SC fumes over absence of chief secretaries

New Delhi, Feb 5 (IANS) The Supreme Court Tuesday fumed over the absence of chief secretaries of Gujarat, Tamil Nadu and Arunachal Pradesh who were told to be present in person to explain their failure to file status reports on missing children.

"What do you think, that we are passing orders just for the sake of passing orders?" asked Chief Justice Altamas Kabir, wondering if the court should issue non-bailable warrants to secure the officials' presence.

"Nobody seems to be bothered about the plight of the missing children. This is the irony," he said.

The apex court bench of Chief Justice Kabir, Justice Anil R. Dave and Justice Vikramajit Sen took strong exception to the three chief secretaries disregarding the court's directive.

Senior counsel H.S. Phoolka, appearing for NGO Bachpan Bachao Andolan, told the court that everyday 100 children, who go missing, remain untraced.

Directing the chief secretaries of the three states to be present in person in the court in the next hearing Feb 19, the court told the union home, woman and child development and social justice ministries to also file their affidavits.

The judges Jan 17 ordered chief secretaries of Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, Arunachal Pradesh, Goa and Odisha to be present in the court for their failure to respond to notice issued by the court on a public interest litigation on missing children.

Only officials of Goa and Odisha were present in court Tuesday.

"Why is he not present? He is not in the court here today. He can't come? Don't give all this," the court said as counsel for Arunachal Pradesh sought to explain the absence of the chief secretary.

The court refused to accept the "deep apology" by Gujarat government's standing counsel Hemantika Wahi, saying: "Don't give this apology. You don't mean it."

"Whether he (chief secretary) has assumed the charge recently did not matter. Orders were passed by the court and you were required to be present," the court said when Wahi told the judges that the official took up the assignment only recently.

"Why don't you wake up from your slumber? Why are you appearing at all when there is no instruction?" the court said counsel for West Bengal said that he had no instruction from the state government.

Pulling up the chief secretaries for treating the apex court orders with "extreme casualness", the judges said there was a direction that they had to be present in the court.

The court is hearing a petition by Bachpan Bachao Andolan seeking formulation of a national action plan for the recovery of the missing children and prosecution of those involved in their kidnapping and trafficking.

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