by Dr. Susan Mathew
MATUNGA-MUMBAI, SEPTEMBER 20, 2014: A half -day workshop on the topic 'Repeal and Re- Enactment of the JJ Act : Understanding the New Provisions' was jointly organized by Don Bosco Research Centre, Shelter Don Bosco and Don Bosco Balprafulta on 12th Sept, 2014 at the Don Bosco Provincial House, Matunga. More than fifty representatives from various NGOs within the city of Mumbai participated in the workshop. Mrs. Dakshayani Madangopal, the CEO of Don Bosco Research Centre welcomed the gathering, followed by a short PowerPoint presentation on the bicentenary celebration (1815-2015) of Don Bosco. Fr. Gregory Almeida, Director of Shelter Don Bosco, Don Bosco Research Centre and Don Bosco Balprafulta introduced the main speaker for the day, Ms. Mahrukh Adenwala, advocate at the High Court, Mumbai.
Ms. Mahrukh, spoke on various provisions of the new JJ Bill and the flaws which were not child friendly and called for a re-examination before the Bill was passed by the Parliament to become the law. Questioning the very logic behind the new Bill, she remarked that the new Bill contained only cosmetic changes and lacked pro-child provisions. The Bill should have been sensitive to the philosophy of Juvenile Justice on the basis on which the existing JJ act was formulated. Some of the important contentious provisions in the new Bill which she wanted to raise objections were (a) the very move to lower the age of juvenile offenders from 18 years which went against the objective of reformation theory (b) no provision for children with families on the street, (c) no distinction made with reference to Children's Homes, Shelter Homes and Open shelters (d) no clear definition of care plan and rehabilitation.
Ms. Mahrukh said that, the new Bill removed the schemes for after care (for post 18 years) and reduced reconsideration period of adoption from 60 days to 30 days. As per the new JJ Bill, the power of Child Welfare Committee (CWC) has been diluted by allowing the State Government to assume the authority over CWC and CWC being made accountable to report to the District Magistrate. CWC has turned out to be more of an administrative body and not getting enough time to spend with the child to come up with child sensitive or child friendly approach while tackling the cases. It was pointed out that it was essential to put CWC members on a payroll i.e. grant them regular salaries and re-examine the reformation process.
She added saying,"It is important to revamp the correctional and rehabilitation facilities that are integral to the reformation process in order to curb the heinous crime committed repeatedly by the juvenile offenders." Planning after care programmes, maintaining a list of children moving out of Children's Homes, to initiate aftercare programmes, appropriate skill development before the children moved out of shelter homes were topics that were emphasized. The topic for the day was discussed immensely by NGO's with feedbacks, experiences, follow-ups to be taken ahead before the JJ bill could be passed. The workshop ended with a vote of thanks by Dr. Susan Mathew and lunch being served.