Very soon, children on streets or abandoned or those in conflict with law can dream of a better life as rules for their adopted are being eased.
Life imprisonment for children will be history in India as maximum retention of three years in juvenile homes has been prescribed in the new rules to be notified by the Ministry of Women and Child Development shortly.
The rules that will make the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection) Amendment Act, 2006 effective would be notified by end of January. The amendments were notified on August 23, 2006, by the government.
According to the WCD ministry officials, the new rules have been formulated by the Law ministry and are at the final stages of the approval. "We expect the amendments to come into force by end of this month," a ministry official said.
Once that happens, all children below 18 years would be available for adoption. The present guidelines impose restrictions on adoptions based on the religion and age of the person adopting the child.
"A Hindu kid cannot be adopted by a Muslim family and vice-versa. This is because there is no clarity in the present Act on the issue of who can adopt whom," said a senior executive of an international NGO.
The new section 41 in the Act implies that state government will recognise one or more institutions or voluntary organisations in each district as specialised adoption agencies for all children.
But adoption will take place only when after the child has been cleared for adoption by a child welfare committee, the rules say. But when actual adoption process would start the rules of Child Adoption Agency will apply, an official said. However, children would be allowed to given for adoption to a person irrespective of marital status, to parents irrespective of number of children they have or childless couples.
The rules also make life easier for children in conflict with law. Life imprisonment of who were children at the time of committing the crime has been prohibited. They could be kept in juvenile homes for three years. After that, they would have to be either restored back to parents or made available for adoption.
Once the amendments come into force, state governments will have to constitute district level juvenile justice boards and child welfare committees.
The new rule also makes registration of all voluntary agencies dealing with children mandatory. Even the police will have to set up child protection units at district and the state level and special officers will have to be appointed to investigate the cases
For media, violating the act would become costlier. As against the earlier provision of Rs 1,000 as fine, the amount would increase to Rs 25,000. The amendment also prohibits disclosure of name, address, school or any other particulars calculated to lead to the identification of the juvenile.
Publication of the picture of the child needing care and protection under the juvenile act is also not allowed.