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  • Writer's pictureChild Rights Centre, CNLU

Legal Rights of Orphan Children In India

By Peddireddi Udaya Bhanu* and Nalluri Gowthami**

 
“Children are sacrificed, kidnapped, and sold, while others are imprisoned, abused, and sodomized; the list goes on and on. We are still spectators, despite the fact that this is only the tip of the iceberg.”

The second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, which is currently sweeping India, has orphaned and made children vulnerable. As indicated by assessments in the study published in The Lancet, 1.19 lakh kids in India lost their essential guardian because of COVID-19, placing the country in the third spot.[1] 10.42 lakh children lost either their mother or father, with 1.16 lakh in India.


Because of their young age and underdeveloped minds, children require extra attention and protection. They have specific legal entitlements and special privileges that are recognized both nationally and globally. From the Indian perspective, India first time acknowledged children’s rights and enacted numerous measures concerning their liberty, livelihood, and early development, as well as non-discrimination in educational settings and compulsory and free education in its main rule book, i.e., Constitution of India and has from time to time, developed it further for protection of children. [2]


It is critical to know the current legislation and processes governing the care and protection of orphaned children. The National Policy for Children of 1974 perceived that children’s projects should become the dominant focal point in public designs for human asset improvement, so kids grow up to be solid residents, in great shape, awake, and ethically sound, with the abilities and inspirations that society gives. Equal opportunities for all children’s improvement during their development stage were additionally underscored in the policy.


The National Commission for the Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) was set up in March 2007 with the mission of guaranteeing that all laws, arrangements, programs, and authoritative systems are in accordance with the viewpoints on child rights cherished in the Indian Constitution and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. Childhood has been popularly understood as a “golden period” associated with innocence, freedom, joy, play, and the like worldwide.


Established Process

Anyone who comes across an orphaned child, or any child who requires care and protection under the circumstances, should contact the toll-free Childline number 1098 or the local district protection officer right away. Once an outreach organization rescues an orphan kid, it is the responsibility of that agency to present the child to the district’s Child Welfare Committee within 24 hours.


After an investigation, the Children Welfare Committee decides whether the child should be placed in a children’s home, a fitness facility, or a fit person. If the child is under the age of six, he or she will be placed in a specialized adoption agency. As a result, the state looks after all such children in need of care and protection until they reach the age of 18. The Supreme Court of India ordered states and union territories to register all child care organizations in Sampurna Behrua v. Union of India. [3] As a result, any volunteer or non-governmental organization (NGO) that is not registered under the Juvenile Justice Act of 2015 will be unable to host children in need of care and protection.


Indian prospective adoptive parents can adopt non-resident Indians or foreigners, in that order, if a child has been proclaimed legally free for adoption by the Child Welfare Committee. Another notable element of the Juvenile Justice Act of 2015 is its secular orientation and straightforward approach. The adoption process is entirely transparent, and its progress may be tracked on the Central Adoption Resource Authority’s website.


The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015 categorizes orphaned and destitute children in the country as “Children in Need of Care and Protection (CNCP)”. The States/UTs have the main responsibility for enforcing the Act. To help children in need, the Ministry of Women and Child Development is implementing a centrally supported Child Protection Services (CPS) Scheme (previously Integrated Child Protection Scheme).

The State Governments/UT Administrations bear significant obligations regarding the plan’s execution. The Central Government is giving monetary assistance to States/UTs under the CPS to direct a situational investigation of children in troublesome conditions and other things. Under the scheme, children in need of care and protection and children who have broken the law are cared for in Child Care Institutions (CCIs). Non-institutional care is also covered under the system, with assistance available for adoption, foster care, and sponsorship.


Court Directives to the Police

It is frequently stated that ignorance of the law is not an acceptable justification. As a result, if an orphan child is retained by someone who does not have legal authorization, he or she may face legal consequences.


The Supreme Court in Bachpan Bachao Andolan v. Union of India[4] directed all Directors General of Police, in May 2013, to register a first information report as a case of trafficking or abduction in every case of a missing child. Each police station must have at least one officer who is not below the rank of assistant sub-inspector undertaking training to deal with children in debate with the law and needing care and security. They do not have to wear a uniform, but they must be child friendly.


Similarly, each district is required to have its own special juvenile police unit, led by a Deputy Superintendent of Police or higher. In Re: Child Exploitation in Orphanages in the State of Tamil Nadu,[5] the Supreme Court specifically asked the National Police Academy in Hyderabad and police training academies across the country to prepare training courses on the Juvenile Justice Act, 2015, and to provide regular training to police officers in terms of sensitization.


Children are a valuable national resource, and how they grow and develop determines the nation's well-being and destiny.[6] The fundamental goal of giving a child adoption is to ensure his or her well-being and to restore his or her right to a family. Article 39[7] of the Constitution forbids the abandonment of children under the age of eighteen. As a result, orphaned children who have lost both parents or abandoned or surrendered due to the COVID-19 pandemic must not be forgotten and left to face an uncertain future. The authorities tasked with responsibilities under the Juvenile Justice Act of 2015 must look after them.


Conclusion

Children throughout the world are helpless, defenceless, and reliant. They are all curious, involved, and optimistic. They should have joy and peace in their life, as well as an opportunity to play, study, and grow. These children’s future should be fashioned by peace and collaboration. Their childhood should mature as they widen their horizons and receive new experiences. Abandoning children is a crime against humanity, as it deprives them of a decent foundation. Children cannot wait for tomorrow; they develop every day, and their understanding of the world expands along with them. The objective of their current treatment, security, and recovery is the need of the hour; tomorrow is not a choice.

Children are like roses, fragrant yet sensitive. Many childhoods today are lost in loneliness. Let us slow down a little and take our time to ensure that these roses do not wilt before blooming.


References

[1] Susan D Hillis et al., Global minimum estimates of children affected by COVID-19-associated orphanhood and deaths of caregivers: a modelling study, 398 The Lancet 391, 392 (2021). [2] Dr. Sonia B, Plight of Right to Education of underprivileged children in India: A Pertinent Outlook, 1 Journal on Rights of Child 44, 53 (2016). [3] (2018) 4 SCC 433. [4] (2011) 5 SCC 1. [5] Writ Petition (Criminal) No. 102 of 2007 (Supreme Court of India). [6] Lakshmikant v. Union of India, AIR 1984 SC 469. [7] India Const. art. 39, cl. f.



 

*/** 3rd Year, B.A., LL.B. students at Damodaram Sanjivayya National Law University

 

(Disclaimer- The views expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the Child Rights Centre.)

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