Govt. not obliged to provide financial aid once orphan leaves care homes: Delhi HC

Delhi High Court.

Delhi High Court. | Photo Credit: SUSHIL KUMAR VERMA

The Delhi High Court ruled that the government is not bound to monetarily support orphans after they exit from the After Care Home (AHC) on attaining 23 years of age.

Justice Yashwant Varma noted that the harsh reality of all such government programmes being subject to budgetary constraints has to be kept in mind while granting such reliefs to orphans who come out of care home.

The High Court’s observation came while denying the plea of one Deepak, who grew up in various orphanages run by the Department of Women and Child Development since 2002, seeking direction to the government to extend financial assistance towards completion of his technical education.

Mr. Deepak and his two siblings have been part of the protective system set-up under the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015 and the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Model Rules, 2016.

Maximum permissible stay

The rules provide for the stay of a person in an ACH to a maximum of two years after completing the age of 21 years.

Mr. Deepak attained the age of 21 years while staying at the AHC on August 4, 2017. However, taking into consideration his zeal to pursue further studies, the department extended his stay in the AHC till he attains the age of 23 years, i.e. till August 4, 2019.

During this period, he had also enrolled in a BA programme in November 2017. The expenses related with the same were borne by the department. Mr. Deepak, in the midst of that course, decided to pursue a course in hotel management.

Mr. Deepak, in his plea, stated that the Department of Women and Child Development approved to cover his entire professional course in a letter dated June 18, 2019. However, by the time he came to be admitted to the hotel management course later in 2019, he had crossed the maximum permissible stay at the AHC envisaged under the Model Rules.

No justification to deny

Advocate Tushar Singh assisted by advocate Pankhuri Gupta, representing Mr. Deepak, argued that once a decision in principle was taken by the government department for extending financial support to enable him to pursue that course, there exists no justification to deny it.

“While the court is sympathetic to the cause of the petitioner [Deepak], especially when financial support is claimed for support to pursue an educational programme, the question would firstly have to be answered based on the legal provisions which govern,” Justice Varma said.

“The aftercare programme is essentially intended to enable a person to integrate in society, acquire knowledge and skills and empower the person to stand on his/her own feet,” the judge said.

“The court finds itself unable to read the aforesaid provisions as obligating the State to meet the entire expenses that may be connected with a person pursuing a course of study even after he/she has crossed the age of 21 or 23 years,” Justice Varma said.

“Of course, the respondents [the Department] may be obliged to consider rendering assistance to the petitioner in exploring possibilities of obtaining a scholarship or other means to fund the expenses of the course,” the High Court said.

Will set a precedent

However, the court said it was “unable to hold that the State is obliged to reimburse all expenses that the petitioner may incur while pursuing the course which may continue even after he crosses the age of 23 years”.

While lauding the efforts made by Mr. Deepak to pursue his goals of learning, Justice Varma said commanding the State to extend the benefits as claimed by him here, would also mean setting a precedent and recognising in law an obligation of the State to continue funding in innumerable cases where persons may have crossed the age of 21 or 23 years.

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Printable version | Aug 9, 2022 4:29:13 pm |