Context: Recently, the Government of India recently notified the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection Amendment) Model Amendment Rules 2022.
The Juvenile Justice (Care or Protection of Children) Act/JJ Act, 2015:
- The Act was introduced (by the Ministry of Women and Child Development) and passed in 2015 to replace the Juvenile Delinquency Law and the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000.
- One of the main provisions of the Act is allowing the trial of juveniles in conflict with law in the age group of 16-18 years as adults.
- Under the Act, offences committed by juveniles are categorised as heinous (with minimum or maximum sentence of 7 years), serious (with 3-7 years of imprisonment) and petty offences.
- According to the Act, juveniles charged with heinous crimes and between the ages of 16-18 years would be tried as adults and processed through the adult justice system.
- The nature of the crime and whether the juvenile should be tried as a minor or a child, was to be determined by a Juvenile Justice Board.
- The Act streamlined adoption procedures for orphans, abandoned and surrendered children and the existing Central Adoption Resource Authority (CARA) has been made a statutory body to enable it to perform its function more effectively.
- The State Government may, by notification, establish one or more Child Welfare Committees (CWC) for each district or group of districts to exercise the powers conferred under this Act.
- The Committee shall be composed of a Chairperson and four other members, at least one of whom shall be a woman and another a child expert.
The Juvenile Justice (Care or Protection of Children) Amendment Act, 2021:
- The amendment has been based on a National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) report (2018-19) in which over 7,000 Child Care Institutions (CCIs or children’s homes) were surveyed.
- The report found that 1.5% of CCIs do not conform to rules and regulations of the JJ Act and 29% of them had major shortcomings in their management.
- It also found that not a single CCI in the country was found to be 100% compliant to the provisions of the JJ Act.
- According to the amendment, District Magistrates (DMs), including Additional District Magistrates (ADMs), can now issue adoption orders under the JJ Act.
- This is to ensure faster case resolution and increased accountability.
- The new amendment prohibits the opening of any new CCI without the sanction of the DM.
- Now, DMs are also responsible for ensuring that CCIs falling in their district are following all norms and procedures.
- The DM will also carry out background checks (including educational qualifications) of CWC members, who are usually social welfare activists, as there is no such provision currently.
- According to the Act, serious offences will also include offences for which the maximum punishment is more than seven years in prison and the minimum punishment is not prescribed or is less than seven years.
- The Model Rules state that a person associated with an organisation receiving foreign contribution shall not be eligible to be a Chairperson or member of the Committee.
- As per the Chairperson of NCPCR (Priyank Kanoongo), those on CWC have the power of a magistrate and are equivalent to government officials, who are barred under Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act, 2010, from receiving foreign funds.
- It also states that anyone involved in the implementation of the JJ Act in any NGO or organisation that creates a conflict of interest will be ineligible to serve on a CWC.
- It goes on to say that anyone with “any family member” or “close relation” working for an NGO is ineligible to be on a CWC.
- Anyone involved in rescue and rehabilitation in the district, as well as anyone representing someone running a CCI or a member of the Board or Trust of any NGO, is not eligible to serve on a CWC.
- Retired judicial officers have also been omitted from the category of persons who can be considered for appointment to a CWC.
Criticism of the new rules:
- The rules are broadly worded, with no definition of who is a family member or close relative.
- This reduces the pool of human resources available for CWC appointments. Many CWCs have yet to be appointed because they cannot find members to fill those positions.
Source: The Hindu