Asking the Ministry of Women and Child Development to “consider the possibility of setting up or strengthening some national institution for the benefit of the children”, a bench of Justice Madan B. Lokur and Justice Deepak Gupta said: “The institution could be in the nature of a centre of excellence or some institutional body which can look into various aspects in the lives of disadvantaged children.”
These include “investigation into offences committed by or against children, trial procedures, punishment, psycho-social rehabilitation, physical rehabilitation, mental trauma, physical well-being, training to the prosecutors and counsellors etc etc.”
“Since the matter is of some urgency and is relevant to the lives of the children, we expect the government of India to act with necessary promptitude in this regard and give necessary instructions to the Ministry,” the court ordered.
The court was hearing the larger issues emerging from sexual abuse of around 40 girls at the Muzaffarpur shelter home in Bihar when it emerged that there was no national institute to study the problems of children.
The court agreed to a suggestion by Additional Solicitor General (ASG) Pinki Anand to strengthen and expand the scope of the existing New Delhi-based National Institute of Public Cooperation and Child Development (NIPCCD).
The Ministry said that a Child Protection Policy is on the anvil and it may take about two months before a draft is ready.
Soon after the first draft is ready, it would be circulated to invite suggestions from stakeholders and others concerned.
In the last hearing on October 4, the court had said that the prevailing mechanism to curb incidents of sexual abuse of children at shelter homes was inadequate and asked the MWCD to tell it on the formulation of the child protection policy.
At the outset of the hearing, Ministry Joint Secretary Aastha Saxena Khatwani told the apex court that the Ministry was in the process of preparing/developing a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) to address the problems faced by children in childcare institutions.
The court was told that the SOP process may take some time.
Khatwani told the court that in the meanwhile, an interim advisory would be issued to all states/Union Territories giving a “protocol to be followed in situations where there is some destruction in the life of children in the childcare institutions and even other children who may have destruction in their life due to violence, sexual or otherwise.”
Khatwani said that the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) is conducting a study on the condition of childcare institutions, including facilities therein.
The apex court was told that upon the receipt of the report, it would be examined by experts so that the process of providing good living conditions and facilities to children in childcare institutions was taken care of.
Steps would be taken to accommodate children of such institutions that need to be shut on account of poor facilities.
The court asked the MWCD to give a “status report on the existence of Child Welfare Committees and functioning of the Juvenile Justice Boards.”
The court directed further hearing in the matter on November 13.