the pillars of democracy has rarely failed to aid the process of reform and correction in challenging times such as these to ensure that the law of the land and especially the basic human rights of the vulnerable groups are protected as per the mandates of our very own constitution keeping alive the essence of our fundamentals.


This Article is written by Sakshi Shairwal and Muskan Madaan an Intern at Sakshar Law Associates. Sakshar Law Associates is a law firm based in New Delhi, India that specialises in Employment, IP and Start up laws. Sakshar Law Associates is headed by Advocate Sakshi Shairwal, who is serving as Additional standing counsel in Muncipal Corporate of Delhi. She is a LLM holder from the prestigious University of Manchester. Her hardwork, dedication and commitment towards her clients and her law firm is creating ripples in the area of legal world.


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