Supreme Court sets ground for significant reforms in existing child protection regime, bans use of children in Circus, orders of their rescue and rehabilitation

Hearing a public interest petition Bachpan Bachao Andolan versus Union of India (Writ Petition Civil No. 51 of 2006) filed by HRLN, Supreme Court on 18.04.11 has ordered for implementation of suggestions put forth during the hearing of this case, which will introduce significant reforms in existing child protection regime. The petition was originally brought in 2006 on issue of abuse and exploitation of children in circus industry. Court has ordered Central Government to bring a notification prohibiting employment of children in circus, to conduct raids to rescue children already working in circuses and to frame proper scheme for their restoration and rehabilittaion. Government has to file a compliance report within ten weeks. During the hearings in this case, several recommendations were put forth by petitioner and respondent, aimed on reforming existing legal and procedural mechanisms on child protection. Accepting several such recommendations, Supreme Court has directed each State government to issue circulars within 4 weeks , effectively indicating how the recommendations will be implemented. These recommendations will be implemented through coordinated efforts of National Commission for Protection of Child Rights, Ministry of Women and Child Development and the respective State Governments. Some of the major recommendations are as below: - The Child Welfare Committees to come under the supervision of the District Judge/Judge of the High Court - Effective implementation of sponsorship and foster care schemes, instead of resorting to institutionilaztion of children in child care homes - Each State Government to identify an officer who is responsible for implementation of schemes in relation to children - Central and State Governments to develop 6 monthly strategy plan under Integrated Child Protection Scheme - Central Adoption Resourse Agency ( CARA) to come up with its annual reports. The said report to be scrutinized by a Secretary incharge of family and social welfare - Children working in road side dhabas ( eateries) and mechanic shops be rescued and rehabilitated. District Magistrates to appoint Executive Magistartes to oversee rescue and effective rehabilitation - All NGOs which run 24 hour shelters, provide food,clothing, shelter, non-formal education, recreation, counseling, guidance and referral services for children, be registered with the concerned Collector. There must be a database of every NGO including details of all the functionaries of the NGO with full particulars including their addresses. - Each State Government to open a Juvenile Justice Cell which will receive periodic reports of juvenile homes, the number of children, the status of children, the manner of rehabilitation and the current status. - A certification programme for spending money based on central schemes be introduced. Certification must be by an independent authority that will ensure that the money allocated have in fact been spent for the benefit and welfare of the children. This recent order is just one among the several orders which may be given by Hon'ble Supreme Court in due course of time as Hon'ble Court has made clear its intention to deal with issue of children's exploitation in a long term and systematic manner. Assuring to deal with children's exploitation firmly, Supreme Court has said that, "We plan to deal with the problem of children's exploitation systematically." Supreme Court has also expressed its concern over inadequate budget allocation for children. Hon'ble Court observed that, "It is submitted that India is home to 19% of world's children. More than one-third of the country's population around 440 million is below 18 years. India's children are India's future. They are the harbingers of growth, potential fulfillment, change, dynamism,innovation, creativity. It is necessary that for a healthy future, we must protect, educate and develop the child population so that their citizenry is productive. Resources must be invested in children proportionate to their huge population… As far as the total expenditure on children in 2005-2006 is concerned, it was 3.86% and in 2006-2007 it was increased to 4.91%. It is highly inadequate looking to the population of children."