Union Minster for Women and Child Development Smriti Irani on Monday introduced a Bill in the Lok Sabha that seeks to amend the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015 to increase the role of District Magistrates (DMs) and Additional District Magistrates (ADMs).
Congress member Shashi Tharoor had opposed the introduction of the Bill but Ms. Irani argued that the Bill not only addressed some of the gaps flagged by the existing Act by the Supreme Court but also provided better protection to children through the proposed amendments.
The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Amendment Bill, 2021 was then introduced by a voice vote.
Last month, the Union Cabinet had decided that the DMs and the ADMs in every district will get the power to monitor functions of agencies responsible for implementation of the Act, including the functioning of the district child protection unit.
The amendment empowers DMs and ADMs to authorise orders of adoption and proposes that appeals on the orders of adoption are referred to a Divisional Commissioner.
The proposed Bill also makes a DM the grievance redress authority for the child welfare committees, and anyone connected with a child may file a petition before the official for passage of appropriate orders.
The Bill also seeks to remove difficulties with regard to categorisation of offences wherein the maximum sentence is more than seven years’ imprisonment. Serious offences include offences for which the punishment under the Indian Penal Code or under any other law is imprisonment between three and seven years.
Background and educational qualification checks will be carried before any person is made a member of a child welfare committee (CWC). No person will be appointed as a member unless he or she has been actively involved in health, education or children welfare activities for at least seven years or is a practising professional with a degree in child psychology or psychiatry or law or social work or sociology or human development.
The appointment of any member of the CWC can be terminated by the State government if he or she fails to attend the proceedings of the committee consecutively for three months without any valid reason or if they fail to attend less than three-fourths of the yearly sittings.
DMs will also be empowered to effectively coordinate among the stakeholders and facilitate a child’s rehabilitation or re-integration.