Wednesday 17 Jul 2024

500 kids face uncertain future as tenure of committees ends

THE GOAN NETWORK | JUNE 22, 2024, 12:32 AM IST


The fate of at least 500 children in need of care and protection, housed at various government and private institutions, is in limbo as the tenure of Child Welfare Committees (CWCs) in both districts ended with no new Committee in place.

Interestingly, hours before the three-year tenure ended around 11:59 am on Friday, one of the committees received a POCSO case. While the child was soon lodged in Apna Ghar, her release has posed a major challenge for the authorities given that an NGO and a police team from her native State are en route to Goa. 

In fact, several cases are currently pending including that of a juvenile mother whose newborn was given for adoption while she remains under the CWC care and two rape victims placed in foster care.

“CWC must keep track of all the children from time to time. At present, the authorities are walking on a tightrope,” said an official.

According to the procedure in The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015, it is mandatory for any person, police official, or functionary of any organization, etc to report to the CWC and hand over any lost child or those in need of care. Moreover, this committee has the exclusive authority to dispose of cases for the care, protection, treatment, development and rehabilitation as well as provide basic needs and protection, etc until the child is released, rehabilitated, or repatriated.

In the current circumstances when even an extension is not granted, sources in the Department of Women & Child Development indicated that it would be challenging to pass any order or hold hearings.

Sources further stated that despite knowing the Committee's tenure would end at a specific time, the department allegedly took no proactive steps to constitute a new one.

“There was neither any invitation for applications for Chairpersons and members of both Committees nor were the current CWCs granted an extension in the interim period. Now that the CWCs' tenures are over, the fate of all these children is in limbo,” the source said. An official from Apna Ghar, on the other hand, said they have begun the process of appointing the CWC.

The CWC’s tenure is fixed for three years, and reportedly, earlier short-term extensions were granted until a new Committee was appointed. “Without the CWC, a child cannot be admitted, nor can any ongoing inquiry proceed, or repatriation or extension orders be given. The exclusive rights of the CWCs are now absent,” lamented the officer.

By law, it is mandatory to present any child before the committee without delay, but within 24 hours, excluding the time necessary for the journey.

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