Showing dismay over the “tardy implementation” of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000 and the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015 (the JJ Act), the Bench of Madan B. Lokur and Deepak Gupta, JJ urged the Chief Justice of each High Court to seriously consider establishing child friendly courts and vulnerable witness courts in each district and said:
“We need to have some compassion towards them – even juveniles in conflict with law, since they are entitled to the presumption of innocence – and establishing child friendly courts and vulnerable witness courts is perhaps one manner in which the justice delivery system can respond to ease their pain and suffering.”
The Court said that such child friendly courts and vulnerable witness courts can also be used for trials in which adult women are victims of sexual offences since they too are often traumatized by the not so friendly setting and environment in our courts.
The bench also gave a number of directions in order to invigorate the juvenile justice system in the country. Some of the important directions are as follows:
- All positions in the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) and the State Commissions for the Protection of Child Rights (SCPCRs) should be filled up well in time and adequate staff is provided to these statutory bodies so that they can function effectively and meaningfully for the benefit of the children.
- The State level Child Protection Societies and the District level Child Protection Units should take the assistance of NGOs and civil society to ensure that the JJ Act serves its purpose.
- All positions in Juvenile Justice Boards (JJBs) and Child Welfare Committees (CWCs) should be filled up expeditiously. The JJBs and CWCs must have sittings on a regular basis so that a minimal number of inquiries are pending at any given point of time.
- The NCPCR and the SCPCRs must carry out time bound studies and especially a study for estimating the number of Probation Officers required for the effective implementation of the JJ Act. Based on this study, the State Government must appoint the necessary number of Probation Officers.
- The Ministry of Women and Child Development (MWCD) should have a database of missing children, trafficked children and for follow up of adoption cases etc.
- Meaningful Special Juvenile Police Units and appoint Child Welfare Police Officers in terms of the JJ Act must be set up at the earliest as Police has an important role as the first responder on issues pertaining to offences allegedly committed by children as well as offences committed against children.
- The National Police Academy and State Police Academies must consider including child rights as a part of their curriculum on a regular basis and not as an isolated or sporadic event.
- All the Child Care Institutes must be registered. State Governments and Union Territories would be should appoint eminent persons from civil society as Visitors to monitor and supervise the Child Care Institutions in all the districts.
- The JJ Fund is a bit of an embarrassment with an absence of an effective response from the State Governments and the Union Territories. Financial Resources should be made available for the welfare of the children.
- All authorities such as JJBs and CWCs, Probation Officers, members of the Child Protection Societies and District Child Protection Units, Special Juvenile Police Units, Child Welfare Police Officers and managerial staff of Child Care Institutions must be sensitized and given adequate training relating to their position.
- The Chief Justice of every High Court is requested to register proceedings on its own motion for the effective implementation of the JJ Act so that road-blocks if any, encountered by statutory authorities and the Juvenile Justice Committee of the High Court are meaningfully addressed after hearing the concerned governmental authorities.
The Bench said the policy and decision makers should understand that they are not doing any favour to the children of our country by caring for them – it is their constitutional obligation and the social justice laws enacted by Parliament need to be effectively and meaningfully enforced. [Sampurna Behura v. Union of India, WRIT PETITION (CIVIL) NO. 473 OF 2005, decided on 09.02.2018]