The Ministry of Women and Child Development is formulating guidelines for children’s hostels, prescribing the minimum standards of care that should be provided to children. This comes in the wake of institutions, housing children on the request of parents who are unable to take care of them and their education or due to other circumstances which force parents to keep them at children’s homes, not registering under the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015.
The Supreme Court in its Order in the case of “Exploitation of Children in Orphanages in the State of Tamil Nadu” Vs. Union of India [Writ Petition (Criminal) No. 102 of 2007] has directed that the definition of the expression ‘child in need of care and protection’ under Section 2 (14) of the JJ Act, 2015 should not be interpreted as an exhaustive definition. The definition is illustrative and the benefits envisaged for the children in need of care and protection should be extended to all such children requiring State care and protection. Further, vide the same order, the Union and the State Governments have been directed to enforce minimum standards of care required for such children living in any facility either created by the Government system or by civil society organisations.
In view of the directions of the Apex Court in Writ Petition (Criminal) No. 102 of 2007, the Ministry is drafting the guidelines which will be applicable to any institution not falling under the categories mentioned in the JJ Act.
Smt. Maneka Sanjay Gandhi, Union Minister for Women and Child Development, said, “Children staying at hostels, including those attached to schools, are as vulnerable as childrenat any other facility like child-care institutions (CCIs) and day-care centres.Therefore, we decided to formulate a set of guidelines to ensure adequate safety, minimum standard of living conditions and periodic inspections at hostels. The Ministry has directed the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights to draftthe guidelines in consultation with stakeholders concerned and we plan to have these guidelines notified under the Juvenile Justice Act or the JJ Rules”.
To ensure safety and well-being of children even at school hostels, Ministry WCD will be sharing the guidelines with the Ministry of Human Resource Development for dissemination among schools providing boarding facility.
The Juvenile Justice Act 2015 defines the child in need of care and protection as under:-
“child in need of care and protection” means a child –
- who is found without any home or settled place of abode and without any ostensible means of subsistence; or
- who is found working in contravention of labour laws for the time being in force or is found begging, or living on the street; or
- who resides with a person (whether a guardian of the child or not) and such person-
- has injured, exploited, abused or neglected the child or has violated any other law for the time being in force meant for the protection of child; or
- has threatened to kill, injure, exploit or abuse the child and there is a reasonable likelihood of the threat being carried out; or
- has killed, abused, neglected or exploited some other child or children and there is a reasonable likelihood of the child in question being killed, abused, exploited or neglected by that person; or
- who is mentally ill or mentally or physically challenged or suffering from terminal or incurable disease, having no one to support or look after or having parents or guardians unfit to take care, if found so by the Board or the Committee; or
- who has a parent or guardian and such parent or guardian is found to be unfit or incapacitated, by the Committee or the Board, to care for and protect the safety and well-being of the child; or
- who does not have parents and no one is willing to take care of, or whose parents have abandoned or surrendered him; or
- who is missing or run away child, or whose parents cannot be found after making reasonable inquiry in such manner as may be prescribed; or
- who has been or is being or is likely to be abused, tortured or exploited for the purpose of sexual abuse or illegal acts; or
- who is found vulnerable and is likely to be inducted into drug abuse or trafficking; or
- who is being or is likely to be abused for unconscionable gains; or
- who is victim of or affected by any armed conflict, civil unrest or natural calamity; or
- who is at imminent risk of marriage before attaining the age of marriage and whose parents, family members, guardian and any other persons are likely to be responsible for solemnisation of such marriage;”
The Ministry had notified all states/UTs to undertake inspection of all CCIs and related facilities and to ensure their registration. As per Section 41 of the Juvenile Justice Act 2015, registration of all Child Care Institutions, whether funded by Government or not, is mandatory. The penalty of non-registration is prescribed under Section 42 of the Act. The Minister added that registration under the JJ Act is also mandatory for all CCIs running in the form of hostels.