Cabinet nods to the changes to the Youth Act to increase control of day care centers
The Union Cabinet on Wednesday approved amendments to the Juvenile Justice Act to strengthen scrutiny of childcare facilities and strengthen the role of district judges to ensure the facility works in the best interests of children.
Minister of Women’s and Child Development Smriti Irani reached out to the media about the cabinet decision, saying that District Judges (DMs) along with additional District Judges (ADMs) will oversee the work of various agencies under the YY Law in each district.
She said a related bill would be presented to parliament to amend the 2015 Juvenile Justice (Welfare and Protection of Children) Act, which would broaden its scope.
Sources said plans were underway to ensure that Indian embassies in each country followed up on children adopted by foreigners for a period of two years from the day they landed.
The Ministry of Women’s and Child Development is working out details on this with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
There is a proposal to appoint a node office in each embassy to oversee the overseas adopted child, the sources said.
Children who are victims of human trafficking, substance abuse and abandoned by their guardians will be included in the definition of “dependent child” and protection under the amended law, Irani said.
The amendments also categorize certain previously undefined crimes as “serious crimes”.
“At present the offense encompasses three categories of minor, serious and heinous offenses. Another category of offenses will be added where the maximum sentence is more than 7 years but no minimum sentence is required or a minimum sentence of less than 7 years is treated as serious offenses under the JJ Act, “she said.
The changes also include authorizing the district judge, an additional district judge, to issue adoption orders under Section 61 of the JJ Act to ensure speedy settlement of cases and improve accountability.
The district judges were further authorized within the framework of the law to ensure smooth implementation and to bundle synergetic efforts for the benefit of children in need.
Several difficulties in implementing various provisions of the law were also raised, Irani said.
She said the district child protection unit would also work under the district judge.
Irani said that as of now there has been no specific instruction to conduct a background check on anyone to become members of the Child Welfare Committee (CWC) as there is currently no such provision to check if a person has a case of girl abuse him.
Under the changes approved by the cabinet, background and educational skills will be reviewed prior to joining the CWC, she said.
Irani also said the National Commission for the Protection of Children’s Rights conducted a survey of over 7,000 childcare facilities across the country and found that 1.5 percent did not comply with rules and regulations, and 29 percent of them had deficiencies in their management.
She said that following discussions with state governments following the survey, the department closed 500 illegal child welfare organizations that refused to register under the YY law.
Noting that the whole system of childcare facilities needs to be strengthened, she said a child welfare committee is a quasi-judicial body that declares children unlawful for adoption and ensures that it does not function in isolation.
The minister said a member of the child protection committee would have to attend three quarters of the number of meetings after the changes.
“Today’s decision is a major administrative decision, both in terms of sensitivity and legal issues, made under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to protect children,” she told reporters.
Irani previously said that any organization that wants to run a childcare facility must delegate its purpose to the state government.
In the proposed changes, the DM will carry out its capacity and background check before registering an IHK and then forward the recommendations to the state government, she said.
The DM can independently assess a specialized CWC, youth police unit and registered institutions.
Irani said the changes are aimed at strengthening child protection to ensure the best interests of children.
The changes include empowering the District Judge and the Supplementary District Judge to issue adoption orders under Section 61 of the YY Act to ensure speedy resolution of cases and improve accountability.
The district judges were further empowered under the law to ensure smooth implementation and to pool synergetic efforts for the benefit of children in need, she said.
The minister noted that district judges are often only informed of an incident after an incident, but from now on the entire child protection unit in each district will work under the DM, so there is coordination between other departments for education, health and safety of children.