Bill to amend juvenile justice law comes up for consideration in LS

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New Delhi, Mar 24 (PTI) Women and Child Development Minister Smriti Irani on Wednesday moved an amendment bill in Lok Sabha to strengthen the provisions relating to protection and adoption of children.

The amendment bill would address various issues flagged by a panel that had looked into the working of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015, the minister said while moving it for consideration and passage.

The bill, which seeks to amend the Juvenile Justice Act, 2015, proposes to increase the role of district magistrates and additional district magistrates with issues concerning child care and adoption, she said.

The minister said that the panel had found various shortcomings in the implementation of the Act and the object of the proposed changes in the law is to ensure that action is taken without waiting 'for a child to become a victim.' The bill was introduced in the lower house on March 15.

She said it was found that several childcare institutions in the country did not have basic facilities like beds, drinking water, toilets, etc.

As many as 90 percent of the child care institutions are run by NGOs, she added.

The amendments intend to empower district magistrates and additional district magistrates to authorise orders of adoption and propose that appeals on the orders of adoption may be referred to the divisional commissioner.

They are aimed at strengthening child welfare committees by incorporating provisions relating to educational qualification for the members and stipulating eligibility conditions for selection of the committee.

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' includes 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.

The bill intends to ensure that the district magistrate is suitably placed to ensure effective coordination among the stakeholders for the facilitation of necessary services for children's rehabilitation or re-integration.

By further empowering district magistrates to deal with child protection and adoption processes, it aims to facilitate a coordinated and effective response of the administration to various issues related to children, including adoption, the bill 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 bill makes the district magistrate the grievance redressal authority for the child welfare committee, and anyone connected with a child may file a petition before the official, who shall consider and pass appropriate orders.

Participating in the debate, Perneet Kaur (Cong) welcomed the amendment bill with a caveat that giving too much responsibility to an already overburdened district magistrate might not yield the desired results.

Aparajita Sarangi (BJP), however, said that as a 'chief force' in the district, District Magistrate is the right person to ensure implementation of the provisions of the law relating to child welfare. PTI CS NAB RT RT