New Delhi: The Supreme Court Thursday asked the Centre to spell out its position on the standing operating procedures (SOPs) formulated by the National Legal Service Authority (NALSA) on missing children and the steps taken to trace them.
The bench of Chief Justice H.L. Dattu, Justice Madan B. Lokur and Justice A.K. Sikri gave the Centre one week`s time to apprise it on SOPs which the NALSA has prepared in consultation with other stakeholders, including the home ministry, women and child welfare ministry and NGOs.
Appearing for the Centre, Additional Solicitor General Tushar Mehta told the court that the government would not be making any changes or deletion in the SOPs suggested by the NALSA and would add a few more if needed.
The court`s order came during the hearing of a PIL by NGO Bachpan Bachao Andolan, which had moved the court to seek its intervention for tracing a large number of missing children all over the country.
The court noted that none of the states has filed any objections to the SOPs that were circulated to them in the wake of its July 15 order.
The court gave the Centre a week`s time to file its response as it directed the listing of the matter for Nov 20.
It said it was only after receiving a reply from the Centre that it would issue direction to all states to adopt the SOPs to be followed.
Taking a serious view that of the 23,000 children that went missing in Madhya Pradesh since 2011, 7,000 were still untraced, the court asked the state chief secretary to be present in court on the next date of hearing.
It also asked the Madhya Pradesh government to file an affidavit on the status of the missing children in the state till date.
Counsel H.S. Phoolka, appearing for the NGO, took the figures of the missing children in Madhya Pradesh from a parliamentary answer.
The court was also told that in Assam, about 2,000 children are untraced.
Appreciating the recovery of 169 children in one week in Bihar, the court gave another three weeks` time to trace the remaining 464 children.
The court by its Oct 30 order had said that it was not satisfied with the compliance report by the Bihar government on the missing children and gave it a week`s time to file a better affidavit.
It also gave Chhattisgarh four weeks` time to trace 1,127 children who were still untraced.
Chhattisgarh Chief Secretary D.S. Mishra and Director General of Police A.N. Upadhaya were present in court.