The Supreme Court on Monday directed states and union territories to link children orphaned due to the COVID-19 pandemic and their family members to various welfare schemes.

A Bench of Justice L Nageswara Rao and Justice B R Gavai noted that the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) has written 19,825 letters to various district authorities making various recommendations for linking a child and his or her family members to various schemes but has received only 920 action taken reports.

The Bench took note of a report filed by the NCPCR on the issue. The Court directed states and UTs to submit status reports in two weeks.

The Bench also directed authorities to take steps to ascertain the properties belonging to deceased parents of children in street situations and upload the same on the Bal Swaraj Portal. District magistrates (DMs) were told to protect such properties. "District child protection officers and DMs are directed to take assistance of legal services authorities in this regard so that children are not deprived of their properties," the Bench said.

On the issue of education, the Apex Court clarified that the relief granted to orphaned children would continue and directed the DMs to ensure no impediment is caused in their studies. According to the report, 10,793 children have lost both parents and 1,51,322 have lost at least one parent.

Social investigation reports in respect of the majority of such children have not been finalised, it said. The court also directed state governments and UTs to take steps to complete the process of preparation of social investigation reports in respect of such children.

The Court had taken suo motu cognisance with regard to children in street situations and who have lost their parents to COVID-19. It had earlier directed that the testimonies of children, who are victims of child trafficking, be recorded through video conference either at the district court complex or the office of the District Legal Services Authority in the district where the child is residing. It had said it was concerned with obviating difficulties to the victims of trafficking concerning travelling long distances to give evidence in trial courts.

With PTI inputs