New rules for child welfare panel members

Bar on persons associated with bodies getting foreign funds

Updated - September 18, 2022 10:36 am IST

Published - September 18, 2022 05:13 am IST - NEW DELHI

The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection Amendment) Model Amendment Rules 2022 were notified on September 1 and came into effect immediately. 

The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection Amendment) Model Amendment Rules 2022 were notified on September 1 and came into effect immediately.  | Photo Credit: AP

The recently amended rules for implementation of the Juvenile Justice Act, 2015, bar a person associated with an organisation receiving foreign funds to be a part of Child Welfare Committees tasked with giving necessary directions for care and protection of children who are abused, exploited, abandoned or orphaned.

The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection Amendment) Model Amendment Rules 2022 were notified on September 1 and came into effect immediately. This follows the passage of JJ Amendment Bill, 2021 in Parliament in July last year. The rules make several changes to aspects under the JJ Act including those that govern adoption, foster care, sponsorship, as well as modify eligibility criteria for Child Welfare Committees (CWCs).

Rule 15 (4B) of the Model Rules 2021 states, “a person associated with an organisation receiving foreign contribution shall not be eligible to be a Chairperson or member of the Committee.”

Rule 15 (4C) also says that any person working in the implementation of the JJ Act in any NGO or organisation such that it causes conflict of interest will also be ineligible to be on a CWC. It adds that those who have “any family member” or “close relation” working for an NGO will also be disqualified to be on a CWC. Any person working in rescue and rehabilitation in the district, or a person representing someone running a child care institution or member of the Board or Trust of any NGO can also not be on a CWC. Retired judicial officers have also been omitted from the category of persons who can be considered for appointment to a CWC.

A CWC appointed by the State government under the JJ Act has the authority to dispose of cases of children in need of care and protection brought before them. It can also order an inquiry to ensure their safety and well-being and give an order for their rehabilitation either in family-based care such as through restoration to family or guardian, adoption, foster care or send them to child care institutions.

When a senior official of the Women and Child Development Ministry was asked about the possible conflict of interest due to receiving of foreign funds or relatives working at an NGOs, he only replied, “detailed discussions were held on this.”

The Chairperson of National Commission of Protection of Child Rights, Priyank Kanoongo, explained the changes and said, “Those on CWC have the power of a magistrate and also receive a salary from the government for 20 days in a month and are therefore equivalent to government officials, who are barred under FCRA from receiving foreign funds.”

According to the JJ Act, 2015, the CWC will function as a Bench and shall have the powers conferred by the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 on a Metropolitan Magistrate or a Judicial Magistrate of First Class.

The Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act, 2010, only bars certain categories of people and organisations from receiving foreign funds, which include candidates standing for elections, judges, government employees, member of any Legislature, political parties, journalists and media organisations. The law requires organisations receiving foreign funds to register and obtain a certificate provided they meet certain conditions, following which they have to maintain an account of funds received and a record of how it has been utilised. In 2017, the Ministry of Home Affairs, through the Finance Bill route, brought amendments to pave the way for political parties to receive funds from the Indian subsidiary of a foreign company or a foreign company in which an Indian holds 50% or more share.

“A lot of people appointed to CWCs come from the NGO sector. Where will these people now come from? The rules are also overbroad and do not define who is a family member or a close relative. This will reduce the pool of human resource available for appointments to CWC. Do we want functional or dysfunctional CWCs? There are already many CWCs that have not been appointed because they can’t find members to fill those posts,” says Bharti Ali, Co-founder, HAQ- Centre for Child Rights.

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