Resource Guide for Media Person on Child Protection

What is Child Protection?

Child Protection means protecting and preventing children from physical, emotional or sexual abuse, violation, exploitation and neglect. Child Protection is one of the four major components of Child Rights under United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC), 1989. India government ratified the convention in 1992. By signing the UNCRC, Indian has committed itself to ensure the children can grow up in safe and supportive environment, with access to quality education, health care, and a good standard of living.

Who is a child?

According to UNCRC, a child is a person under the age of 18 years, unless by law, majority is attained at an earlier age.

What is Juvenile Justice Act?

The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000 is the primary legal framework for  juvenile justice in  India. The Act provides for a special approach towards the prevention  and  treatment  of  juvenile delinquency  and  provides  a  framework  for  the protection, treatment and rehabilitation of children in the purview of the juvenile justice system. This law, brought in compliance of Child Rights Convention, repealed the earlier Juvenile Justice Act of 1986. This Act has been further amended in year 2006 and 2010. Government of India is once again contemplating bringing further amendments and a review committee has been constituted by Ministry of Women and Child Development which is reviewing the existing legislation.

JJ Act is considered to be an extremely progressive legislation and Model Rules 2007 have further added to the effectiveness.

Under JJ Act, the children are categorized in two groups, Children in Need of Care and Protection (CNCP) and Children Conflict with Law (CCL). In order to deal with children in need of care and protection and children in conflict with law the JJ Act 2000 has authorized constitution of two competent authorities. Child Welfare Committee (CWC) for children in need of care and protection (Section 29) Juvenile Justice Board (JJB) for children in conflict with law (Section 4).

Child Welfare committee (CWC)

CWC is the sole authority constituted to deal with cases concerning children in need of care and protection for each district. The Committee is the final authority to dispose of cases pertaining  to  the  care,  protection,  treatment, development  and  rehabilitation  of  the children as well as to provide for their basic needs and safeguarding their human rights.

The Homes for CNCP are Shelter Home and Children Home. There are two children homes in the state are in the District of East Singhbhum and Deoghar. The children come under CNCP are:
  • Street Children
  • Trafficked Children
  • Missing, lost & found Children
  • Abused Children
  • Children Engaging in Substance Abuse
  • Children Affected by Conflict and disaster
  • HIV/AIDS / Affected/ Infected Children
  • Differently Able Children
  • Working Children
  • Mentally Ill Children
  • Orphans Abandoned & Destitute Children
  • Children from families
  • At risk (single parents, Prisoners, illegal migrants, construction workers, terminally ill)
Juvenile Justice Board (JJB)

The JJB is an authority constituted to deal with matters concerning children who have committed crimes for each district or group of districts. Once  a  crime  is  committed  and  the  child  is  apprehended,  the  child  within  24  hrs  is produced before the JJB. Till the inquiry is pending the child is kept in an observation home unless otherwise released on bail. On conviction, the child is sent to the special home or place of safety.

Under this Act, children in conflict with law has a right to bail; and granting a bail is mandatory, except under three instances:
  1. If his release would bring him into association with any known criminals,
  2. Exposes him to moral, physical and psychological danger,
  3. His release would defeat the end of justice. Instead of being sent to a jail on conviction, the law takes a reformatory approach and the juvenile can be released on probation after advice and admonition or, placed in custody of special homes.
The act puts grave responsibilities on the Board and the Committee to look into the rehabilitation and social reintegration of the children who are in conflict with law, thus putting an obligation on the Board to be cautious that the child does not end up becoming a criminal in the future.

The  Board  ought  to  take  into  consideration  about  the  time  specification  given  by  the Juvenile Justice Act 2000. If cases against children are allowed to remain pending for indefinite time beyond stipulated time frame. Then it would lead to exploitation of the juvenile and his/her guardian by the player within the system. The Act puts the burden on the Board to keep a track of such cases and dispose them at the earliest. For the rehabilitation of children alleged to commit crimes are kept in Observation Homes and Special Homes.

In Jharkhand, there are 10 Observation Homes in the districts of Ranchi, East Singhbhum, West Singhbhum, Hazaribag, Bokaro, Dhanbad, Gumla, Simdega, Deoghar and Dumka. The Special Home for children is in Dhanbad.
Role of Special Juvenile Police Unit (SJPU)

For the purpose of achieving such rehabilitation and social integration, elaborate procedures are prescribed under the Act. The Act under Section 63 provides that the Police Officers with adequate aptitude and appropriate training and orientation, be designated as a Juvenile or Child Welfare Officer, to handle the juvenile in coordination with the local Police.

The key responsibility of Police Officers, whether designated as a Juvenile or Child Welfare Officer or not, is that the Officer, should always keep in mind that a juvenile in conflict with law or a child in need of care and protection, is required to be handled gently and cannot be treated on par with persons, who are, otherwise, called criminals. A special juvenile polices unit needs to be opened by Goa police as envisaged under the JJ act 2000 and Rules 2007 therein.

As per the rule 11 (11) of the JJ act 2000 “where the punishment is less than 7 years the police are not suppose to register FIR in cases but it is learnt that the practice of filing a FIR even in petty cases is still carried on, which is a violation of the JJ Act.

There are various cases where children are made the scapegoat for increasing detection of crime at the police station levels. I have come across children during my legal intervention at the board who are apprehended and lodged in the observation home in-spite of such children not involved in the crime.

In the state, CID of Police is the Nodal Department for Special Juvenile Police Unit. To implement child protection under JJ Act, 455 Child Welfare Officers are notified in the state under Special Juvenile Police Unit at District level.

Jharkhand State Legal Services Authority (JHALSA) under the guidance of National Legal Services Authority (NALSA) with support of CID and UNICEF are organizing training for Child Welfare Officers for proper implementation of JJ Act.

Department of Social Welfare:

In order to achieve the prime objective enshrined in the Juvenile Justice Act, Jharkhand State Government is providing all the support system to ensure that the Board functions effectively. The department concerned for the Child Protection is Department of Social Welfare. The State Government is under the obligation to provide logistic support to ensure all the provisions are enforced in its true spirit. It is not possible with the sole participation of Government to enforce the Act in its true spirit. The need for collaboration and partnership with stakeholders can alone make it viable for the enforcement of the Act in its true spirit. The Act also does put to a certain extent an onus on the legal fraternity to look into other aspects rather than solely legal. The functioning of all the stake holders revolves around the infrastructure and facilities provided by the State Government.

Legal Provisions for Media Coverage:
  • Under Section 21 of the Juvenile Justice Act (Care and Protection of Children), 2000, publishing, disclosing the name of, address, school or any other particulars, photographs etc, which can identify a child is prohibited. Any person who contravenes the provisions shall be liable to a penalty which may extend to 25, 000 rupees.
  • Section  228  A  IPC  punishes  whosoever  discloses  by  printing  or publishing the identity of the rape victim
  • Section 293 IPC prohibits the sale, hire, exhibition or circulation of obscene books, print material to persons under 20 years
  • Section 327 (3) of the Criminal Procedure Code prohibits any reporting of a court case that deals with the sexual exploitation of a child, without specific permission of the court
  • Immoral Trafficking Act, 1956, prohibits the publication of the name of a victim, below the age of 18 years, or the identification of place of the offence so as to protect the identity of the victim.
  • Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971, prohibits publication of the name of a woman below age of 18 years
  • Indecent Representation of Women (Prohibition) Act, 1986, forbids the depiction of women in an indecent or derogatory manner in the mass media.
Principles of Reporting on Children:
Given the challenges in reporting on children, the journalist should commit themselves to report on children in an ethical manner and specifically:
  • Seek truth and report in as fully as possible 
  • Act independently 
  • Support the constitutional protections of children
  • Encourage  reporting  on  all  matters  involving  children  only  when  the matter  is relevantPlay a positive role in representing children and their rights

Principle on Showing Children’s Images:
Images of children can be extremely powerful and have significant impact on people. However, the dramatic images of children used without context and for gratuitous value not only lose their impact, but can also violate the rights of the children involved.
Dramatic images  of  children  should  therefore  be  used with  extreme  care  and  be  contextualized within a story.
In addition, the following points should also be considered:
  • Try to avoid images that stereotype children. Strive to find alternative angles and images.
  • Get permission from child and his or her guardian for all interviews and images.
  • Wherever possible and appropriate this permission should be in writing. It is vital that the permission of children and their guardians is not coerced in any way, and they understand that they are part of a story which might be disseminated locally and globally.
  • If there is a story on a child with disability that needs treatment and the aim of the story is to elicit sympathy and possibly help raise funds, or if the story is about disfigurement or tragedy, ensure that the child is represented with dignity. Where possible, reflect the child’s own wishes and hopes, as this will make the story more sympathetic and more powerful.
  • If the child’s identity is to be protected, ensure that editorial guidelines as set out above are followed.