The Supreme Court on Thursday said the existing mechanism was “not adequate” to curb incidents of sexual abuse of children and girls at shelter homes and asked the Ministry of Women and Child Development (MWCD) to apprise it on the formulation of a child protection policy.
A bench headed by Justice Madan B Lokur asked the joint secretary of MWCD to appear before it on October 8 to assist the court in understanding what exactly was proposed to deal with issues like counselling and rehabilitation of such victims, conditions prevailing at child care institutions and formulation of child protection policy.
“The existing mechanism is not adequate. If it was adequate then what had happened in Muzaffarpur would not have happened,” said the bench, also comprising Justices S Abdul Nazeer and Deepak Gupta.
The bench was dealing with the matter in which 34 girls were allegedly raped and sexually abused in a shelter home run by an NGO at Muzaffarpur in Bihar. “These 34 girls need counselling. There are many more other girls like this. Somebody has to do something,” the bench said.
During the hearing, the bench observed that it had earlier asked about the formulation of a child protection policy but nothing has been done.
The counsel appearing for the MWCD said that a national consultation was taking place with all the states for formulation of a child protection policy, as suggested by the apex court, on preventing offences against children.
The Centre said that a “series of actions” which should be taken in such cases have been circulated among the states and the ministry would hold a meeting soon on the issue.
The counsel said that in the last meeting, three states have given information about the action being taken by them in such cases.
“There are two things. One is that some states admitting such things have happened and if such things have happened, some corrective steps have to be taken. The second is where some states may not admit it. Some states may say that please do not register FIRs of rape so that our record looks good,” the bench observed.
The bench also told the MWCD that they cannot say since the social audit of child care institutions by the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) was going on so let the situation remain the same.
The bench asked the MWCD’s counsel to call the joint secretary of the ministry so that modalities to deal with the issue could be understood. “We will understand what is proposed to be done,” the bench told the counsel.
When the counsel said that the ministry would soon call a meeting to come out with an action plan to deal with the issue, the court said, “calling a meeting will not help if the focus is on something else”.
Making a policy is one aspect and rehabilitation and protection of these child and girls is another aspect”.