This article is written by Arush Mittal, a student currently pursuing B.A. LLB. (Hons) from Hidayatullah National Law University. This is an exhaustive article which deals with the powers as well as functions of the Child Welfare Committee.
According to the Child Marriage Restraint Act, 1929, a male of age below twenty-one years is called a child and a female of age less than eighteen is called a child. Children are young, innocent and vulnerable and hence they need to be protected from the cruelty of the outside world. In India, 39% of the population is of children, which is approximately 472 million.
The future of children holds the future of a nation and therefore protection of children is of prime importance. It is the duty of the State to look after a child to ensure full development of its personality and for him to achieve his goals.
The Juvenile Justice Act was enacted by the Government of India in 1986. The General Assembly of the United Nations, in 1989, adopted the UNCRC (United Nations Convention on the Rights of Child). In 2000, in order to adhere to the Convention on the Rights of Child, the old law was replaced by the Juvenile Justice(Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000.
The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act was passed in 2015 with the aim of reenacting the previous Act of 2000 so that comprehensive provisions could be made for the children alleged and who are found to be in conflict with the law and also the children in need of protection as well as care.
Child Welfare Committee
The Child Welfare Committee is an autonomous body declared as a competent authority to deal with children in need of care and protection. Section 27 of Chapter V of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015 talks about the Child Welfare Committee.
It is mandatory to form one or more Child Welfare Committees in every district for exercising power and to discharge the duties conferred in relation to children in need of care and protection. This committee consists of a Chairperson and other four members who according to the State Government are fit to be appointed, at least one of whom should be a woman and the other should preferably be an expert on matters that are concerning the children.
A Secretary and other staff shall be provided by the District Child Protection Unit for secretarial support to the Committee for its effective functioning. For becoming a member of the Committee, that person(who wants to become a member) should be actively involved in health, education and welfare activities in relation to children for at least seven years or should be a practising professional who has a degree in child sociology, psychiatry, psychology, law or human development.
For the appointment of a member, he should possess all the prescribed qualifications. The duration of this appointment should not exceed the time period of three years. Appointment of a member shall be terminated if that member uses his power for wrong measures, been convicted of an offence involving moral turpitude (where such conviction has not been reversed and he has not been granted full pardon) and does not attend the meetings of the Committee for a period of three months of three-fourths sitting of the Committee in that year. A review in every three months shall be conducted by the District Magistrate.
The Child Welfare Committee functions as a bench guided by the powers that are conferred in the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973. Anyone connected to the child is allowed to file a petition to the Magistrate of that District, who considers and passes appropriate orders.
Procedures in relation to the committee
The procedures in relation to the committee are mentioned in Section 28 of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015. There should be a meeting of the Committee at least twenty days in a month for observing rules and procedures with regards to the transaction at its business meetings.
A sitting of the Committee is considered when there is a visit to an existing child care institution of the Committee. A child, who is in need of care protection and care needs to be placed in a Children’s Home or a fit person when the Committee but is not in session, he must be produced before an individual member of the Committee.
The opinion of the majority shall prevail if there is any difference of opinion between the members of the Committee.
If there is no majority of such kind then the opinion of the Chairperson shall be considered. Subject to the provision of minimum members of the Committee, there shall be no order made by the Committee that declares it invalid by reason of just the absence of a member during any stage of the proceedings that are held.
This is applicable provided that there are at least three members who need to be there to dispose of the case finally.
The powers of the Child Welfare Committee are laid down in Section 29 of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015:
- The Committee has the full authority of disposing of cases for the care, protection and treatment of the children.
- The Committee can also dispose of cases that are for the development, rehabilitation and protection of children that are in need, and also to provide for the basic need and protection that is needed by the children.
- When a Committee is constituted for any particular area, then it has the power to exclusively deal with all proceedings that are being held under the provisions of this Act that are related to children in terms of need of care and protection.
- While exercising the given powers curtailed under this Act, the Committee is barred from performing any act which would go against anything contained in any other law that is in force at that time.
In the case of Ms. Sheila Ramchandra Singh v. State of Maharashtra and Others, a Government Circular dated 16 June 2016 was issued by the Women and Child Development Department(Government of Maharashtra).
The said circular stated that the Child Welfare Committee of Thane (Maharashtra) was not fully constituted and functional. By looking at the above Circular, the charge of Thane Child Welfare Committee was handed over to the Child Welfare Committee, Mumbai on the command of the State Government. The Deputy Secretary of the Woman and Child Development Department presented this in the Court.
The Court directed the Child Welfare Committee, Mumbai to take up an application dated 4 April 2016 on a priority basis and pass appropriate orders in accordance with law. The petition was disposed of by giving such directions.
In the case of Krishna Kumar v. Kollam Child Welfare Committee, a writ petition was filed by the father of Kumari Amalenthu who was a victim of a rape case.
The court was approached by her father who contended that the child was originally handed over to the father by the Child Welfare Committee but later, the Committee took away the child and then that child was housed at the Nirbhaya Shelter Home. He contended for the custody of the child as he was the biological father. The learned Counsel had submitted that the child had no complaint against the father.
There was no explanation as to why the child was taken to the hospital and where the prime accused was being treated. It is true that she may like to have an association with her biological father. Learned counsel then submitted that the child was taken at the instance of the police and that statement could not be believed.
In the above circumstances, the Court was of the view that the child will be more protected when she is in the custody of the Child Welfare Committee. It shall be open for the petitioner to approach the Child Welfare Committee and seek for appropriate orders and therefore dismissed the writ petition.
Functions and Responsibilities
The Functions and Responsibilities of the Child Welfare Committee are mentioned in Section 30 of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015. Few functions and responsibilities are listed below:
- Cognizance of children that are produced before it. Children who are neglected can be produced before this committee.
- Conducting inquiry on issues relating to and affecting the safety and well being of the children under this Act.
- To direct the Child Welfare Officers, District Child Protection Unit and Non- Governmental organizations for social investigation and also to submit a report before the Committee.
- To conduct an inquiry for the declaration of fit persons for the care of children in need of care and protection.
- To direct placing of a child in a foster care facility.
- To ensure care, protection, restoration and appropriate rehabilitation of those children that are in need of care and protection. This is based on that child’s individual care plan. It also includes the passing of necessary directions to parents or guardians or the people who are fit or children’s homes or fit facilities in this regard.
- To select a registered institution for the placement of every child that requires support which is based on that child’s gender, age, disability and needs. This should be done by keeping in mind the available capacity of the institution.
- To recommend action that is for the improvement in the quality of services provided to the District Child Protection Unit and the Government of a State.
- To certify the performance of the surrender deed by the parents and to make sure that they are given time to think about their decision as well as to make a reconsideration to keep the family together.
- To make sure that all the efforts are made for the restoration of the lost or abandoned children to their families by following due process which is prescribed by the Act.
- To declare children legally free for adoption after due inquiry who are orphans, abandoned and surrendered.
- To take suo moto cognizance of cases and also to reach out to the children who are in need of care and protection.
- To take action against the rehabilitation of children who are abused sexually and are reported as children in need of protection and care from the Committee, by the Special Juvenile Police Unit or the local police as the case may be.
- To deal with cases referred by the Board under sub-section (2) of 17 of this Act.
- To coordinate with various departments that are involved in the care and protection of children. These departments include the police, the labour department and other agencies.
- To conduct an inquiry and give directions to the police or the District Child Protection Unit in case of a complaint of abuse of a child.
- To access appropriate legal services for the children.
- To perform such other functions and responsibilities as may be prescribed.
A reading of Section 27 of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015, tells us that the State Government constitutes Child Welfare Committees in various districts. These Child Welfare Committees are constituted for exercising powers, performing procedures in relation to the committee, carrying out functions and responsibilities and discharging duties that are applicable to the committees that work for the protection and care of children by this Act.
Child protection is about protecting children against any perceived or real danger which would pose a risk to their life or childhood. It focuses on reducing their vulnerability to any kind of harm and ensuring that no child falls out of the social safety net. Those children who do, should receive necessary care, protection and the moral support to bring them back to safety. The Child Welfare Committee works to provide such care to the children.
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