The Gujarat High Court on Tuesday issued notice on a writ petition filed by Bachpan Bachao Andolan, a non-governmental organisation founded by Nobel Laureate Kailash Satyarthi focussed on the rights of children and prevention of child labour, seeking proper implementation of the Juvenile Justice Act.
The organisation has expressed serious concerns over the consistent non-implementation of Sampurna Behura vs Union of India, whereby the Supreme Court issued a host of directions for proper implementation of Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015. These relate to: (i) Functioning of the National and State Commissions for Protection of Child Rights, (ii) Functioning of State and District Child Protection Units, (iii) Functioning of Juvenile Justice Boards and Child Welfare Committees, (iv) Use of technology for collecting database of missing children, trafficked children, etc., (v) Role of the Police as the first responder to offences committed by children, (vi) Management of and recruitment to Child Care Institutions, (vii) Training and sensitization of involved officers, etc.
In the same vein, the Supreme Court had also directed all the High Courts in the country to initiate suo moto proceedings to ensure the effective implementation of the Juvenile Justice Act within their jurisdictions.
The instant plea highlights that the instances of child abuse in child care institutions is on the rise and that the authorities concerned are often indifferent to these developments. To bolster this submission, the plea cites the case of 34 minor girls allegedly being sexually assaulted in the Muzzafarpur Shelter Home premises.
Consequently, the petitioner seeks Court's intervention to ensure implementation of the provisions of the JJ Act in letter and spirit and improving the conditions of Remand/ Observation Homes and Shelter Homes as envisaged in the JJ Act and Rules.
So far as the directions issued in Sampurna Behura (supra) is concerned, the petition prays:
- The Ministry of Women and Child Development fill up positions in the NCPCR and SCPCRs for effective functioning.
- The NCPCR and SCPCR should undertake their duties and functions with earnestness.
- The State Level Child Protection Societies and District Level Child Protection Units should oversee the implementation of the JJ Act including the Child Care Institutions for the well-being of children in aspects of nutrition, education, medical benefits, skill development and other living conditions.
- State Governments must ensure that all positions in the Juvenile Justice Boards and Child Welfare Committee are filled expeditiously in consonance with the Model Rules.
- The JJBs and CWCs must have regular sittings so that a minimal number of inquiries are pending at any given juncture.
- Conduct studies for estimating the number of Probation Officers for the effective implementation of the Juvenile Justice Act.
The plea goes on to set forth few suggestions for improvement of conditions of child care institutions:
- SCPCR should develop protocols for reformation and rehabilitation of children as per Rule 91(1)(iii) of JJ Model Rules, 2016.
- Preparation of Rehabilitation Card to monitor the development of the child as per their Individual Care Plan and the CWC and JJB must issue the same.
- Personal liability should be fixed with persons entrusted with various duties under the JJ Act. Reference was made to Directorate of Enforcement vs. Deepak Mahajan to contest that legislative intent must be given effect to.
- Sponsorship and other supplementary financial support to families to meet the educational, medical, nutritional and other needs of children to improve their quality of lives as under Section 45.
- High level Committee should be formed to review the rehabilitation process and the pendency of inquiry per Section 16(2) of the JJ Act.
- Concerning trafficked children, it was recommended that there was little information available and therefore, the High Court should direct all agencies to submit the status report for the investigation, rehabilitation and compensation.
- There should be a constitution of cadre of child welfare police officers.
The Bench comprising Chief Justice Justice Aravind Kumar and Justice Ashutosh J. Shastri has issued notices to the State Government, its Commission for Protection of Child Rights and Director General of State Police. It refused to issue notice to State's Department of Social Justice & Empowerment and State Legal Services Authority, stating that they are in substantial compliance of the Apex Court directions.
Case Title: BACHPAN BACHAO ANDOLAN v/s STATE OF GUJARAT
Case No.: C/WPPIL/149/2021