New Delhi:

Children orphaned due to COVID-19 should be protected and guarded against being trafficked till they are legally adopted, two PILs have urged the Delhi High Court, which sought the response of the Centre and the Delhi government on the issue on Monday.

A bench of Chief Justice D N Patel and Justice Jasmeet Singh issued notices to the Union ministries of home affairs, women and child development and health, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government in Delhi and the city police, seeking their stand on one of the pleas moved by a lawyer, which has also asked for financial assistance for the families of the patients who died due to the alleged denial of healthcare such as hospital admissions, oxygen and medications.

The court also issued notices to the Centre, the Delhi government, the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) and the Delhi Commission for Protection of Child Rights (DCPCR) on another PIL filed by another lawyer, who has sought the laying down of action plans or guidelines for rehabilitating abandoned children and children whose parents have succumbed to COVID-19 or any other causes in order to prevent child-trafficking during the pandemic and regulate the adoption procedure of such children in compliance with the Juvenile Justice Act, 2015.

The first petition was filed by Jeetender Gupta, an advocate on record in the Supreme Court, who has sought directions to the authorities to provide the interim custody of such children to their nearest relatives or child-care homes and protect their identity.

In his plea, Gupta has sought directions to the authorities to explore the options for legal adoptions after duly scrutinising the details of those who have expressed an interest to adopt such children.

The second PIL filed by advocate Anand has claimed that state agencies have not prepared any data regarding the number of children whose parents were infected with COVID or have succumbed to the disease.

In the plea filed through advocates Anuj Chauhan and Ananya De, Anand has contended that in the absence of the data, these kids have become a target for traffickers.

The plea has claimed that according to media reports, there has been a substantial rise in the number of cases of child trafficking and child abuse during the ongoing pandemic and therefore, ''there is an immediate necessity to curb this evil at the stage of its inception itself''.