The Supreme Court on Feb 13 has directed all the state governments to set up child welfare boards and juvenile courts. The top court also requested the chief justices of all high courts to register proceedings on their own for effective implementation of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015. It asked all the high courts to seriously consider establishing child-friendly courts and vulnerable witness courts in each district.
A Supreme Court bench comprising of Justice Madan B Lokur and Deepak Gupta was hearing a Public Interest Litigation filed by human rights activist Sampurna Behrua, seeking court’s intervention to ensure effective implementation of Juvenile Justice Act, 2000 by all the states.
There were several chief justices’ conferences held in 2006, 2009, 2013, 2015 and 2016 about the need to ensure the adequate and effective implementation of the Juvenile Justice Act. As a part of the resolutions passed in these conferences, the Supreme Court noted that every high court has a constituted Juvenile Justice Committee that is headed by a judge to take stock and address issues that concern children. Besides this, the Chief Justice of India also set up a Committee to address issues of implementation of child welfare laws.
Acknowledging that the Bench might be criticized for excessive judicial activism, it stated that the government has done very little for implementation of the Act in its true spirit: “Over the last decade or so, state governments and Union Territories have not fully complied with the provisions of a law solemnly enacted by Parliament for the benefit of children. In many instances, only cosmetic changes have been introduced at the ground level with the result that voiceless children continue to be subjects of official apathy.”
The bench has also directed the Ministry of Women and Child Development and the State governments to ensure that all the position in the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) and the State Commissions for Protection of Child Rights (SCPR) are filled up well in time and adequate staff is provided to these statutory bodies so that they can function effectively and meaningfully for the benefit of the children.
The Supreme court had in 2015, ordered every state to establish a Juvenile Justice Board by December 31, 2015. The court had also identified the various problems that have to be dealt with for the effective implementation of the Juvenile Justice Act. These included the establishment and training of Juvenile Justice Boards and Child Welfare Committees in every district, appointment, and training of Probation Offices.
The apex court’s order came on a PIL seeking implementation of the Juvenile Justice Act and its rules. On 9 February, the Supreme Court took the extant government to task for the “tardy if not virtual non-implementation” of juvenile justice laws, and ignoring the plight of “voiceless if not silenced” children of India, after a public interest litigation (PIL) was initiated by activist and human rights defender, Sampurna Behura. The apex court also requested chief justices of all high courts to establish child-friendly courts and vulnerable courts in each district.