The Hon’ble Supreme Court of India in Bachpan Bachao Andolan Vs. Union of India (WP (Civil) 75 of 2012) on 10 th
May 2013 had directed formulation of a Standard Operating Procedure for cases of Missing Children
. The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015 under section 2 (14) (vii) includes a ‘Missing Child’ as a child in need of care of protection‟and in Rule 92 of the “Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Model Rules, 2016
”, a procedure of inquiry regarding a missing child has been laid down.
This Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) envisages to assist Police, Child Welfare Committee and Juvenile Justice Board in dealing with the cases of missing and found or recovered children. The Objective of the SOP is to put in place guidelines while dealing with cases of missing children and to work in coordination with stakeholders and respond with urgency to issues of missing child. Ensure expeditious and effective law enforcement including prosecution. Create mechanism and systems to prevent further victimization of missing children. Ensure that appropriate and timely protection/care/attention is provided to victims/witnesses.
Dimensions to understanding the concept of “missing child”
Generally stating, missing children are usually children who are separated from the parents/family/guardian. However, this SOP also includes within its purview procedures set out in relation to those children who may have been found/traced by the Police, CWC, Child line or any other organization and/or individual till their parents/family/guardian is traced and the child is restored. Some of such children may have been subsequently residing in Child Care Institutions(“CCI”).
Thus, for the purposes of the procedures set out here under this SOP:
a ‘missing child‘ may be one who is lost (separated from family), has left home on his/her own without a notice or has been abducted or kidnapped or trafficked or abandoned. Usually,parents/ family/ guardian will file a missing complaint in such cases.
a ‘traced child‘ will be a child who is traced by the police on the basis of a missing child report/ FIR.
a ‘found child‘ is a child found by the Police on the streets/ in a market place/ at railway platforms/ at bus stops/ in trains/ at a port/ at airports/ on a bus or other public transport/ in a hospital/ during rescue operations or at any public place and/or is brought before/referred to the Police by Juvenile Justice Board (“JJB”) / Child Welfare Committees (“CWC”) / Childline/ any other NGO or any individual.
Generally stating, missing children are children who are separated from the family/guardian and may include:
> Traced Children
> Found Children
> Run away children
> Abandoned children
> Kidnapped Children
> Lost children
> Trafficked Children
> Children missing/lost/found due to accidents, disaster, calamity, and other miscellaneous reasons.
> Children missing from CCIs
Rule 92 (1) of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children)
Model Rules 2016 defines a missing child as – “a child whose whereabouts are not known to the parents, legal guardian or any other person or institution legally entrusted with the custody of the child, whatever may be the circumstances or causes of disappearance, and shall be considered missing and in need of care and protection until located or his safety and well- being established.”
II. WHO MAY FILE THE COMPLAINT?
1. A parent
2. A legal guardian
3. A relative
4. Child Welfare Committee
5. ChildLine 1098
9. Any person concerned with the safety and well being of the child
10. Any person who has knowledge about the incident
III. WHERE / HOW TO REPORT A MISSING CHILD
i. At the police station/AHTU/SJPU;
ii. The PCR number: dial 100;
iii. Any other emergency helpline number of the police;
iv. Child Line1098;
v. After reporting to police, the information of missing child can be entered by any individual after logging onto www.trackthemissingchild.gov.in and photograph be uploaded in the citizen’s corner to assist all the stakeholders to track the missing child.
In addition to all the regular means of filing a complaint i.e. in person, over the phone, over the e-mail, or other communications, a missing child’s complaint may be filed through SMS to the authorities. The police should record all such information on the General Diary (GD), conduct a preliminary verification of the caller and get the FIR registered.
IV. ROLES AND RESPONSIBILITIES OF STAKE HOLDERS
When the Child goes missing:
a) As per the directions of the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India in Bachpan Bachao Andolan Vs. Union of India (WP (Civil) 75 of 2012) on 10th May 2013, – “upon receipt of a complaint regarding a missing child, an FIR should be registered forthwith as a case of trafficking or abduction‟.
b) Inform the Child Welfare Police Officer and forward the FIR to the Special Juvenile Police Unit for immediate action for tracing the child. Refer Annexure –I.
c) The police shall also:
i. Collect a recent photograph of the missing child and make copies for District Missing Persons Unit, Missing Persons Squad, National Crime Records Bureau/Media etc.;
ii. Fill the form “M”on the designated portal www.trackthemissingchild.gov.in Refer Annexure –II.
iii. Fill the specific designated “Missing Persons Information Form”and immediately send to Missing Persons Squad, District Missing Persons Unit, National Crimes Records Bureau, State Crimes Records Bureau, Central Bureau of Investigation, PCRs, Railway Police and other related institutions;
iv. Send the copy of the FIR by post/email to the office of nearest Legal Services Authority along with addresses and contact phone numbers of parents and legal guardians of the missing child or the child care institution, after uploading the relevant information onto the designated portal;
v. Prepare sufficient number of Hue and Cry notice containing photograph and physical description of the missing child to be sent for publication;
vi. Give wide publicity by publishing or telecasting the photographs and the description of missing child, as feasible in
(a) leading newspapers
(b) Television/electronic media,
(c) local cable television network and
(d) social media and thereafter submit for ratification by the Board or the Committee or the Children’s Court, as the case maybe;
vii. Give wide publicity in the surrounding area through the use of loud speakers and the distribution and affixture of Hue and Cry notice at prominent places. Social networking portals, short message service alerts and slides in cinema halls can be used to reach out to the masses;
viii. Distribute Hue and Cry notice at all the outlets of the city or town, that is, railway stations, bus stands, airports, regional passport offices, and other prominent places.
ix. Search areas and spots of interest such as movie theaters, shopping malls, parks, game parlors and areas where missing or runaway children should be identified and watched;
x. Scan the recordings of the Close Circuit Television Cameras installed in the vicinity of the area from where the child was reported missing and on all possible routes, transit and destinations.
xi. Inquire from under construction sites, unused buildings, hospitals and clinics, child line services and other local outreach workers, railway police and other places;
xii. Details of missing children should be sent to the District Crime Records Bureau of the neighboring States and Station House Officers (SHOs) of the bordering police stations including in- charge of all police posts in their
jurisdiction and shall conduct regular interaction with the concerned so that follow up action is ensured.
d) Invoke the services of District Legal Services Authorities through empaneled lawyers and the paralegal volunteer (PLV) appointed at the police station or the district authority.
e) Upload information on the www.trackthemissingchild.gov.in portal. In case the information is already uploaded,
match the complaint with case details uploaded on the portal.
f) Assess the level of threat or danger to the child, or his/her family and take immediate steps to ensure their protection.
g) Also inform immigration authorities, Border Security Force (BSF), Railways and other transport authorities, provincial/ territorial and municipal agencies, and any NGOs involved in service delivery for spotting and recovering/rescuing the missing children.
As per the check list at Annexure III, taking into consideration various parameters with respect to the missing child, risk assessment should be done and the “Risk Assessment Form” be filled out by the SHO/ Officer in charge to determine the:
i. The urgency of investigation
ii. Areas of inquiry
iii. Types of specialist knowledge that might be needed
iv. The supervision that may be required
v. Agencies who may be first alerted
Organized Crime Perspective
1. Where a child cannot be traced within a period of four months, the investigation of the case shall be transferred to the Anti Human Trafficking Unit in the district which shall make reports every three months to the District Legal Services Authority regarding the progress made in the investigation.
2. If trafficking or any other element of organized crime is suspected, a specialized team shall be instituted for investigation headed by the SHO.
3. Ensure the compliance of investigation as per the check list in Annexure –IV.
Steps to be taken when a child is found or recovered:
1. After recovery, produce the child before CWC/JJB/Children’ s Court, as the case may be, for appropriate directions. Refer Annexure–V.
2. The child should be examined by a team of medical experts, including psycho- social experts.
3. Proper home verification be carried out before the child is reunited with Parents/ legal guardians through the CWC.
4. The recovery form “R”on the Track Child portal must be filled and data be updated in www.trackthemissingchild.gov.in. Refer Annexure –VI.
5. Send a report to the District Legal Services Authority which shall provide counseling and support services to the child and the family.
6. Conduct an inquiry whether the child has been subjected to any offense under the Act or any other law and if so, proceed accordingly.
2. Supervising officer (Role of Supervising Officer overseeing the investigation)
1. Supervisory Officer should ensure that SOPs issued in this regard are strictly followed. She/he should also follow the illustrative (not exhaustive) checklist provided in Annexure- IV.
2. Supervisory Officers should closely monitor and facilitate the investigation of each case of missing child, periodically review the status of each case and ensure quality of the investigation conducted.
3. Once the child is found, the Supervisory Officer should ensure that proper follow up actions are taken by the police.
4. The Supervisory Officer should ensure reward / punishment systems are in place.
5. The Supervisory Officer must ensure that full cooperation is given to the Para legal volunteers at the Police Stations and also to the District Legal Services Authorities and all grievances or issues are ironed out and addressed.
3. Child Welfare Committee
a) When a missing child is found or recovered and/or a child in conflict with law is found to be a missing child by the JJB or the Police, he shall also be produced before the Committee, as the case may be, for appropriate direction.
b) In case FIR is not registered in a case of missing/trafficked child, immediately forward the complaint/case to JJB, who shall direct the police for registration of FIR for such child and also for offenses committed against such children in need of care and protection.
c) Any three members of the Committee together, may take suo moto cognizance of any case of missing child, report to the police, or the AHTU immediately and initiate process of providing care and protection to the child.
d) Assess the needs of the child and pass orders with respect to repatriating the child or placing the child in a fit facility or with a fit person, or declare free for adoption or foster care, or any other arrangement by following due process of law, keeping in mind the best interest of the child.
e) Engage services of the DCPU/District Legal Services Authority in the source district of the found/traced child, to facilitate smooth and effective rehabilitation of the child, and for any other legal support. Ensure that the case of the child has been linked to the District Legal Services Authority.
f) Ascertain if the child is in need of any medical care, and pass direction to link the child to the appropriate medical
g) In the absence of adequate proof of age, pass directions for age determination test of the child. The report of the test should be obtained immediately after the test results have been concluded. In the meantime, the child may be placed in a fit facility.
h) Pass orders for recovery of back-wages of the child, in case the found or recovered child was trafficked for forced or/and bonded labor.
i) Direct PO/ Police/ CWO/ Childline / DCPU/ Other organization for necessary action and follow up.
j) Perform all duties specified under Section 30 of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015 and the rules therein, and send regular updates and report to the appropriate agency at the District /State level.
4. Juvenile Justice Board (JJB)
a) If any found/traced child is produced before the Juvenile Justice Board as a child in conflict with law, such a child should immediately be redirected to the relevant Child Welfare Committee after due enquiry, for initiating the process of rehabilitation.
b) In case FIR is not registered in a case of missing/trafficked child, immediately direct the police for registration of FIR for offenses committed against children in need of care and protection.
c) Ensure availability of free legal aid for the child through the District Legal Services Authority.
d) Create an individual care plan as per the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015 and the Rules therein, for each child’s including follow up by the Probation Officer the District Child Protection Unit or a member of a non-governmental organization, as it may be required as per Section 8 (3) (h) or Section 19 (2) of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015.