Should the information related to children below 18 years of age staying in government shelter homes be allowed to come in public domain? The question has assumed importance in view of the contrasting provisions of two different Acts.
While the Juvenile Justice Act 2000 (JJA) prevents sensitive information about juveniles — including even the name of the child — to be made public, the Right to Information Act (RTI) calls for greater transparency.
The Central Information Commission (CIC) would be deciding on the issue after Information Commissioner Shailesh Gandhi decided to refer the issue to the larger Bench.
Gandhi's decision came in wake of a case wherein an activist, suspecting improper conditions at the shelter homes, made an RTI query about the status of the children rescued under different operations.
Activist Mannish Bhatnagar had sought to know from Delhi's Department of Women and Child Development information about juveniles under several heads — such as the detailed list of rescue operations for children done by departments under various laws; list of such children; copies of affidavits/ certification of guardians/parents who have been handed over the security and many more.
He was denied most of the answers under Section 21 of the Juvenile Justice Act, which deals with the provisions of child rehabilitation.
"Rehabilitation of rescued children under the JJA 2000 is in bad shape," Bhatnagar told HT. In a few cases, it is not being done at all, he said.
"There are clear court directives about the way these children should be rehabilitate," he added.