A bench headed by Chief Justice Altamas Kabir also directed that the police must register the first information report and conduct probe in every case of missing child and a unit of specially trained police officers be formed in each district to handle cases relating to juveniles. It said that such officers would be in plain clothes and work in coordination with Child Welfare Committees.
The court passed the order on a PIL filed by an NGO Bachpan Bachao Andolan alleging that for over 1.7 lakh children have gone missing in the country between January 2008-2010, many of whom were kidnapped for trafficking in flesh trade and child labour.
The apex court had on March 16 last issued notice to the Centre, states and Union Territories directing them to file their responses on the issue of missing children.
But the states of Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Tamil Nadu failed to file their replies.
Giving a final opportunity, the court directed those states to file their response by February 5 while making it clear that if they failed to do so then their chief secretary would have to appear before it.
Senior advocate H S Phoolka, appearing for the NGO, pleaded that the apex court should direct the Centre and states to formulate a national plan to tackle the menace and also to define the term 'missing children', which he said has so far not been explicitly done in any statute.
Quoting statistics including the National Crime Research Bureau, he said, between January 2008 to January 2010, 1,17,480 children have gone missing in 392 districts in the country and out of these, 41,546 are still untraced.