By Trishla Jasani*
As per the provisions of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act 2000 (amended in 2006) State governments are required to establish a CWC or two in ever district. Each CWC should consist of a chairperson and four members. The chairperson should be a person well versed in child welfare issues and at least one member of the board should be a woman. The CWC has the same powers as a metropolitan magistrate or a judicial magistrate of the first class. A child can be brought before the committee (or a member of the committee if necessary) by a police officer, any public servant, CHILDLINE personnel, any social worker or public spirited citizen, or by the child himself/herself.
The CWC usually sends the child to a children's home while the inquiry into the case is conducted for the protection of the child. Children‟s homes are government funded institutions that provide temporary shelter, food and clothing to children in need of care and protection. Children in the homes are meant to receive basic education and life skills lessons. The CWC meets and interviews the child to learn his/her background information and also understand the problem the child is facing. The probation officer (P.O) in charge of the case must also submit regular reports of the child. The purpose of the CWC is to determine the best interest of the child and find the child a safe home and environment either with his/her original parents or adoptive parents, foster care or in an institution. A final order must be given within four months of the admission of the child before the CWC.
The CWC also has powers to hold people accountable for the child such as in the case of child labour, the employers are fined or made to give bonds to the children. CWC also has the power to transfer the child to a different CWC closer o the child's home or in the child's state to dispose of the case and reunite the child with his family and community. In the case of individual child sexual abuse, reporting the abuse can be difficult, since it is often a family member or a known adult that is the abuser. The CWC will instruct the local police station to file a report against the abuser(s) under the relevant IPC clause. Children who have been sexual abused require special attention and tact on the part of the CWC. The case needs to be handled very sensitively and should allow for the child to express their emotions and concerns.
The child‟s statement should be recorded in great details so that the report can be used in a court of law. The child needs counselling and guidance from a clinical psychologist or social worker. The CWC must issue a memo for the medical examination of the child. Medical reports are vital to the prosecution and conviction of the abuser. In the case of pregnancy as an outcome of the sexual abuse, the CWC can issue request a medical termination of pregnancy with the consent of the parents. If the pregnancy is too advanced, the girl can be taken to a girls‟ home for counselling and care until delivery. Once born, DNA testing of the baby, can be used in evidence of the crime.
Note: This article has been adapted from “Child protection and juvenile justice system: For children in need of care and protection” by Dr Nilima Mehta, 2008, published by CHILDLINE India Foundation, Mumbai
Dr. Nilima Mehta is an Honorary Consultant with several organisations like UNICEF, CRY, CHILDLINE, ICSW, ICCW, IAPA, FSC, VATSALYA FOUNDATION, as well as with the State and Central Government and the Planning Commission for Policy Development, Research and Review of National Legislations. She is a visiting faculty member at the TISS, SNDT & NN colleges in Mumbai.
* Trishla Jasani was a Consultant Program Coordinator at CHILDLINE India Foundation.