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Justice for missing children: Delhi HC ends 24-hour wait for investigations

A division bench of the Delhi High Court noted that the first 24 hours are crucial for locating a missing child and any delay could significantly hinder the chances of a positive outcome

Delhi high court

Nandini Singh New Delhi

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The Delhi High Court has directed the Delhi Police to initiate investigations into cases of missing children immediately upon receiving a complaint, eliminating the previously customary 24-hour waiting period.

A division bench, comprising Justices Prathiba M Singh and Amit Sharma, emphasised that the Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) issued by the Ministry of Women and Child Development (MCWD) mandates prompt action in such cases. The bench highlighted that the first 24 hours are crucial for locating a missing child and that any delay could significantly hinder the chances of a positive outcome.

“There is no room for speculation that the child may return home within 24 hours,” the court stated, adding, “Immediate action is essential.”

“Let the Commissioner of Police look at the matter and give directions to all police stations to ensure that the waiting period of 24 hours is wholly unnecessary and in fact whenever a complaint is received, the inquiry/ investigation should immediately commence. In light of the above SOPs as also the observations made herein above, all the police stations shall ensure that there shall be no waiting period for 24 hours in the case of missing children to start inquiry/investigation,” the court ordered.

This decision came while the court was addressing a habeas corpus plea filed by Vinod, whose minor daughter went missing on February 19, 2024. Vinod reported that the Nangloi Police Station had initially told him to wait 24 hours before lodging a complaint. In response to the gravity of the situation, the court transferred the investigation to the Anti-Human Trafficking Unit (Crime Branch) and instructed them to file a status report within a week.


 

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First Published: Jul 11 2024 | 5:48 PM IST

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