The agencies, it said, were taking advantage of the widespread poverty in these areas and exploiting the vulnerability of the children.
It told the court that out of 9,428 children reported missing between January 2011 and December 2013, it had managed to trace just 1,204.
Chief Justice H.L. Dattu and Justices A.K. Sikri and Arun Misra were, however, not impressed with the submission. The bench said there was a glaring mismatch between the figures the state had submitted in the court and recently in Parliament, where the number of untraced children for the period mentioned was said to be over 4,000.
“We are not accepting the figure given by you. You are either misleading Parliament or have filed a false affidavit. Both of your officers will be in trouble. Tell your officers (the chief secretary and the director-general of police) they are not going to take chances with us,” Justice Dattu told senior counsel Ravindra Srivastava, who appeared for the state government.
The chief secretaries and DGPs of both Bihar and Chhattisgarh were present in the court following summons it had issued at the last hearing earlier this month in connection with a public interest petition filed by an NGO.
The Bachpan Bachao Andolan, which had quoted National Crime Records Bureau figures, said 1,17,469 children across the country were reported missing between 2008 and 2010 but police had registered only 20,000 FIRs so far.
Srivastava told the court investigations had revealed that the children were trafficked from Chhattisgarh by placement agencies to be employed as domestic helps and, in certain cases, sent to southern states to work as bonded labourers. He said the state had recently enacted a stringent law to check the activities of such placement agencies, but did not elaborate.
The bench asked the state to file a fresh affidavit and adjourned the matter for over a week.
The court was also not satisfied with the details filed by Bihar and asked it to file a fresh affidavit.
Solicitor general Ranjit Kumar, who appeared for Bihar, said 2,814 children were reported missing between January 2013 and September 2014, of whom 633 could not be traced.
“Why don’t you register an FIR in spite of a directive from this court? Parents are suffering because of your inaction. In the case of missing children, the moment a complaint is lodged an FIR must be registered.
“After going through the report we are not satisfied. If you don’t give a proper answer, we will again ask them (the chief secretary and the DGP) to appear,” the bench warned.
At the last hearing, the apex court had said it would summon the chief secretaries/DGPs of other states too to find out whether these governments had complied with its January 2013 judgment.
The court had then made it mandatory for all states and Union territories to register an FIR immediately after getting a complaint that a child is missing.
No state has filed a proper compliance report so far.
The chief secretaries of Bengal, Tripura and Karnataka had also been told to appear before the court today, but their turn did not come.