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Adoption issues for those orphaned during COVID-19

Context:

Cases of children losing their parents to Covid-19 are mounting as the second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic rages on. Childline 1098 has recorded 51 calls between May 1 to May 12 2021 for children whose both parents succumbed to COVID-19 , but the actual number is likely to be much higher as there are several other helplines and many cases go unreported.

Minister for Women and Child Development took to Twitter to flag adoption requests as a large number of social media posts are getting circulated with details of children who have been orphaned and such posts are illegal.

Relevance:

GS-II: Social Justice (Issues related to Children, Government Policies and Interventions)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015
  2. Social Media posts regarding Adoption requests
  3. Provisions for Protection of Orphan Children
  4. Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Amendment Bill, 2021
  5. Changes to the Child Welfare Committee (CWC) proposed in the 2021 bill

Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015

  • The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015 replaced the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000 to comprehensively address children in conflict with law and children in need of care and protection.
  • The Act changes the nomenclature from ‘juvenile’ to ‘child’ or ‘child in conflict with law’.
  • Also, it removes the negative connotation associated with the word “juvenile”.
  • It also includes several new and clear definitions such as orphaned, abandoned and surrendered children; and petty, serious and heinous offences committed by children.
  • The 2015 law also included special provisions to tackle child offenders committing heinous offences in the age group of 16-18 years.
  • It mandates setting up Juvenile Justice Boards and Child Welfare Committees in every district. Both must have at least one-woman member each.
  • A separate new chapter on Adoption to streamline adoption procedures for an orphan, abandoned and surrendered children,
  • Also, the Central Adoption Resource Authority (CARA) was granted the status of a statutory body to enable it to perform its function more effectively.
  • All Child Care Institutions, whether run by State Government or by voluntary or non-governmental organisations are to be mandatorily registered under the Act within 6 months from the date of commencement of the Act.

Social Media posts regarding Adoption requests

  • Various social media posts are getting circulated with details of children who have lost either both their parents or the only living parent to the disease and pleading for them to be adopted.
  • Sharing such posts are illegal under Section 80 and 81 of the Juvenile Justice (JJ) Act, 2015, which prohibit offering or receiving children outside the processes laid down under the Act as well as their sale and purchase. Such acts are punishable with three to five years in jail or Rs. 1 lakh in fine.

Provisions for Protection of Orphan Children

  • There is a process as per the JJ Act which needs to be followed with children who have been orphaned.
  • If someone has information about a child in need of care, then they must contact one of the four agencies: Childline 1098, or the district Child Welfare Committee (CWC), District Child Protection Officer (DCPO) or the helpline of the State Commission for Protection of Child Rights.
  • Following this, the CWC will assess the child and place him or her in the immediate care of a Specialised Adoption Agency. The State thus takes care of all such children who are in need of care and protection, till they turn 18 years.
  • Once a child is declared legally free for adoption by the CWC, adoption can be done either by Indian prospective adoptive parents or non-resident Indians or foreigners, in that order.
  • The Central Adoption Resource Authority (CARA), a statutory body of the Ministry of Women and Child Development, is the nodal agency for adoption.
  • It regulates the adoption of orphaned, abandoned and surrendered children through its associated or recognised agencies.

Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Amendment Bill, 2021

  • Now, “Serious offences” will also include offences for which maximum punishment is imprisonment of more than seven years, and minimum punishment is not prescribed or is of less than seven years. [Serious offences are those for which the punishment under the Indian Penal Code or any other law for the time being is imprisonment between three and seven years.]
  • The Juvenile Justice Board inquiries about a child who is accused of a serious offence.
  • The Bill amends the present act to provide that an offence which is punishable with imprisonment between three to seven years to be non-cognizable (non-cognizable where arrest is allowed without warrant).
  • Presently, the adoption order issued by the court establishes that the child belongs to the adoptive parents. The Bill provides that instead of the court, the District Magistrate (including Additional District Magistrate) will issue such adoption orders.
  • The Bill provides that any person aggrieved by an adoption order passed by the District Magistrate may file an appeal before the Divisional Commissioner, within 30 days from the date of passage of such order.

Changes to the Child Welfare Committee (CWC) proposed in the 2021 bill

  • The amendment provides Additional Functions of the District Magistrate as the supervising the District Child Protection Unit, and also mandates the District Magistrate to conduct a quarterly review of the functioning of the Child Welfare Committee.
  • The amendments include authorizing District Magistrate including Additional District Magistrate to issue adoption orders under Section 61 of the JJ Act, in order to ensure speedy disposal of cases and enhance accountability.It provides that a person will not eligible to be a member of the CWC if he/she:
    1. has any record of violation of human rights or child rights,
    2. has been convicted of an offence involving moral turpitude,
    3. has been removed or dismissed from service of the central government, or any state government, or a government undertaking,
    4. is part of the management of a child care institution in a district.

-Source: The Hindu

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