The Supreme Court on Friday said that the state governments and union territory administrations should "seriously" consider promoting the adoption or foster care of the children requiring care and protection instead of sending them to child care homes.
Holding that it was not necessary that every child in need of care and protection must be sent to child care institutions, a bench of Justice Madan B. Lokur and Justice Deepak Gupta said that alternatives "such as adoption and foster care need to be seriously considered by the concerned authorities".
The court said this in one of its 15 directions issued today on a PIL based on a newspaper article "Orphanage or Places for Child Abuse" wherein it was mentioned that orphanages in Mahabalipuram in Tamil Nadu, run by NGOs as well as government institutions were reportedly involved in systematic sexual abuse of children.
The said article along with a letter by a person named A.S. Choudhary was forwarded to the top court and same was registered as a PIL September 10, 2007.
Besides asking the state governments to look for better alternatives than routinely sending them the child care homes, the court said that the definition of expression "child in need of care and protection" under Section 2(14) of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000, was illustrative and should not be taken as exhaustive.
Directing that all children in need of care and protection should get the benefit of the law enacted for their care and welfare, the court said: "The definition is illustrative and the benefits envisaged for children in need of care and protection should be extended to all such children in fact requiring State care and protection."
In the spate of directions that included the mandatory registration of all child care centre across the country, the bench said that states and UTs should draw up plans for "for full and proper utilisation of grants (along with expenditure statements)" provided to them by the Centre under the Integrated Child Protection Scheme.
"Returning the grants as unspent or casual utilization of the grants will not ensure anybody's benefit and is effectively wasteful expenditure," the court said.
Telling the States and UTs to "must" ensure that the registration of all child care institutions was completed "positively" by December 31, 2017 with the "entire data being confirmed and validated", the court directed that authorities to enforce the "minimum standards of care" as required under the JJ Act.
In another important direction, the court said that the preparation of individual child care plans was "extremely important" and all the states and UTs "must ensure that there is a child care plan in place for every child in each child care institution".
Noting that it was a "long drawn and cumbersome" and a continuous thing to do, the court however, said that its "necessity cannot be underestimated in any circumstances".
The court asked the Central government to communicate the directions to the states and UTs for implementation and later collect all the information on their enforcement.
The Centre would do this with the assistance of National Commission for the Protection of Child Rights and the State Commission for the Protection of Child Rights and a status report on the same would be filed with top court registry on or before January 15, 2018.
The matter would be listed for further hearing soon thereafter.