Rs 25 crore be disbursed for educational expenses of kids who lost parents to COVID in Maharashtra: SC



NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Wednesday agreed for disbursal of over Rs 25 crore deposited with it five years ago by the Maharashtra government in the apex court registry towards educational expenses of children who have lost either or both parents during the COVID-19 pandemic in the state Maharashtra, one of the worst affected states during the second wave of pandemic earlier this year, had deposited the money in the apex court registry in an old matter related to medical college admissions.

The top court noted that the total number of children who have lost either or both parents to COVID-19 in the State is 21,042 which includes 20,407 children who have lost a single parent and 635 children who have lost both parents.

A bench of Justices DY Chandrachud and BV Nagarathna said that it is agreeable to the proposal of the state government that the amount of Rs 25 crore can be deposited in the Juvenile Justice Fund to provide necessary financial assistance up to the limit of Rs 10,000 per child one time for the educational expenses like school fees, hostel fees, educational materials.

Standing counsel for the state government Sachin Patil said that the district task force will be given the responsibility of distribution of the amount after scrutinising the need-based applications and submitting the report to Commissioner, Women and Child Development, Pune.

In its affidavit filed through Patil, the state government said that limitations are being faced while considering creating a new plan/scheme for utilisation of the amount of Rs 25 crore as directed by the top court in its earlier order.

“With the limited fund of Rs 25 crore per head, the available amount to be used for these children in the new scheme is exiguous, amounting to around Rs 12,000 only. This is a huge barrier in settling practicable criteria for creating a new scheme or plan,” it said.

The state government said that considering that the number of such children who may lose either or both parents to COVID-19 is expected to increase in near future; the new plan/scheme should have the provision of recurring expenditure.

“With the limited amount of Rs 25 Crore, a plan/scheme for a large and increasing number of beneficiaries cannot be drafted,” the state government said while suggesting three options on how the amount shall be utilised for the benefit of such children.

On September 13, the top court had said that it is in favour of disbursing the over Rs 25 crore deposited by the Maharashtra government in the apex court registry five years ago to children who lost both parents during the Covid pandemic in the state.

It had noted that the State has formulated a policy on June 17, 2021, envisaging that Rs 5 lakh be placed in fixed deposit for children who lost both their parents due to the pandemic and the money will be payable to them after they attain the age of maturity.

“The amount of Rs 20 crores which were deposited (by Maharashtra government) in pursuance of the order dated December 2, 2016, stands enhanced to Rs 25,53,25,548 as a result of accretions of interest,” it had said.

The top court had further said that before it directs the disbursal of the money to the State of Maharashtra, it wants that a concrete statement be placed on affidavit about the manner in which the money will be utilised for the benefit of children affected by the death of either or both parents due to the Covid pandemic.

On December 2, 2016, the top court while hearing an appeal of students against a Bombay High Court order on admissions to a medical college had said that since the State of Maharashtra is supporting the cause of the students, it should deposit an amount of Rs.20 crore in this court by December 15, 2016.

On December 16, 2016, the top court, while dismissing the appeal of the students, directed that the amount be kept available for utilization for juvenile justice issues.

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