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Delhi High Court asks Authorities to Identify City's 'Ghost Children'

Delhi, India 24 October 2012 (Daily Mail) -  In a ruling that's likely to benefit millions of "ghost children", the Delhi High Court has directed the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) and the Registrar of Births and Deaths to initiate the process of identifying them.

Ghost children are either orphans or those abandoned by their parents; hence they do not have a birth certificate or other documents to verify their identity. Such minors do not exist anywhere in government records.

The order assumes great significance as once these children are identified, they will be able to avail of their rights such as the right to free education and the right to identity and heath facilities.

A division bench of Chief Justice D. Murugesan and Justice Rajiv Sahai Endlaw has directed the NCPCR to hold consultations with the Registrar of Births and Deaths and other agencies to work out a method on how to issue birth certificates to these children for their identification.

The NCPCR has been given three months to prepare a report in this regard. Though the process of identification of such children will be started from Delhi, once it is done, it will eventually be followed across the country.

The court passed the order while hearing a PIL filed by an NGO, HAQ: Centre for Child Rights, seeking to prevent incarceration of children in conflict with law or avoid subjecting them to the adult criminal justice system.

Ghost children are prone to crimes and are often produced before the juvenile justice board (JJB), mostly in connection with petty crimes, or the child welfare committee (CWC).

"Though the JJB and CWC verify the age of these children, they do not compulsorily issue a birth certificate to them," petitioner's lawyer Anant Kumar Asthana said.

The court accepted the petitioner's suggestion that the age verification process of juveniles be linked with their birth registration. Authorities had earlier pointed out certain technical difficulties in implementing the proposal, but the court has ordered all the expert agencies to come up with a solution for it.