Published: 20th July 2020
Allow children to record statements through video instead of court appearance: NGO pleads Delhi HC
A bench of Chief Justice D N Patel and Justice Prateek Jalan issued notice to the Delhi government and police, seeking their stand on the plea moved by NGO Bachpan Bachao Andolan
The Delhi High Court sought the response of the AAP government and police on Monday on a plea seeking directions to them to record the statements of rescued children via video-conference, instead of taking them to court during the COVID-19 pandemic. The petition also seeks that COVID testing of such children be done at the child care institutions or homes where they are lodged or at the office of the Sub-Divisional Magistrate (SDM), instead of transporting them to government hospitals for the same.
A bench of Chief Justice D N Patel and Justice Prateek Jalan issued notice to the Delhi government and police, seeking their stand on the plea moved by NGO Bachpan Bachao Andolan (BBA) by July 28. During the hearing via video-conference, the NGO's counsel, Prabhsahay Kaur, urged the court to direct that till the next date of hearing, the children will not be taken to court for recording their statements before a magistrate.
However, this concern of the NGO was assuaged by the Delhi government counsel, who told the bench that till the next date of hearing, no child will be taken to court for recording his statement. The government counsel also told the bench that the administration is considering recording the statements via video-conference and suggested another option -- magistrates going to child care institutions or homes for the purpose. The government lawyer said the physical presence of a magistrate was necessary to console the kids and counsel them on how their statements would be recorded.
With regard to COVID testing at the SDM office or at the homes, the government lawyer said it may not be feasible and added that in hospitals, the tests are conducted following all precautions. The bench, thereafter, asked the Delhi government and police to file their replies to the petition and listed it for hearing on July 28.
The NGO, in its plea, has said it carried out a raid recently with the authorities and rescued several children from child labour. Thereafter, the Child Welfare Committee (CWC) directed the police to record the children's statements before a magistrate in accordance with section 164 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC). The petition has contended that both the CWC and the Investigating Officer (IO) of the case are "irrationally" insisting that the children be physically taken to the Karkardooma Court for recording their statements, despite the concerns related to COVID-19 raised by the officials of a home run by the NGO -- Mukti Ashram.
The plea has said the children have already been taken to the court complex twice and the IO has said he would again take them there for recording their statements. It has contended that the actions of the CWC and the IO are contrary to the Supreme Court's April 3 order to arrange for online sittings or video-conferencing in cases involving children in need of care and protection. The petition has said even the Juvenile Justice Rules of 2016 provide for recording of statements under section 164, CrPC via video-conference. It has contended that the authorities and subordinate courts have all the facilities required for video-conferencing.