Govt gets 3 months to implement Juvenile Justice Act 

PUNE: The Bombay high court has granted the state government's plea seeking three months for constituting the district advisory boards, child protection units and inspection committees, among others, which are mandatory obligations under the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection) Act, 2000. 

A division bench of Chief Justice Mohit Shah and Justice D Y Chandrachud while granting the plea on September 30 directed the government to take assistance of the United Nations Children's Fund (Unicef) in the implementation of various mandatory provisions under the act. 

The bench also asked the government to set in motion the process for framing rules on the lines of the central government's model rules for implementation of the act. 

The bench was hearing a suo motu public interest litigation (PIL) in the wake of a media report published on August 24, highlighting the plight of the inmates at the Satkarma Balgriha, a home for mentally disabled children, at Shahpur in Thane district. 

Five of these inmates, aged between nine and 12, had died of severe malnutrition between April 9 and July 24. The media report also highlighted the utter unhygenic conditions that the children were made to live in. 

Taking a serious cognisance of the matter, the high court had issued notices to the state government; the Child Welfare Committee, Thane and the Balgriha authorities on September 3. 

An affidavit-in-reply filed by the deputy commissioner (child welfare) at the Pune-based commissionerate of women and child welfare, confirmed the accuracy of the media report. The 18 surviving children have been shifted to other homes in Airoli and Ullhasnagar. 

When the PIL was first heard on September 16 by the then bench of Justices D Y Chandrachud and R P Sondurbaldota, the state government came in for severe criticism. There is a "complete breakdown" of the regulatory machinery in the state designed for the protection of children. 

"It would be necessary to note that many of the salutary provisions, which have been made in the Act have not been implemented by the state," the bench then remarked. It went on to list out these provisions under the act. 

A subsequent report on the inspection of the orphanage by Asha Bajpai, appointed as the amicus curiae (friend of the court), revealed that two girls at the Balgriha were subjected to sexual abuse and one of them was suffering from post-traumatic stress and was in need of counselling and theraupatic support. Bajpai submitted this report to the court on September 30. The two girls have been shifted to the KEM hospital. 

Bajpai brought to the court's notice that Unicef had expressed its willingness to assist the state government in the process for implementation of the act. Additional government pleader Jyoti Pawar expressed no reservations and the court directed the government to avail Unicef's help. 

Read more: Govt gets 3 months to implement Juvenile Justice Act - The Times of India

 ‘Child diksha can’t be tried under the Juvenile Justice Act’Jain community plans major event in Mumbai this weekend to celebrate ‘notification’

Manoj R Nair and Hetal Vyas     

Posted On Friday, June 05, 2009 at 03:02:42 AM

City Jains have planned major celebrations on Sunday to mark what they say is a vindication of their claim that Bal Diksha - or initiation of children as monks and nuns - is their religious right.

Following representations from Jain community groups recently, the Women and Child Development department in Delhi issued a notification that Bal Diksha cases cannot be tried under Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act 2000.

This ruling implies that child rights groups can no longer stop such ceremonies.

The ministry is now in an advanced stage of finalising the date of implementation, which sources says will happen by Saturday.

The news, however, will be officially announced the next day at Motishah Lalbaug Jain temple in Bhuleshwar and over a thousand Jain trusts have received invitations to attend the ensuing celebrations.

“The notification has made it clear that Bal Diksha is our religious right and does not violate any law in India,” said Acharya Vijaykirtiyashsuri, a senior monk based at Bhuleshwar.

Strengthening the community’s claim are two clarifications issued on April 28 and 29 respectively by the Law and Justice ministry and the Women and Child Welfare department that Bal Diksha is a centuries-old practice.

It said that Rajasthan and Bombay high courts have earlier declared the practice as a religious right under Articles 25 and 26 of the Constitution.

The department also said that the sacrament does not come under jurisdiction of Child Welfare Committee (CWC), a body constituted under the Juvenile Justice Act that has been instrumental in trying these cases in Mumbai.

Jains to approach HC now

Priyal, the 12-year-old sadhvi, who was ordained in 2004 at the age of eight

Jain groups are now planning to put thenotification and clarifications before the Bombay High Court, which is hearing the case of Priyal, a girl from Madhya Pradesh who was ordained in 2004 at the age of eight.

“The High Court can interpret the notification and the clarifications. The notification clearly says that CWC has no authority to decide on Bal Diksha cases,” said Acharya Vijaykirtiyashsuri.

In April, the court admitted petitions filed by Jain trusts and Priyal’s father, Ashok Bagricha, challenging CWC’s action in the case.

At that time, a division bench of Justice D K Deshmukh and Justice R S Mohite had observed that they may ask for appointment of guardians for child monks.

The case will be next heard on June 9.

In fact, just last month, child rights organisations and police stopped the initiation ceremony of an 11-year-old boy, Shubham Jain.

Community groups said that they decided to approach the central government after Bal Diksha ceremonies were stopped in Mumbai.

“Ceremonies have been stopped in other states as well. So we decided to seek a clarification on the issue from the central government,” said Muni Samvegayashvijay, another monk.

The community representatives, sent to Delhi, were advised by monks in Mumbai and delegates carried English translations of old Jain scriptures as proof that ordination of children between eight and 18 has been part of their religious tradition for nearly 2,000 years.

There are an estimated 11,000 monks and nuns in the nearly 60-lakh strong Jain community. There are no figures on child monks, but between 15 to 20 per cent of ordinations involve children.

An invite sent out by a religious trust, calling community members to celebrate the new notification

Two sides to every story

Religious leaders said recent controversies about Bal Diksha has caused some introspection in the community about the practice. The Bombay High Court likened the practice to Sati and child rights groups say that the practice is cruel.

Snehal Rane of Bal Prafulta, which intervened in Shubham case, asked: “How can any religious practice be allowed to infringe on the rights of children? India is a signatory to the international Convention of the Rights of the Child which list 54 rights. The practice of Bal Diksha violates some of these rights. The Juvenile Justice Act was framed after the convention.”

But community leaders said that children are not been forced to become monks and nuns. “Some parents are vary of the practice because of worries that children ordained as monks could be abused,” said Acharya Vijaykirtisuriji. “But there is no coercion and children are ordained only if they want to lead a religious life.”