March 25, 2021 2:35:35 am
The Lok Sabha Wednesday passed a Bill that seeks to strengthen and streamline the provisions for protection and adoption of children, amid praise from both the Treasury and Opposition benches.
Women and Child Development Minister Smriti Irani told the Lower House that the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Amendment Bill seeks to make District Magistrates “synergising officers” in cases of both protection as well as adoption by increasing their role.
She said DMs are already empowered to review issues related to child protection. After the Bill becomes law, their scope will go beyond review. And once they are legally ordained, they would make child rights and protection a priority area.
The Bill, which seeks to amend the Juvenile Justice Act, 2015, looks to aid children in need of protection under law as well as children in conflict with the law.
“I want to tell Parliament that all states are consulted. Just bringing a legislation should not suffice, instead we will ensure that the Act is properly implemented. An NCPCR audit of Child Care institutions, 90 percent of which are run by NGOs, found that 39 percent CCIs were not registered, even after the 2015 amendment was brought in.”
Placing the CCIs under the direct supervision of the DMs is expected to make them more accountable.
The bill also seeks to categorise offences wherein the maximum sentence is more than seven years’ imprisonment but no minimum sentence or a minimum sentence of less than seven years has been provided as “serious offences” under the Juvenile Justice Act, and to remove difficulties in interpretation of the Act.
“Serious offences” include offences for which the punishment under the Indian Penal Code or any other law for the time being is imprisonment between three and seven years.
“We will no longer wait for a serious incident to happen for us to protect children,’’Irani said.
On the child welfare committee, the bill said no person shall be appointed as a member unless they have been actively involved in health, education or welfare activities pertaining to children for at least seven years or is a practicing professional with a degree in child psychology or psychiatry or law or social work or sociology or human development.
The bill further proposes that 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 committee consecutively for three months without any valid reason or if they fail to attend less than three-fourths of the sittings in a year.
The minister further pointed out that the adoption amendment will streamline the process and make it swifter, saying that there are 900 pending cases of adoption “which have been waiting for years’’.
Complimenting Irani on bringing in the Bill, Congress member from Patiala Preneet Kaur raised the concern of over-burdening DMs who are also in charge of looking after entire districts.
NCP MP Supriya Sule, however, pointed out that after consulting various DMs in Maharashtra, this did not appear to be a problem as they were keen in taking up the responsibility. “I want to congratulate Smriti Irani on such an encouraging bill in the interest of the children of the country and appreciate it for being transparent and robust. I want to assure the minister that I have spoken to the state WCD minister and she has assured me that it will be implemented. I also want to ask Smritiji if we as MPs can do anything to assist in implementing the Bill, in carrying the issue forward or in any other way that the Ministry feels fit,’’she said.
Hasnain Masoodi of NC and ET Mohammad Basheer of IUML maintained that the adoption process should remain under the judiciary.
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