SC directs Juvenile courts to consider releasing children allegedly in conflict with law

The order was given in a suo moto case and is replete with directions to followed by CCIs and JJBs

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In a suo moto case on conditions of children protection homes, a Supreme Court bench comprising Justices L. Nageswara Rao and Deepak Gupta passed an order directing Juvenile Justice Boards (JJBs) and Children Courts to consider releasing the children allegedly in conflict with the law on temporary basis unless proviso of section 12 of the Juvenile Justice Act prevents the same.

While section 12 of the Juvenile Justice Act deals with the provisions related to bail of a person who is apparently a child alleged to be in conflict with the law, the proviso to the section states as follows:

“Provided that such person shall not be so released if there appears reasonable grounds for believing that the release is likely to bring that person into association with any known criminal or expose the said person to moral, physical or psychological danger or the person’s release would defeat the ends of justice, and the Board shall record the reasons for denying the bail and circumstances that led to such a decision”

The apex court bench has passed such orders with the intention of de-congesting these children homes across the country in wake of the COVID19 epidemic in the country. The order consists of several measures prescribed by the bench to the government authorities functioning under the Juvenile Justice Act. Some of these measures are mentioned hereunder:

For Child Welfare Committees

·         Take steps that are to be taken   in   the   light   of   COVID   ­   19,   while   conducting   their inquiries/inspections and also whether a child or children should be kept in the CCI considering the best interest, health and safety concerns.

·         Gatekeeping or preventive measures need to be considered and families counselled to ensure that institutionalization is the last resort.   Focus   should   be   on   prevention   of   separation   when possible.

·         Monitor cases sent back to their families via telephone

·         Monitor any incidents of sexual or gender based violence exacerbated in contexts of anxiety and stress produced by lockdown

For Juvenile Justice Boards

·         Proactively consider whether a child or children should be kept in the Child Care Institution (CCI) considering the best interest, health and safety concerns.

For governments

·         Circulate information to all CCIs about how to deal with COVID ­19 immediately, with instructions that awareness about COVID19 is spread in a timely and effective manner.

·         Work with Persons in Charge of CCIs and District Child Protection Units to plan staffing rotations or schedules to reduce in-person   interaction   by   CCI   staff, where   feasible.   Begin developing a system for how to organise trained volunteers who could step in to care for children, when the need arises.

·         Ensure availability of adequate food, drinking water, and other necessities such as clean clothes, menstrual hygiene products, etc

Further, the court also directed CCIs to take preventive measures towards COVID19 by promoting practice of hygiene, social distancing, cleaning and disinfecting premises. It also directed CCIs to take responsive measures in case symptoms are spotted.

The court also asked state governments to ensure that all its functionaries perform their duties diligently and that strict action would be taken in case of dereliction of duty under rule 66(1) of Juvenile Justice Model Rules, 2016.

The order also asks governments to ensure availability of counselling and monitoring systems to prevent incidents of violence.

The suo moto petition was disposed of with this order.

The court order can be read here.


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