New Delhi/Thiruvananthapuram: The Supreme Court on Tuesday pulled up the Kerala government for not ensuring adequate facilities to children living in orphanages and child care institutions there as mandated under the law.
The court said that according to the affidavit filed by the state's chief secretary, several such institutions have stated that they cannot provide proper infrastructure to children living there.
"If these institutions are saying that they cannot provide proper infrastructure, food, clothes to the children, then is it okay for you? You are saying the same to us. What is this?" a bench of justices Madan B Lokur and Deepak Gupta asked the counsel representing Kerala.
The bench said it would hear the state on the issue and "if we find that you are mistreating the children, we will see". It also termed it as "amazing" that the state was unable to provide proper facilities to children living in orphanages and child care institutions.
"We have told Kerala that you cannot look after the children as per the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015. That means that Juvenile Justice Act, which has been enacted by Parliament, cannot be implemented," the bench said.
"You tell us what positives can you provide. Everything is negative," the court observed.
The counsel appearing for Kerala said that there were around 1,169 such institutions in the state out of which 531 were registered as on December 31 last year while 28 applications for registration were pending consideration. It said that 418 such institutions have said that they cannot run these establishments due to want of proper infrastructure.
An advocate, assisting the court as an amicus curiae in the matter, said that the state should indicate as to which institutions want to close down due to lack of proper facilities and infrastructure.
The bench, while making it clear that the state and such institutions would have to provide facilities to the children as mandated under the Act, asked Kerala to file an affidavit within four weeks indicating the number of children living in such institutions and also the facilities provided to them.
The court was hearing a PIL filed on the basis of a 2007 newspaper report which had alleged that orphanages in Tamil Nadu's Mahabalipuram, which were run by the NGOs as well as government institutions, were reportedly involved in systematic sexual abuse of children.
The apex court had last year passed a slew of directions including setting up of a data base of children living in orphanages and child care institutions to ensure their safety and welfare.
It had directed the Centre, states and union territories to complete the registration of all child care institutions by the year-end and had said the registration process should also include a database of all children who are in need of care and protection and update it every month.
The court had also directed that all vacancies in State Commission for Protection of Child Rights (SCPCR) be filled across the country by the end of 2017.