Arunachal, Gujarat, T.N. officials appear in response to summons

The Chief Secretaries of Arunachal Pradesh, Gujarat and Tamil Nadu on Tuesday showed up in the Supreme Court and apologised for not appearing before it on February 5, last date of hearing of a case of missing children.

Chief Justice of India Altamas Kabir, heading a three-judge Bench, told counsel for Arunachal Pradesh: “What for are we passing the order? It is not the normal practice to call for the Chief Secretaries. In spite of our order, he chose not to appear on the last occasion.”

Counsel said, “It is a lapse and we tender our apology.”

The CJI, drawing attention to the petitioner Bachpan Bachao Andolan’s complaint that everyday 100 children were going missing, said: “Children who constitute 42 per cent of the population don’t matter to them [Chief Secretaries].”

Senior counsel Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for Tamil Nadu, said: “We understand the importance [of the issue]. It [absence] should not have happened, it will not happen in future. We have filed the status report. The Chief Secretary is here.”

When Additional Advocate-General Tushar Mehta, appearing for Gujarat, said the new Chief Secretary took over only on February 1, the CJI said: “We are not concerned with past or present Chief Secretary. You have not obeyed our order.”

Later, in a brief order, the Bench said: “The Chief Secretaries of the three States were present and they tendered apologies. Those States who had not filed status report will file during the course of the day. List this matter for further hearing on April 15.”

On January 17, the Bench had directed the personal appearance of the Chief Secretaries of five States on February 5. But only the officials of Odisha and Goa appeared that day.

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