New Delhi: Taking a dim view of the ministry of women and child development's "casual" and insensitive" approach towards missing children, the Supreme Court on Friday imposed a fine of Rs. 50,000.
The apex court also asked the secretary of the ministry to be present on the next date of hearing on May 1.
The social justice bench of the apex court comprising Justice Madan B. Lokur and Justice Uday Umesh Lalit took umbrage over the insensitive approach of the ministry.
The bench said: "This is clear indication of the lack of sensitivity on the part of the government and the ministry towards the missing children and its utter disregard for the laws framed by the parliament."
The apex court on February 20 had sought the details about the status of missing and recovered children from each state and details about the implementation of Operation Smile.
The court had also asked the Centre to take steps for the expeditious appointment of the chairman and the members of the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights which are lying vacant for quite some time now.
At the outset of the hearing, the Centre informed the court that 11 state governments have formed the Juvenile Justice Board under the JJ Act.
The government earned the displeasure of the court when, in response to a query as to why Centre was not following it up with the rest of the state governments, it was told that it was "state subject".
"This shows the lack of sensitivity on your part. This approach is unbecoming (of the government) and shows the lack of sensitivity particularly towards the children", the court told the government counsel.
The court was also displeased as it was told that no steps have been taken to fill the post of the chairman and the members of the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR). These positions are lying since 2014.
Chiding the officials that they were more interested in claiming their travelling allowance and dearness allowance than concentrating on their work, the court directed the Women and Child Development Ministry to pay Rs. one lakh to Delhi University's Faculty of Management Studies, with regard to the recommendations for the missing children website www.trackthemissing child.gov.in.
It also asked the ministry to pay Rs. one lakh to the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) that is engaged in preparing Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) relating to tracing out missing children.
Similarly, the court asked the government to pay Rs. One lakh to National Police Academy that is preparing a training module Training of Trainers Programme to train police officers through the State Police Academies for police officers who may be Child Welfare Officers and may constitute the Special Juvenile Police Units under the JJ Act.