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sexta-feira, janeiro 21, 2011

BETTER COORDINATION NEEDED FOR EFFECTIVE IMPLEMENTATION JUVENILE JUSTICE ACT



When I recall the recent training to Juvenile Welfare Officers (JWO), who were representing every police station of Bihar, for helping them to understand their duties and responsibilities while interacting with the children keeping in mind about the guidelines stipulated under the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000, the following beautiful sentences of Chilian Nobel Laureate Gabriala Mistral, comes to my mind: “We are guilty of many errors and many faults, but our worst crime is abandoning the children, neglecting the fountain of life. Many of the things we need can wait, the child cannot wait. Right now is the time his bones are being formed, his blood is being made, and his senses are being developed. To him we cannot answer ‘tomorrow’ His name is Today.”

The JJ (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000 comprises important provisions of all important international laws related to the protection of basic human rights along with ensuring that all the needs of children are met. The General Assembly of the United Nations has adopted the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the 20th November, 1989; the Convention on the Rights of Child has prescribed a set of standards to be adhered by all State parties in securing the best interest of the child. This Convention emphasizes social reintegration of child victims, to the extent possible, without resorting to judicial proceedings. The Government of India has ratified the Convention on the 11th December, 1992. Thus, the JJ Act, 2000 is the outcome of the commitment of India towards children. A review of the JJ Act, 2000 indicates that much greater attention is required to be given to children in conflict with law or those in need of care and protection. The justice system as available for adults is not considered suitable for being applied to children.

Children means one who has not completed eighteen years of age this applies to both boys and girls unlike many other laws that has not decided uniform age for boys and girls.

For effective implementation of this holistic ACT, the Bihar Police Department under the leadership of Mr Rajbardhan Sharma, ADGP (CID) had taken a visionary step by providing first of its kind training to all 984 JWOs in Bihar and gave Bihar a reason to be first on this count. The JJ Act, 2000 classified children in two categories, (1) Children in Need of Care and Protection, and (2) Juvenile in Conflict with Law. This child centered Act has made two separate competent authorities; the Child Welfare Committee (CWC) for children in need of care and protection (CNCP) and the Juvenile Justice Board (JJB) for juvenile in conflict with law (JCL). “Juvenile in conflict with law” means a juvenile who is alleged to have committed an offence and has not completed eighteen years of age as on the date of commission of such offence, and, children other than this fall under “children in need of care and protection”. Juvenile in conflict with law has no longer to face insensitive police relating their protection of basics right given to him according to the provisions made under the Beijing Rules that constitutes a set of guidelines to be followed while taking juvenile under “protective custody” such as police will be in civil uniform, no CJM court, no lawyer, no jail and above all there is no provision for punishment irrespective gravity of offence; the Act stipulates only community service. And, beauty of this Act is that it prohibits using derogatory terms such as delinquent, remand home, court, etc. The Section 63 of the Act reads: (1) in order to enable police officers who frequently or exclusively deal with juveniles or are primarily engaged in the prevention of juvenile crime or handling of the handling of the juveniles or children under this Act to perform their functions more effectively, they shall be specially instructed and trained. (2) In every police station at least one officer with aptitude and appropriate training and orientation may be designated as the “juvenile or child welfare officer” who will handle the juvenile or the child in co-ordination with the police. (3) Special juvenile police unit, of which all police officers designated as above, to handle juveniles or children will be members, may be created in every district and city to co-ordinate and to upgrade the police treatment of the juveniles and the children.

But there is a huge gap between the Act and the fact at the ground. The Act stipulates about four homes two each for CNCP and two each for JCL for every district. In Bihar, there are only a score of homes unlike Maharashtra where it crosses hundred. All districts do not have CWC and JJB; existing CWC do not sit regularly. There is urgent need for creating adequate infrastructure necessary for the implementation of the Act with a larger involvement of informal systems specially the family, the voluntary organizations and the community.

There is a lack of coordination among departments to combat the issues of child labour or working children who squarely fall under CNCP. On the one hand, the Department of Social Welfare has come out with its own State Action Plan to combat issues relating to trafficking in children, child labour covering children up to children who have not completed eighteen years of age and on the other, the Department of Labour resources has come out with entirely separate action plan to combat child labour covering only children below fourteen years of age. Any legislation alone cannot resolve this as old as story problem. To take this mammoth problem head-on, the concerned departments have to come on one platform – real convergence and really sensitive people from all walks of life will be the real answer to protect these children.

Suresh Kumar is Raia Diplomática's correspondent in India

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