Who is afraid of Juvenile Justice Act?
KOZHIKODE: It seems the registered private orphanages in the state are scared of the Juvenile Justice (care and protection of child) Act of 2015, which came into force this year. The Association of Orphanages and Charitable Institutions, a forum of the majority of private orphanages, has filed a writ petition in the Supreme Court for exempting them from the Act and to continue with the existing orphanages and other charitable homes (supervision and control) Act of 1960.
The JJ Act stipulates a paradigm shift in the welfare of the child, focusing on a family ambience to the children and sees institutionalisation as the last resort. But the majority of the total 1176 orphanages in Kerala are resisting it tooth and nail. As per the statistics available with the social justice department on June 30, 2014, as many as 52,252 children in the age group of 6-18 are being sheltered in these homes. The list excludes the 472 children in the 29 private foundling homes (children up to the age of 6) across the state.
“Bringing under JJ Act means the government and the district Child Welfare Committees (CWC) could have monitoring power over these private institutions which house 50,000-plus children from different parts of the country,” points out Mr K.K. Subair, Kollam district child protection officer (DCPO). Child rights, including right to have better facilities, physical, mental health, education, food and attitude towards them should be checked.
Strangely, it is in Kerala only that private orphanages are yet to come under the Act. In last July, the High Court had ordered to bring in all the orphanages under the JJ Act, but the state government didn’t oblige apparently due to political reasons. Instead, the government favoured the orphanages by supporting their argument in the apex court.
“The HC verdict was positive according to the UN convention on the rights of child,” said Ms Shoba Koshy, chairperson of the State Commision for Protection of Child Rights (KSCPCR). Mr T.K Pareekutty Haji , secretary, Association of Orphanages and Charitable Institutions, said that they did not welcome JJ Act. “We cannot allow mixing the children found in streets with those of us as the former will have a criminal past,” he said.