SC said the definition of the expression “child in need of care and protection” under Section 2(14) of the JJ Act should not be interpreted as exhaustive.
In significant stride, the Supreme Court on Thursday issued guidelines to protect and augment the rights and welfare of children and for the proper implementation of beneficial legislations like The Commissions for Protection of Child Rights Act, 2005, The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009, The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012 and The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000
The judgment, delivered by a Bench comprising Justice Madan B. Lokur and Justice Deepak Gupta, deals with several issues such as social audits, de-institutionalization, training of personnel, rehabilitation and social-reintegration, utilization of grants and minimum standards of care.
At the outset the bench held that the definition of the expression “child in need of care and protection” under Section 2(14) of the JJ Act should not be interpreted as an exhaustive definition.
“The definition is illustrative and the benefits envisaged for children in need of care and protection should be extended to all such children in fact requiring State care and protection”. Consequently, we are of the view that since the JJ Act is intended for the benefit of children and is intended to protect and foster their rights, the definition of a child in need of care and protection must be given a broad interpretation. It would be unfortunate if certain categories of children are left out of the definition, even though they need as much care and protection as categories of children specifically enlisted in the definition. Beneficial legislations of the kind that we are dealing with demand an expansive view to be taken by the Courts and all concerned”
The petition was taken up suo motu by the Court on the basis of a letter and news article forwarded to it in September, 2007, by one A.S. Choudhury. The article published in the Hindi newspaper ‘Hindustan’ was titled “Orphanage or Places for Child Abuse (translated)”. The article had exposed systemic sexual abuse of children in orphanages in Mahabalipuram in Tamil Nadu, run by NGOs as well as government institutions.
As per the article, a sting operation had indicated that sexual services of children were being provided to foreigners as well as Indian tourists and that the rates of children whose sexual services were being taken were fixed over telephone or in a meeting at the orphanage. The author had thereafter opined that the problem of sexual abuse of children, especially in government institutions, has become a serious problem and requires immediate redressal.
The Court had then taken up the issue, and passed several orders over the years, seeking to expand the scope of the PIL to include rights of children in general. It had also appointed Advocate Aparna Bhat as Amicus curiae.
The Court had, however, subsequently passed a detailed order in December, 2013, lamenting that despite the directions issued, little or no progress was made by the States in protecting the rights of children. Specific information was then sought from each State and Union Territory, regarding efforts taken by them in this regard.
Commenting on the responses received from the States, the Court had observed, “The responses were disheartening then and the situation has not changed substantially even after almost a decade since this Court took cognizance of the matter. Progress, if any, has been marginal. Unfortunately, it appears that the governments of some of the States and Union Territories have little remedial or pro-active concern for children.”
It had thereafter decided to restrict the scope of the petition to the rights and welfare of children in need of care and protection.
Here are the guidelines issued by the Court:
“1. The definition of the expression “child in need of care and protection” under Section 2(14) of the JJ Act should not be interpreted as an exhaustive definition. The definition is illustrative and the benefits envisaged for children in need of care and protection should be extended to all such children in fact requiring State care and protection.