• The Union Cabinet has approved the proposal to amend the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015 to introduce measures for strengthening Child Protection set-up to ensure best interest of children.
• The amendments include authorizing District Magistrate including Additional District Magistrate to issue adoption orders under Section 61 of the JJ Act, in order to ensure speedy disposal of cases and enhance accountability.
• The District Magistrates have been further empowered under the Act, to ensure its smooth implementation, as well as garner synergized efforts in favour of children in distress conditions.
• Defining eligibility parameters for appointment of CWC members, and categorizing previously undefined offences as ‘serious offence’ are some of the other aspects of the proposal.
• Several difficulties faced in implementation of various provisions of the Act have also been addressed.
Highlights of the proposal
• The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015 states that adoption of a child is final on the issuance of an adoption order by the court. The Amendment provides that instead of the court, the district magistrate will issue such adoption orders.
• The Bill seeks to transfer all pending matters related to adoption before any court to the district magistrate having jurisdiction over the area.
• The idea is to increase the scrutiny of child care institutions and enhance the role of district magistrates to ensure the set-up works in the best interests of children.
• District magistrates (DMs) along with additional district magistrates (ADMs) will monitor the functioning of various agencies under the JJ Act in every district.
• Plans are afoot to ensure that Indian embassies in every country follow up on children adopted by foreigners for a period of two years from the day they land there.
• Child victims of trafficking, drug abuse and those abandoned by their guardians will be included in the definition of "child in need of care" and protection under the amended law.
• The amendments also categorise certain previously undefined offences as 'serious offences'.
• At present, the act has three categories of petty, serious and heinous crimes. One more category will be included of offences where the maximum sentence is more than 7 years but no minimum sentence is prescribed or a minimum sentence of less than 7 years is provided shall be treated as serious offences within the JJ Act.
• According to the amendments cleared by the Cabinet, before becoming a member of the CWC, background and educational qualification checks will be included.
• The DM can independently evaluate a specialised CWC, juvenile police unit and registered institutions.
• The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015 addresses children in conflict with law and children in need of care and protection.
• It replaced the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000.
• In particular, it provides a comprehensive process for domestic and inter-country adoption of orphan, abandoned and surrendered children.
• Adoption is a legal process by which a child becomes the lawful child of his adoptive parents and is therefore permanently separated from his biological parents.
(The author is a trainer for Civil Services aspirants. The views expressed here are personal.)