Apex court seeks response to NGO’s missing children action plan plea


New Delhi: The Supreme Court Tuesday asked the governments of states and union territories to file their response to a petition seeking the formulation of a National Action Plan for missing children and to make kidnapping of children a non-bailable offence.

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A bench of Justice Altamas Kabir and Justice J. Chelameswar gave the states four weeks time to file their response to the plea seeking investigation into the missing children, their recovery and counselling.

The petition by the NGO Bachpan Bachao Andolan has also sought putting in place a standard operating procedure (SOP) for law enforcement agencies on coordinating their efforts.

The four weeks’ time has been given to the states which had not responded to the notice that was issued in March this year on the plea for the recovery and rehabilitation of missing children and deterrent punishment for those engaged in the kidnapping of the children.

The petition has also sought the formulation of suitable definition of ‘missing children”. It has also sought direction to the states to treat the offence of kidnapping or trafficking of children as a non-bailable and cognizable offence.

Seeking direction for the preparation of national data base of missing children, the NGO said that from January 2008 to January 2010, as many as 117,480 children had gone missing in 392 districts in India. Out of these, 41,546 are still untraced.

Expanding this figure to all 640 districts in India, the number of missing children in India is almost 90,000 every year with more than 30,000 remaining untraced, said the petition by the NGO.

The NGO identified Maharashtra with maximum number of missing children followed by West Bengal, Delhi and Madhya Pradesh. Similarly, the instances of untraced missing children are maximum in the state of West Bengal followed by Maharashtra, Karnataka, and Madhya Pradesh.

“… the issue of missing children has a national magnitude which requires coordination of various central and state authorities and also of civil societies all across the country to tackle the menace of missing children,” the NGO said.

One of the major problem in tackling the issue of missing children in India is the fact that the term “missing children” has not been defined in any statute, the petition said adding that the “cases of missing children are not properly handled by the authorities and the fate of such children are completely dependent on the whims and fancies of the authorities”.

“The problem of missing children is also not covered as crime under Indian Penal Code, 1860. At best, the statute only recognises the offences of ‘kidnapping’, ‘abduction’, and other related offences, which are not sufficient to tackle the issue of missing children,” said BBA.