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WCD Ministry to formulate guidelines to ensure safety of children in hostels

The Ministry of Women and Child Development will soon formulate guidelines for children's hostels, prescribing the minimum standards of care that should be provided to the children.

The decision comes at a time when institutions, housing children on the request of parents who are unable to take care of them and their education or due to other circumstances that force parents to keep them at children's homes, are not registering under the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015.

SC order on Juvenile Care in India

The Supreme Court in its order in the case of “Exploitation of Children in Orphanages in the State of Tamil Nadu” Vs. Union of India had directed that the definition of the expression ‘child in need of care and protection’ under Section 2 (14) of the Juvenile Justice  Act, 2015 should not be interpreted as an exhaustive definition.

The court had stated that the definition is illustrative and the benefits envisaged for the children in need of care and protection should be extended to all such children requiring state care and protection.

In the same order, the Union and the State Governments were directed to enforce minimum standards of care required for such children living in any facility either created by the Government system or by civil society organisations.

Key Highlights

In line with the directions of the Supreme Court, the WCD Ministry will be drafting the guidelines that will be applicable to any institution not falling under the categories mentioned in the JJ Act.

The Ministry has directed the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights to draft the guidelines in consultation with stakeholders concerned. The guidelines will be notified under the Juvenile Justice Act or the JJ Rules.

To ensure the safety and well-being of children even at school hostels, Ministry WCD will be sharing the guidelines with the Ministry of Human Resource Development for dissemination among schools providing boarding facility.

Further, the Ministry has notified all states and union territories to undertake inspection of all child care institutions and related facilities and to ensure their registration.

As per Section 41 of the Juvenile Justice Act 2015, registration of all child care institutions, whether funded by Government or not, is mandatory. The penalty of non-registration is prescribed under Section 42 of the Act.

Besides this, registration under the JJ Act would also be mandatory for all CCIs running in the form of hostels.

Speaking on the development, WCD Minister Maneka Gandhi said that children staying at hostels, including those attached to schools, are as vulnerable as children at any other facility like child-care institutions (CCIs) and day-care centres and therefore, the Ministry has decided to formulate a set of guidelines to ensure adequate safety, minimum standard of living conditions and periodic inspections at hostels.

Juvenile Justice Act, 2015

The Juvenile Justice Act 2015 defines the ‘child in need of care and protection’ as a child:-

1. Who is found without any home or settled place of abode and without any ostensible means of subsistence.

2. Who is found working in contravention of labour laws for the time being in force or is found begging or living on the street.

3. Who resides with a person (whether a guardian of the child or not) and such person-

- Has injured, exploited, abused or neglected the child or has violated any other law for the time being in force meant for the protection of child.

- Has threatened to kill, injure, exploit or abuse the child and there is a reasonable likelihood of the threat being carried out.

- Has killed, abused, neglected or exploited some other child or children and there is a reasonable likelihood of the child in question being killed, abused, exploited or neglected by that person.

4. Who is mentally ill or mentally or physically challenged or suffering from terminal or incurable disease, having no one to support or look after or having parents or guardians unfit to take care, if found so by the Board or the Committee.

5. Who has a parent or guardian and such parent or guardian is found to be unfit or incapacitated, by the Committee or the Board, to care for and protect the safety and well-being of the child.

6. Who does not have parents and no one is willing to take care of, or whose parents have abandoned or surrendered him.

7. Who is missing or run away child, or whose parents cannot be found after making reasonable inquiry in such manner as may be prescribed.

8. Who has been or is being or is likely to be abused, tortured or exploited for the purpose of sexual abuse or illegal acts.

9.  Who is found vulnerable and is likely to be inducted into drug abuse or trafficking; or

10. Who is being or is likely to be abused for unconscionable gains.

11. Who is a victim of or affected by any armed conflict, civil unrest or natural calamity.

12. Who is at imminent risk of marriage before attaining the age of marriage and whose parents, family members, guardian and any other persons are likely to be responsible for solemnisation of such marriage.

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