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SC Settles Disputes Between National And State Child Rights Commissions Over Powers To Conduct Inquiry [Read Judgment]

13 Jan 2020 12:33 PM GMT
SC Settles Disputes Between National And State Child Rights Commissions Over Powers To Conduct Inquiry [Read Judgment]
"It's so sad ! We start with a lament because institutions set up to protect children have virtually forsaken them in a fight over their so called jurisdictions."
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The Supreme Court has settled the 'disputes' between the National and State Commission for Protection of Child Rights with regard to the powers to conduct inquiry in Child Rights issues.

The bench of Justice Deepak Gupta and Justice Aniruddha Bose held

There is no ouster of jurisdiction of any Commission. The only constraint placed by Section 13(2) of the Commissions for Protection of Child Rights Act, 2005 is that if the State Commission has already started an inquiry, the National Commission should naturally refrain from inquiring into the matter. This, however, does not mean that the National Commission cannot go into the other larger questions which may have led to the specific incidents of violation of child rights which need to be inquired into.

It further held

Even a State Commission has the power to inquire into those matters which fall within its purview and even if the illegality is such that it has inter­State or international ramifications, e.g. a child is being illegally sent for adoption abroad. if the State Commission in such a case asks for assistance from the National Commission or some other State Commission where the child may have been illegally trafficked, the National Commission or the other State Commission(s) should cooperate with the Commission inquiring into the matter.

After some news papers reported that child­care institution based in Jalpaiguri in West Bengal had indulged in large scale trafficking of children, NCPCR took cognizance of these report and summoned ADGP, who refused to appear before them and instead chose to file a writ petition before Calcutta HC. The High Court stayed the direction of the NCPCR mainly on the ground that since the State Commission had taken cognizance of the matter.

In its judgment disposing the appeal filed by the National Commission, the bench observed thus on the issue of refusal by ADGP to reply to the National commission:

Police officials should realise that when the Commissions constituted under the CPCR Act ask for some relevant information, they must respectfully reply to the same and not rake up the dispute of so ­called 'jurisdiction'. Even the police officials must realise that these Commissions have been constituted for the welfare of the children. Even assuming that the WBCPCR had started an inquiry, we see no reason why Dr. Rajesh Kumar could not have provided the information to the NCPCR. It was not for him to question the jurisdiction of the NCPCR. If any official is asked for information by any of the Commissions, he is duty bound to reply to the letters of the Commission. One Commission may raise the issue that since it is seized of the matter and is inquiring into it, the National Commission should not start another inquiry, but it is not for the officials to raise such an issue. Whether an inquiry has actually been initiated or not cannot be decided by an official. This has to be decided either by the Commission or by a Court of law. Therefore, in our view, Dr. Rajesh Kumar would have been better advised to furnish information to the NCPCR rather than challenging the jurisdiction of the NCPCR.

The judgment began with criticising the ego clash between two commissions. On this aspect, the judgment read:

It's so sad! We start with a lament because institutions set up to protect children have virtually forsaken them in a fight over their so called jurisdictions.
We are constrained to observe that in this clash of egos between the State Commission (WBCPCR) and the National Commission (NCPCR), for this entire period, other than the police taking action, nothing was done on the administrative side to set matters right.
Unfortunately, in this case, there has been no cooperation rather mudslinging at each other. We would like to reiterate and re­emphasise that there are no jurisdictional issues involved.  

The Court, examining the records, concluded that, in this case NCPCR had started inquiry before the State Commission involved in the matter. 

Case no.: C.A 7968 Of 2019
Coram: Justices Deepak Gupta and Aniruddha Bose

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