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SC anguished over children deaths in child care institutions

New Delhi: The government is "oblivious" to the deaths of children in custody, the Supreme Court said on Friday, expressing "distress" that these kids were not only "voiceless" but seem to be "dispensable" as well.
Voicing disconcert over the lack of documentation on the number of unnatural deaths of children in child care institutions, a bench of Justices M B Lokur and Deepak Gupta asked the Centre and state governments to document such deaths of kids who are in need of care and protection, "with far greater concern than has been shown so far".
"The unnatural death of any child in need of care and protection or in conflict with law and in a child care institution needs attention since it is these voiceless children who need to be heard," the bench said.
It also said that it is "rather unfortunate that the Central Government and the State Governments are oblivious to the possibility of death of children in custody in child care institutions."
The strong observations by the top court came in a verdict on a 2013 PIL on "inhuman" conditions prevailing in 1,382 prisons across the country.
"This is distressing. The pain and anguish of the next of kin of children who pass away in custody is not less, but more than the pain and anguish of the next of kin of any prisoner who suffers an unnatural death in custody," the court said, adding that "it seems that apart from being voiceless, such children are also dispensable".
While passing a slew of directions regarding unnatural deaths and prison reforms across India, the bench said the dignity of an individual is not a "plaything for those in authority".
It said those in authority must show greater degree of sensitivity towards persons in custody as all forms of custodial violence makes it "abhorrent" and invite disparagement from all sections of civilised society.
It directed the Ministry of Woman and Child Development to discuss with official concerned of the state governments and formulate procedures for tabulating the number of children who suffer unnatural death in child care institutions.
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