Orphanages must abide by Juvenile Justice Act, 2000: High Court

Orphanages had also pleaded before court that they were neither a children’s home as defined under the JJ Act nor did they keep children in need of care and protection.

New Delhi | Published: March 4, 2014 1:43:24 am

Clearing up confusion regarding legal provisions required for registration and licensing of orphanages and children’s homes, the Delhi High Court on Monday held that the stringent rules of the Juvenile Justice Act, 2000 would be applicable for registration of any children’s home or orphanage in the capital.

Pulling up the Delhi government’s Department of Women and Child Development for its “shifting stand” on the issue, the court of Justice Pradeep Nandrajog and Justice Jayant Nath said registration under the JJ Act was different from recognition from the government under the provisions of the Women and Children Institutions Licensing Act, 1956.”

“No doubt officers of the Department of Women and Child Development, Government of NCT of Delhi, are an illuminating lot, but it appears that half of them are fused and the remaining half are confused,” the court said in its order.

The court order was issued on a plea filed by the Arya Anathalaya and other sister institutions against the Department of Women and Child Development, seeking court directions to renew their license under the WCIL Act, 1956 without insisting on obtaining registration or recognition/certification under Section 34(3) of the
JJ Act, 2000. The government had initially said that the WCIL Act was implied repealed once the JJ Act had been passed, but then said both acts were applicable on children’s homes.”

“The recognition by the state government is independent of a registration under sub-section 3 of Section 34 and we find that the first respondent is totally confused as to what to do,” the court held.

The orphanages had also pleaded before the court that they were neither a children’s home as defined under the JJ Act nor did they keep children in need of care and protection. The court has, however, clarified that orphaned or abandoned children would come under the definition of a “child in need of care and protection” under the JJ Act, and all child care institutions housing such children would require registration under the JJ Act.”

“Whereas the Licensing Act, 1956, was a general law relating to children and women, the JJ Act, 1986, and the JJ Act, 2000, are special legislations pertaining to two categories of children and thus even if it be assumed that the Licensing Act, 1956, continues to hold the field, pertaining to the two categories of children referred to in paragraph 44 above, the JJ Act, 2000 would prevail,” the court said.

According to Bharti Ali of the HAQ Center for Child Rights, the Arya Anathalaya and other institutions had been “operating illegally” during the pendency of the case”
“Despite five reported cases of child abuse, of which three were of child sexual abuse inside the institution, the managements of these institutions were resisting getting registered and recognised under the JJ Act, and especially resisted being monitored by the Child Welfare Committees in any way whatsoever,” Ali said.

Advocate Anant Asthana, who had represented HAQ in the case, also said that the judgment would have a wide impact on the institutions for orphans and abandoned children as the rules for registration of child welfare institutions under the JJ Act were much stricter than the requirements for licensing under the WCIL Act.

“The people running orphanages and child’en’s homes will now have to comply with the rules and guidelines and upgrade their infrastructure and staff,” the advocate said.

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