Explained: What is Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Amendment Bill, 2021?
New Delhi, July 26: Recently, the Lok Sabha passed the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Amendment Bill, 2021 that seeks to strengthen and streamline the provisions for protection and adoption of children.
The Bill amends the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015 and contains provisions related to children in conflict with law and children in need of care and protection.
Need of the Amendment:
The National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) audit of Child Care Institutions (CCIs) in 2020, 90% of which are run by NGOs, found that 39% CCIs were not registered, even after the 2015 amendment was brought in.
It also found that less than 20% CCIs, especially for girls, had not been set up in some states, 26% child welfare officers were not there.
Moreover, three-fifths have no toilets, one-tenth have no drinking water and 15% homes don't have provisions of separate beds, no diet plans.
Rehabilitation of children is not a priority for childcare homes and children are reportedly kept in such institutions to get funds.
Key Issues and Analysis
Adoption of a child is a legal process which creates a permanent legal relationship between the child and adoptive parents. Therefore, it may be questioned whether it is appropriate to vest the power to issue adoption orders with the district magistrate instead of a civil court.
As of July 2018, there were 629 adoption cases pending in various courts. In order to expedite adoption proceedings, the Bill transfers the power to issue adoption orders to the district magistrate. An issue to consider is whether the level of pendency justifies shifting the load to the district magistrate.
The Standing Committee on Human Resource Development (2015) had noted that various statutory bodies under the Act were not present in many states. As of 2019 only 17 of 35 states/Union Territories had all basic structures and bodies required under the Act in all districts.
In 2017, the Madhya Pradesh High Court noted that children declared legally free for adoption were not being given timely referrals by Central Adoption Resource Authority (CARA). It recommended that the Steering Committee of CARA may monitor and investigate the conduct of CARA.
Key Amendments Proposed by the Bill:
Serious offences will also include offences for which maximum punishment is imprisonment of more than seven years, and minimum punishment is not prescribed or is of less than seven years.
Serious offences are those for which the punishment under the Indian Penal Code or any other law for the time being is imprisonment between three and seven years.
Juvenile Justice Board inquires about a child who is accused of a serious offence.
The present Act provides that an offence which is punishable with imprisonment between three to seven years to be cognizable (where arrest is allowed without warrant) and non-bailable.
The Bill amends this to provide that such offences will be non-cognizable.
Presently, the adoption order issued by the court establishes that the child belongs to the adoptive parents. The Bill provides that instead of the court, the District Magistrate (including Additional District Magistrate) will issue such adoption orders.
The Bill provides that any person aggrieved by an adoption order passed by the District Magistrate may file an appeal before the Divisional Commissioner, within 30 days from the date of passage of such order.
Such appeals should be disposed within four weeks from the date of filing of the appeal.
Additional Functions of the District Magistrate: These include: (i) supervising the District Child Protection Unit, and (ii) conducting a quarterly review of the functioning of the Child Welfare Committee.
The Bill proposes that all offences under the earlier Act be tried in children's court.
Child Welfare Committees (CWCs): It provides that a person will not eligible to be a member of the CWC if he/she
- has any record of violation of human rights or child rights,
- has been convicted of an offence involving moral turpitude,
- has been removed or dismissed from service of the central government, or any state government, or a government undertaking,
- is part of the management of a child care institution in a district.
Removal of Members:
The appointment of any member of the committee shall be terminated by the state government after an inquiry if they fail to attend the proceedings of the CWCs consecutively for three months without any valid reason or if they fail to attend less than three-fourths of the sittings in a year.