Supreme Court: Taking note of the rise in the crimes against children, the bench of Madan B. Lokur and Deepak Gupta, JJ said that the definition of the expression “child in need of care and protection” under Section 2(14) of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000 should not be interpreted as an exhaustive definition. The provisions of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012 do not provide any definition of a child in need of care and protection. But no one can deny that a child victim of sexual abuse or sexual assault or sexual harassment is a child in need of care and protection. Similarly in a given case, a child accused of an offence and brought before the Juvenile Justice Board or any other authority might also be a child in need of care and protection. The Court said that it would be unfortunate if certain categories of children are left out of the definition, even though they need as much care and protection as categories of children specifically enlisted in the definition.
The bench also gave elaborate directions in order to ensure the welfare of the children in need of care and protection, some of the important directions are as follows:
- The Union Government and the governments of the States and Union Territories must ensure that the process of registration of all child care institutions is completed positively by 31.12.2017 with the entire data being confirmed and validated. Inspection Committees should also be set up on or before 31.07.2017 to conduct regular inspections of child care institutions and to prepare reports of such inspections.
- The governments of the States and Union Territories should draw up plans for full and proper utilization of grants (along with expenditure statements) given by the Union Government under the Integrated Child Protection Scheme.
- The schemes of the Government of India including skill development, vocational training etc must be taken advantage of for the rehabilitation and social re-integration of children in need of care and protection.
- Individual child care plans are extremely important and all governments of the States and Union Territories must ensure that there is a child care plan in place for every child in each child care institution on or before 31.12.2017.
- State and Union Territory Government must establish State Commission for Protection of Child Rights on or before 31.12.2017. The SCPCRs so constituted must publish an Annual Report so that everyone is aware of their activities and can contribute individually or collectively for the benefit of children in need of care and protection.
- The process of conducting a social audit must be taken up in right earnestness by the National Commission for the Protection of Child Rights as well as by each State Commission for the Protection of Child Rights to bring transparency and accountability in the management.
Stating that every child in need of care and protection must not be placed in a child care institutions, the Court said that alternatives such as adoption and foster care need to be seriously considered by the concerned authorities. The Court said that a status report of the compliance of the aforementioned directions be submitted before the Court on or before 15.01.2018. [Re: Exploitation of Children in Orphanages in the State of Tamil Nadu v. Union of India, 2017 SCC OnLine SC 534, decided on 05.05.2017]