Read Order: Pabudan v. State of U.T., Chandigarh and others

Monika Rahar

Chandigarh, June 20,2022: While dealing with a habeas corpus petition filed by the father of three minor children, who were found begging and then inducted in the machinery of the Juvenile Justice Act, the Punjab and Haryana High Court has directed the concerned authorities to ensure that the petitioner and his family members have access to safe travel, a dwelling place, access to free education and nutrition in their native place in Rajasthan or in Chandigarh , free of cost. 

The Bench of Justice Sureshwar Thakur held, on right of children to have access to free education, “Conspicuously, when their right to receive free education, especially in the wake of the indigence of their parents, is, an essential component of the fundamental right of life enshrined in Article 21 of the Constitution of India, as, unless the grooming of their personality(ies) becomes assured through theirs being given free education, thereupon(s) the afore right, would remain merely a mirage or an illusion.”

In this case, the Court was dealing with a writ petition seeking the issuance of a writ in the nature of habeas corpus for the release of his three minor children who were with the fourth respondent.

The said respondent found three minors begging (allegedly) at the instance of and due to the abetment of their parents (the present petitioner being the father) and thus, the machinery under the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act 2015 (“JJ Act”) was initiated. 

The said children fell within the category of “children in need of care and protection” under the framework of the JJ Act and thus, were produced as per provisions of Section 31 of the JJ Act before the Child Welfare Committee Maloya, Chandigarh. 

In light of the above, the Court opined that the inmating of the children at the present places of their abode at the instance of the fourth respondent could not be construed to be visiting any breaches, rather Justice Thakur added that this act on part of the fourth respondent was statutorily completely protected, as, it became imbued with a holistic purpose of weaning them from indulging in any misdemeanour (begging) to ensure their upkeep besides to educate them, which otherwise may not have become purveyed to them, given the prima facie indigence of their parents.

Having said so, the Court, in exercise of its “parens patriae” jurisdiction towards minor children, was faced with the question of balancing the strivings of their (minors’) parents to retrieve them to their custody, with the imperative necessities of their welfare. 

The Court noted in this regard that although the father of the minor was not financially sound so as to ensure the wellbeing of the children, yet the children were not to be deprived of theirs being bestowed with parental love, and, affection, as the above bestowments are also imperatively necessary, for the grooming of their personalities, besides for not making them orphans, despite their parents being yet alive, irrespective of the financial indigence of their parents. 

Thus, to ensure that the welfare of the minor children is not compromised to the economic dynamics of their family, the Court called upon the Union Territory, Chandigarh to fulfil its bounden duty of ensuring that their educational needs coupled with their needs towards nutritious diet and a settled abode, are addressed.

Conspicuously, when their right to receive free education, especially in the wake of the indigence of their parents, is, an essential component of the fundamental right of life enshrined in Article 21 of the Constitution of India, as, unless the grooming of their personality(ies) becomes assured through theirs being given free education, thereupon(s) the afore right, would remain merely a mirage or an illusion”, remarked Justice Thakur. 

In this regard, the Court was assisted by the counsel for the U.T., who placed on record the Standard Operating Procedure (‘SOP’) as drawn by the Government of India which provided that for successful rehabilitation, the following steps may also be ensured:  (i) at the native place, the Village Level Child Protection Committee (VLCPC), with the panchayat, should also help the family to access the benefits under the Government schemes; (ii) VLCPC/school management committee (SMC)/local body should ensure that the child is enrolled in Anganwadi or school; and (iii) CWC may assign or request a local NGO/CBO for further support to the child, as per need, and to carry out family strengthening program.

Thus, in light of the above SOP, the Court directed the second respondent to ensure, that the above extracted mandate in the SOP is complied with by the local Child Welfare committee concerned, holding jurisdiction over the area, where the petitioner along with his family, chooses to make a permanent home. Also, directions were issued to the second respondent to pay for the expenses to be incurred by the petitioner and his family in travelling to their native place in Rajasthan.

Apart from this, the said respondent was also directed to ensure that the petitioner is provided a dwelling place as soon as possible, within the schemes as formulated by the Govt. of India in respect of providing of dwelling houses suitable to the petitioner, in or around his native place. 

Moreover, if sometime is likely to be consumed in providing to the petitioner, and, his family, a hutment or a dwelling abode, thereupon, the respondents concerned, are directed to ensure, that in the relevant interregnum or thereupto, the petitioner, and, his family shall become boarded in the quarters of the Central Government, located in the native area of the petitioner, and, that too, without asking for any charges, from them, in respect thereof.” 

In addition, the Court also directed that all the expenses towards their diet and, incidental thereto expenses shall be borne by the respondents concerned, and/or through their counterparts in the State of Rajasthan, and, appertaining to the stay of the petitioner in the quarters of Central Govt., in the area close to the native place of the petitioner.

The petition was accordingly disposed of.

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