THE SUPREME COURT ON ILL-TREATMENT OF CHILDREN AT SHELTER HOMES IN INDIA
Recently, the Supreme Court of India had received a letter dated 31.07.2018 (Letter) from a Human Rights Defender in Patna, Bihar in the case of Sampurna Behura vs. Union of India and others, raising concerns over recent alleged rape and abuse of children in the Government funded Children’s Home run by a non-governmental organization (NGO) called Sewa Sankalp Evam Vikas Samiti. According to the Letter, a number of people from various organizations such as National Commission for Women, State Commission for Women, District Legal Services Authority, State Legal Services Authority, Special Investigation Team of the CID, Bihar Police and the Media have already visited the children shelter home in Bihar to interrogate and question the minor girls, who have allegedly been raped and abused.
The Supreme Court issued Order dated 02.08.2018 restraining media persons from questioning the minor girls and telecasting the same on television, newspapers, etc, so that they do not have to relive the trauma. Further, in the interest of the minor girls, the Supreme Court sought assistance of Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) and also notified the concerned police authorities and other officials that when they investigate the matter, certain professional counselors / qualified child psychologists, appointed in consultation with the National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (NIMHANS), Bangalore, TISS, All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), Delhi, be present during the investigation.
The Supreme Court further issued Order dated 07.08.2018 whereby it stated that:
TISS would look at the rehabilitation and reintegration of such minor girls.
AIIMS, Patna may address the clinical and medical aspects.
NIMHANS, Bangalore would address the mental and psychiatric health of the children in the shelter home.
TISS to prepare a brief report on the process for conducting social audits; and a report about events in shelter homes in Bihar that it had conducted.
The Ministry of Women and Child Development, Government of India to submit a survey, that it had conducted of around 8000 such homes including its infrastructure, facilities, and staff, etc.
The Ministry of Women and Child Development to inform the Supreme Court about how it proposes to ensure that sexual abuse of children does not take place in shelter homes, other homes and child care institutions across the country.
The victims of sexual abuse to be interviewed only by an authorized member of the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) and State Commission for Protection of Child Rights and in presence of a mental health expert or a trained counselor.
The Supreme Court further issued Order dated 14.08.2018 and directed the NCPCR to take cognizance of the report filed by TISS for conducting social audits and also stated that it would be proper if the Government of India frames a Child Protection Policy on prevention of offences against children.
As per few newspaper reports, the social audit report submitted by TISS stated that it had conducted an audit of 21 specialized adoption centres, 18 children homes for boys and six for girls, eight open shelters for street and slum children, 11 observation homes for undertrial juveniles, 21 short-stay homes for deserted women and five old age homes, etc. The report further stated that rampant sexual abuse, physical violence, humiliation, etc of varying forms and degree of intensity is prevalent in the children shelter homes. The Bihar State Government is also likely to release the said TISS report in the public domain.
Senior Legal Associate
The Indian Lawyer
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