The Allahabad High Court has issued interim guidelines for the management of shelter homes in the State of Uttar Pradesh.
The Bench comprising Chief Justice DB Bhosale and Justice Yashwant Varma has directed all District Judges in the State to constitute monitoring committees of 3-4 members, comprising the Secretary of District Legal Services Authority (DLSA), and judicial officers. It has further issued the following directives:
- The Monitoring Committees should contain lady judicial officers.
- The Committees shall undertake an inspection of all shelter homes falling within the jurisdiction of the concerned District Court and chronicle their observations with regard to the status and character of infrastructure available, the hygiene levels maintained at the shelter homes as also of the areas and aspects which require upgradation.
- The Committees shall also interact with the inmates so as to gather requisite information with respect to the general environment of the shelter home, and shall also assess whether dietary, medical and other needs of the inmates are being met.
- These inspections shall be carried out every month and reports shall be submitted on the record of these proceedings, for review and issuance of further directions.
- The first of such reports shall be placed before the Court by 26 September, when the matter will be heard next.
- The Committees shall also take assistance from Para Legal Volunteers (PLVs) who may independently inspect these shelter homes fortnightly and submit their reports to the Committees.
- The Registrar General is expected to issue appropriate directives to all concerned District Judges to ensure compliance of the directions issued.
- The State must codify the minimum infrastructure and facilities that must exist in shelter homes presently established, as also those which are proposed to be created in the future. To this end, it may take into consideration all relevant guidelines and norms that may have been framed by the Centre, including the Swadhar Greh Scheme. The codified instructions should be placed before the court by the next date of hearing, along with affidavit of the Additional Chief Secretary.
- The Additional Chief Secretary is expected to place before the Court the State’s stand on the need for empanelment of adequate number of Rehabilitation/Child Psychologists who may function with different shelter homes throughout the state and undertake an evaluation of inmates every two weeks.
- Chief Secretary Government of U.P. is supposed to file a personal affidavit clarifying their stand on the inadequacy of funds in maintaining facilities at Child Care Institutions and Shelter Homes.
- The State shall complete installation of CCTV cameras in all shelter homes throughout the State within three months.
The directions were issued while the Court was hearing the suo motu petition initiated in the Deoria Shelter Home case. At the outset, the Court took note of an unconditional apology tendered by three people who had attempted to interview a few of the affected children housed at an institution on Court’s orders.
Accepting their apology, the Court noted, “Since the three individuals have shown genuine repentance and have furnished an unconditional apology, we accept the same and discharge notices issued to them taking on record the statements made in the affidavits tendered on their behalf today.”
Thereafter, it recalled that during the hearing on 27 August, the Court had noticed the “systemic failure of monitoring and audit of shelter homes” and had made a few suggestions for consideration of Additional Advocate General, Mr. Manish Goyal.
The Court now took note of an affidavit submitted by the authorities informing it of the directions issued to the Director, Academy of Management Studies, Lucknow to undertake a social audit of all shelter homes, in accordance with the norms formulated by the Centre. It further noted that the State has constituted a seven-member committee to formulate and prescribe long-term directives for all shelter homes in the State.
The Court, however, assumed that no audit of shelter homes has been conducted so far, in view of the absence of any such disclosure having been made by the authorities. Besides, while the State submitted that presently there are no codified norms for shelter homes which are not established or run under the purview of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015, the Court highlighted the detailed provisions contained in the Swadhar Greh Scheme framed by the Centre.
Examining such submissions, the Court emphasised on the necessity of issuance of interim directions, leaving it open for the State to formulate long-term directives. It observed, “We, therefore, find ourselves unable to accept the contention advanced on behalf of the State respondents of a complete absence of guidelines governing these shelter homes. However, from the tenor of the affidavits filed and the submissions advanced on behalf of the State it does appear that no monitoring or audit was ever conducted or mandated in the past. This position cannot be permitted to continue and prevail.”
The Court further highlighted the assertion made by the Additional Chief Secretary in an affidavit, which had stated that the funding for infrastructural facilities for Child Care institutions and Shelter Homes, their operational costs and requirements of staff is “totally inadequate and the Department is unable to provide funds and facilities to fulfill the mandate of legal provisions and the directions of Hon’ble Courts given from time to time”.
Censuring the State for the abdication of its duty in providing adequate funds for such facilities, the Court then observed, “These assertions, if they be correct, can only be viewed as an admission of a deep-rooted malaise and cannot possibly be countenanced by this Court. It is the obligation of the State to ensure that the weak and the vulnerable who are housed in these shelter homes are provided basic amenities and in any view of the matter are not forced to live in either sordid conditions or be subjected to physical or mental abuse. The State, therefore, is obliged to make available the requite funds so that the requisite budget required for the upkeep and maintenance of all shelter homes is met.”
It thereby directed the Chief Secretary, Government of U.P. to file a personal affidavit clarifying its stand with respect to the inadequacy of funds.
The Court considered the report submitted by Ms. Shreya Agarwal, the rehabilitation psychologist appointed by it as well, taking note of her interactions with four of the victims. Taking stock of their mental stability and behaviour, it directed relocation of two of the victims. The matter will now be heard on 26 September.