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Babus say sorry to court in kids’ case

New Delhi, Feb. 19: The Tamil Nadu, Gujarat and Arunachal chief secretaries today apologised before the Supreme Court for failing to show up at an earlier hearing on missing children, two weeks after the judges threatened to have the trio arrested.

The unconditional apologies were accepted but not before the bench headed by Chief Justice of India Altamas Kabir expressed anguish that the officials had not appeared on February 5 despite summons.

Today, Justice Kabir said: “Why did you not appear? What are we passing orders for? It is not a normal practice to call chief secretaries. In spite of our orders you chose not to appear. We are dealing with a section of citizens comprising 42 per cent of our population.”

While the Tamil Nadu counsel promised such things would never happen in the future, his Arunachal counterpart claimed the chief secretary could not appear because of a “communication gap”.

The Gujarat counsel said the chief secretary had taken charge on February 1, four days before the hearing.

The bench rejected the explanations. “We are not concerned with the present or future chief secretary. You tend to take our orders so casually. Each one is treating our orders casually as if the problem (missing children) doesn’t matter to anybody.”

The bench, which also included Justices A.R. Dave and Vikramjit Sen, later dispensed with the personal appearance of the three chief secretaries. But it asked all states to file reports on the number of missing children and efforts made to track them down.

On February 5, the judges, furious at the absence of the three chief secretaries, had warned that if the bureaucrats persisted with such an attitude, the court would be compelled to issue non-bailable warrants (NBWs) and send them to jail.

The court was dealing with a PIL, filed by NGO Bachpan Bachao Andolan, alleging that thousands of kids throughout the country are missing every year and their whereabouts remain a mystery.

The NGO has claimed over 1.17 lakh children were missing between 2008 and 2010 but only 20,000 FIRs were filed. It has also complained of a “lukewarm response” in the search.