Protecting the childhood

One of our appreciated constitutional targets has been Happy Childhood. Child is the emperor of his estate, for him you cannot say tomorrow – his name is today. The children require the protective safeguard from the society for the better growth and development .

In olden days every home was the best child care and child friendly  but industrial growth, population explosion, cyber revolution snatched the happy and merry childhood. The children lost the savor of golden era of childhood but the world restrained itself to become mute spectator and devised policies and measures to restore the laurels of happy childhood and to protect the Rights of a child. On 20th November, 1959 the  realization of the world community witnessed the Declaration of the Rights of the Child proclaimed by the United Nations in the best interest of the child. This was followed by the Beijing Rules of 1985, the Riyadh Guidelines of 1990. In all the three set of Rules intention was that social policies should be evolved and applied to prevent juvenile delinquency, safeguard fundamental rights and avoid harm to juveniles. The Riyadh Guidelines further suggested that police should be trained to respond to the special needs of young persons.

This didn’t work as was expected. Rather than avoiding harm, police interactions with juveniles tend to involve abusive interrogation techniques.

The development of child with dignity is a matter of great concern throughout the world. The tight lips opened their mouth to provide good environment, dignity, participation, safety and natural justice to the children. The United Nations “Convention on the Rights of the Child” which has been adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on 20th November, 1989 and also acceded by the Government of India in the convention dated 11th December, 1992, also provides for provision for the welfare and procedure for punishment of the child.

Article 15 of the constitution of India inter alia confers upon powers to make special provisions for children. Article 39(e) and (f) , 45 and 47 further makes the State responsible for ensuring that all needs of children are met and their basic human rights are protection.

The states shall have to protect all children from all forms of violence and abuse, harm, neglect and stigma, maltreatment, discrimination, deprivation, exploitation including economic exploitation and sexual exploitation, abandonment ,separation, abduction, sale and trafficking for any purpose or in any form, pornography, alcohol and substance abuses or any other activity that takes undue advantage of them, or harms their personhood or affects their development.

In India primary child protection provisions  are found in  Juvenile Justice (care and protection of children) Act, 2015. The law deals with the two categories  of children , those who need of care and protection and who are in conflict with law. Section 2(12) of  Juvenile Justice Act , 2015 defines the child, which reads as “ child means a person who has not completed eighteen years of age”. So the children who are below the eighteen years of age are considered as child.

Chapter 5 of the  Juvenile Justice Act, 2015  covers the role ,functions and responsibilities of the Child Welfare Committees (CWCs) . Child Welfare Committees deals with the Child in Need of Care and Protection. Juvenile Justice Board(JJB) is there to deal with the child in conflict with law.

The Act  also establishes a Special Juvenile Police Unit (SJPU) to coordinate and  function as a watch-dog for providing legal protection against all kinds of cruelty, abuse and exploitation of children or juveniles.

The Child Welfare Committee  functions as a bench of Magistrates constituting of five members having powers of First Class judicial Magistate conferred by the Code of Criminal Prcedure , 1973(2 of 1974).

Juvenile Justice Board consists of Principal Magistrate and two Social Workers selected in such a manner as may be prescribed, of whom  at least one shall be a woman, forming a Bench and every Bench shall have the powers conferred by the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, as a Judicial Magistrate of First Class. They deal with the child in conflict with law.

To provide  the child basic rights and to save him from all forms of violations his “best interest” is to be considered by Child Welfare Committees. In any situation or circumstances  primary consideration shall be the best interest of the child. The most frequent use of best interest of child is within the children-related justice system mainly in family courts regarding divorce and custody disputes where best interest of child is main consideration.

Best interest of the child will always depend on the context of definition and application, which involves many factors, such as the child’s characteristics and social environment (family, community and school). Culture is another factor that can have impact on the understanding and application of best interest of child, influenced by local, regional, and national cultural processes. Thus there might be differences in best interest of child application according to culture, country and language.

Across the world, children are at risk from violence, abuse, exploitation and neglect. Conflict and natural disaster have forced millions  to flee their homes and confront the dangers of migration and displacement. Commercial sexual exploitation and trafficking, child labor, and child marriage are problems in many countries. At-risk children and adolescents need their rights enforced if we are to protect them from harm and to ensure that they develop to their full potential. Juvenile justice act is a welfare legislation which ensures protection of the child who are children in need of care and protection, and children in conflict with law.

Question arises that who can produce the child before the Child Welfare Committees. section 31 of JJ Act says that any child in need of care and protection may be produced before the Committee by

  1. any police officer or juvenile police unit or designated child welfare officer of District Child Protection Unit or inspector appointed under any labour law for the time being in force
  2. any voluntary or non- governmental organization
  3. public spirited person
  4. any nurse or doctor or management of a nursing home, hospital or nursing home.

A child himself/herself can also approach the Child Welfare Committee for his care and protection. Any public servant can also produce the child before such Committee.

It is a noble mission to save the childhood of our nation by implementing the provisions of Juvenile Justice Act in letter and spirit by all stake holders. The main components of the juvenile Justice System are Child Welfare Committee, juvenile justice Board and District Child Protection Units. Besides police, non governmental organizations, labour department and health department have much responsibility to cooperate the three units of juvenile justice system so that the asset of nation is to be protected and cared . children are safe nation is safe.

There are various instances where Child Welfare Committees in Jammu and Kashmir have rescued the children from child marriage, child labour, trafficked and domestic workers. In many cases children who were rescued were given compensation and restored to their families. Those whose families were not found were placed in Children Care Institutions both in government  and NGO run institutions. They are placed there short term or till their family is found.

One such story about a girl who was trafficked here  ten years before from West Bengal was rescued and restored to family by Child Welfare Committee, Ganderbal. She was restored to family members. She was not knowing her address but at last Child Welfare Committee found her residence in West Bengal. She was very happy to meet her mother. That was an emotional scene. There is a long story how Child Welfare Committee found her residence. That cannot be explained here.

People should knock the door of Juvenile Justice System for the well being of  children in need of care and protection and child in conflict with law. Feel free to approach the Child Welfare Committee (CWC), Juvenile Justice Board (JJB), District Child Protection Unit (DCPU). Within the Juvenile Justice System the child is properly cared and protected.