The Supreme Court slammed the government for the “tardy if not virtual non-implementation” of juvenile justice laws and turning a deaf ear to the plight of “voiceless if not silenced” children of the nation.
The apex court’s judgment came on a PIL seeking implementation of the Juvenile Justice Act and its rules.In a 62-page judgment, the Social Justice Bench of the apex court of Justices Madan B. Lokur and Deepak Gupta described the negligent attitude shown by the country’s power and authority circles to children, including pendency of cases of orphaned, abandoned and surrendered children , the “uncomfortable” conditions of life of children in observation and care homes, the increasing number of vacancies in juvenile justice institutions and the lack of initiative by legal services authorities despite the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000 and its new and improved version passed in 2015.
“No one has any doubt that it is time for the State to strongly and proactively acknowledge that even children in our country have fundamental rights and human rights and they need to be enforced equally strongly,” Justice Lokur, who authored the judgment, observed.
The apex court quotes from South African leader Nelson Mandela’s speech in 1997 when he said “our children are our greatest treasure. They are our future. Those who abuse them tear at the fabric of our society and weaken our nation”.
Justice Lokur lashed out at the government, saying “our policy and decision makers need to heed this advice and warning (of Mandela) and appreciate that they are not doing any favour to the children of our country by caring for them — it is their constitutional obligation and the social justice laws enacted by Parliament need to be effectively and meaningfully enforced”.
In a slew of directions, the court directed the Ministry of Women and Child Development and all state governments to ensure that positions in the national and state commissions for protection of child rights, Juvenile Justice Boards and Child Welfare Committees are filled up expeditiously.
“Finally, we request and urge the chief justice of each high court to seriously consider establishing child friendly courts and vulnerable witness courts in each district,” the bench said.
It said inquiries under the JJ Act and trials under other statutes like the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, trials in sexual offences cases were required to be conducted with a “high degree of sensitivity, care and empathy for the victim” by establishing dedicated child-friendly and vulnerable witness courts.