LAW RESOURCE INDIA

Review of Rape Law

Posted in CRIME AGAINST WOMEN, RIGHT TO LIFE, VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN by NNLRJ INDIA on July 21, 2012
Dignity is her birthright

Dignity is her birthright

NATIONAL LAW RESEARCH DESK

The Union Cabinet today approved the proposal for introduction of the Criminal Law (Amendment ) Bill, 2012 in the Parliament.

The Law Commission of India in its 172nd Report on `Review of Rape Laws` as well the National Commission for Women have recommended for stringent punishment for the offence of rape. The High Powered Committee (HPC) constituted under the Chairmanship of Union Home Secretary examined the recommendations of Law Commission, NCW and suggestions various quarters on the subject submitted its Report along with the draft Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill, 2011 and recommended to the Government for its enactment. The draft was further examined in consultation with the Ministry of Women and Child Development and the Ministry of Law & Justice and the draft Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill, 2012 was prepared.

The highlights of the Bill include substituting sections 375, 376, 376A and 376B by replacing the existing sections 375, 376, 376A, 376B, 376C and 376D of the Indian Penal Code,1860, replacing the word `rape’ wherever it occurs by the words `sexual assault`, to make the offence of sexual assault gender neutral, and also widening the scope of the offence sexual assault.

The punishment for sexual assault will be for a minimum of seven years which may extend to imprisonment for life and also fine for aggravated sexual assault, i.e., by a police officer within his jurisdiction or a public servant / manager or person talking advantage of his position of authority etc. The punishment will be rigorous imprisonment which shall not be less than ten years which may extend to life imprisonment and also fine.

The age of consent has been raised from 16 years to 18 years in sexual assault. However, it is proposed that the sexual intercourse by a man with own wife being under sixteen years of age is not sexual assault. Provision for enhancement of punishment under sections 354 and 509 of IPC and insertion of sections 326A and 326B in the IPC for making acid attack a specific offence have been made.

RAPE LAWS RECOMMENDATION NCW

172LAW COMMISSION REPORT ON REVIEW OF RAPE LAW

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Consultation Paper-cum-Questionnaire regarding Section 498-A of Indian Penal Code

Posted in CRIME AGAINST WOMEN by NNLRJ INDIA on June 8, 2011

LAW COMMISSION OF INDIA

Consultation Paper-cum-Questionnaire regarding Section 498-A of Indian Penal Code

1.        Keeping in view the representations received from various quarters and observations made by the Supreme Court and the High Courts, the Home Ministry of the Government of India requested the Law Commission of India to consider whether any amendments to s.498A of Indian Penal Code or other measures are necessary to check the alleged misuse of the said provision especially by way of over-implication.

2.        S.498A was introduced in the year 1983 to protect married women from being subjected to cruelty by the husband or his relatives.  A punishment extending to 3 years and fine has been prescribed.  The expression ‘cruelty’ has been defined in wide terms so as to include inflicting physical or mental harm to the body or health of the woman and indulging in acts of harassment with a view to coerce her or her relations to meet any unlawful demand for any property or valuable security.    Harassment for dowry falls within the sweep of latter limb of the section. Creating a situation driving the woman to commit suicide is also one of the ingredients of ‘cruelty’.  The offence under s.498A is cognizable, non-compoundable and non-bailable.

3.        In a recent case of Preeti Gupta v. State of Jharkhand, the Supreme Court observed that a serious relook of the provision is warranted by the Legislature.   “It is a matter of common knowledge that exaggerated versions of the incidents are reflected in a large number of complaints.  The tendency of over-implication is also reflected in a very large number of cases”.    The Court took note of the common tendency to implicate husband and all his immediate relations.    In an earlier case also – Sushil Kumar Sharma v. UOI (2005), the Supreme Court lamented that in many instances, complaints under s.498A were being filed with an oblique motive to wreck personal vendetta.   “It may therefore become necessary for the Legislature to find out ways how the makers of frivolous complaints or allegations can be appropriately dealt with”, it was observed.    It was also observed that “by misuse of the provision, a new legal terrorism can be unleashed”.

4.        The factum of over-implication is borne out by the statistical data of the cases under s.498A.  Such implication of the relatives of husband was found to be unjustified in a large number of decided cases.  While so, it appears that the women especially from the poor strata of the society living in rural areas rarely take resort to the provision.

5.        The conviction rate in respect of the cases under s.498A is quite low.  It is learnt that on account of subsequent events such as amicable settlement, the complainant women do not evince interest in taking the prosecution to its logical conclusion.

6.        The arguments for relieving the rigour of s.498A by suitable amendments (which find support from the observations in the Court judgments and Justice Malimath Committee’s report on Reforms of Criminal Justice System) are:   Once a complaint (FIR) is lodged with the Police under s.498A/406 IPC, it becomes an easy tool in the hands of the Police to arrest or threaten to arrest the husband and other relatives named in the FIR without even considering the intrinsic worth of the allegations and making a preliminary investigation.   When the members of a family are arrested and sent to jail without even the immediate prospect of bail, the chances of amicable re-conciliation or salvaging the marriage, will be lost once and for all.  The possibility of reconciliation, it is pointed out, cannot be ruled out and it should be fully explored.  The imminent arrest by the Police will thus be counter-productive.    The long and protracted criminal trials lead to acrimony and bitterness in the relationship among the kith and kin of the family.   Pragmatic realities have to be taken into consideration while dealing with matrimonial matters with due regard to the fact that it is a sensitive family problem which shall not be allowed to be aggravated by over-zealous/callous actions on the part of the Police by taking advantage of the harsh provisions of s.498A of IPC together with its related provisions in CrPC.    It is pointed out that the sting is not in s.498A as such, but in the provisions of CrPC making the offence non-compoundable and non-bailable.

7.        The arguments, on the other hand, in support of maintaining the status quo are briefly:

S.498A and other legislations like Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act have been specifically enacted to protect a vulnerable section of the society who have been the victims of cruelty and harassment.  The social purpose behind it will be lost if the rigour of the provision is diluted.   The abuse or misuse of law is not peculiar to this provision.   The misuse can however be curtailed within the existing framework of law.   For instance, the Ministry of Home Affairs can issue ‘advisories’ to State Governments to avoid unnecessary arrests and to strictly observe the procedures laid down in the law governing arrests.  The power to arrest should only be exercised after a reasonable satisfaction is reached as to the bona fides of a complaint and the complicity of those against whom accusations are made.  Further, the first recourse should be to effect conciliation and mediation between the warring spouses  and the recourse to filing of a chargesheet under s.498A shall be had only in cases where such efforts fail and there appears to be a prima facie case.  Counselling of parties should be done by professionally qualified counsellors and not by the Police.

7.1      These views have been echoed among others by the Ministry of Women and Child Development.

7.2      Further, it is pointed out that a married woman ventures to go to the Police station to make a complaint against her husband and other close relations only out of despair and being left with no other remedy against cruelty and harassment.  In such a situation, the existing law should be allowed to take its own course rather than over-reacting to the misuse in some cases.

7.3      There is also a view expressed that when once the offending family members get the scent of the complaint, there may be further torture of the complainant and her life and liberty may be endangered if the Police do not act swiftly and sternly. It is contended that in the wake of ever increasing crimes leading to unnatural deaths of women in marital homes, any dilution of Section 498-A is not warranted. Secondly, during  the long–drawn process of  mediation also, she is  vulnerable to  threats and  torture.   Such situations too need to be taken care of.

8.        There is preponderance of opinion in favour of making the said offence compoundable with the permission of the court.   Some States, for e.g., Andhra Pradesh have already made it compoundable.  The Supreme Court, in a recent case of –*—, observed that  it should be made compoundable.  However, there is sharp divergence of views on the point whether it should be made a bailable offence.  It is pleaded by some that the offence under s.498A should be made bailable at least with regard to husband’s relations.*Ramgopal v. State of M. P. in SLP (Crl.) No. 6494 of 2010 (Order dt. July 30, 2010.

8.1      Those against compoundability contend that the women especially from the rural areas will be pressurized to enter into an unfair compromise and further the deterrent effect of the provision will be lost.

9.        The Commission is of the view that the Section together with its allied CrPC provisions shall not act as an instrument of oppression and counter-harassment and become a tool of indiscreet and arbitrary actions on the part of the Police.  The fact that s.498A deals with a family problem and a situation of marital discord unlike the other crimes against society at large, cannot be forgotten.   It does not however mean that the Police should not appreciate the grievance of the complainant woman with empathy and understanding or that the Police should play a passive role.

10.      S.498A has a lofty social purpose and it should remain on the Statute book to intervene whenever the occasion arises.  Its object and purpose cannot be stultified by overemphasizing its potentiality for abuse or misuse.   Misuse by itself cannot be a ground to repeal it or to take away its teeth wholesale.

11.      While the Commission is appreciative of the need to discourage unjustified and frivolous complaints and the scourge of over-implication, it is not inclined to take a view that dilutes the efficacy of s.498A to the extent of defeating its purpose especially having regard to the fact that atrocities against women are on the increase.  A balanced and holistic view has to be taken on weighing the pros and cons.  There is no doubt a need to address the misuse situations and arrive at a rational solution – legislative or otherwise.

12.      There is also a need to create awareness of the provisions especially among the poor and illiterate living in rural areas who face quite often the problems of drunken misbehavior and harassment of women folk.   More than the women, the men should be apprised of the penal provisions of law protecting the women against harassment at home.  The easy access of aggrieved women to the Taluka and District level Legal Service Authorities and/or credible NGOs with professional counsellors should be ensured by appropriate measures.   There should be an extensive and well-planned campaign to spread awareness.   Presently, the endeavour in this direction is quite minimal.   Visits to few villages once in a way by the representatives of LSAs, law students and social workers is the present scenario.

13.      There is an all-round view that the lawyers whom the aggrieved women or their relations approach in the first instance should act with a clear sense of responsibility and objectivity and give suitable advice consistent with the real problem diagnosed.  Exaggerated and tutored versions and unnecessary implication of husband’s relations should be scrupulously avoided.  The correct advice of the legal professionals and the sensitivity of the Police officials dealing with the cases are very important, and if these are in place, undoubtedly, the law will not take a devious course.   Unfortunately, there is a strong feeling that some lawyers and police personnel have failed to act and approach the problem in a manner morally and legally expected of them.

14.      Thus, the triple problems that have cropped up in the course of implementation of the provision are:(a) the police straightaway rushing to arrest the husband and even his other family members (named in the FIR), (b) tendency to implicate, with little or no justification, the in-laws and other relations residing in the marital home and even outside the home, overtaken by feelings of emotion and vengeance or on account of wrong advice, and (c) lack of professional, sensitive and empathetic approach on the part of the police to the problem of woman under distress.

15.      In the context of the issue under consideration, a reference to the provisions of Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 (for short PDV Act) which is an allied and complementary law, is quite apposite.   The said Act was enacted with a view to provide for more effective protection of rights of women who are victims of violence of any kind occurring within the family.   Those rights are essentially of civil nature with a mix of penal provisions.  Section 3 of the Act defines domestic violence in very wide terms. It encompasses the situations set out in the definition of ‘cruelty’  under Section 498A. The Act has devised an elaborate  machinery to safeguard the interests of women subjected to domestic violence.  The Act enjoins the appointment of Protection Officers  who will be under the control and supervision of a Judicial Magistrate of First Class.  The said officer shall send a domestic incident report to the Magistrate, the police station and service providers.   The Protections Officers are required to effectively assist and guide the complainant victim and  provide shelter,  medical facilities, legal aid etc. and also act on her behalf to present an application to the Magistrate for one or more reliefs under the Act.   The Magistrate is required to hear the application ordinarily within 3 days from the date of its receipt. The Magistrate may at any stage of the proceedings direct the respondent and/or the aggrieved person to undergo counseling with a service provider. ‘Service Providers’  are those who conform to the requirements of Section 10 of the Act. The Magistrate can also secure the services of a welfare expert preferably a woman for the purpose of assisting him. Under Section 18, the Magistrate, after giving an opportunity  of hearing to the Respondent and on being prima facie satisfied that domestic violence has taken place or is likely to take place, is empowered to pass a protection order prohibiting the Respondent from committing any act of domestic violence and/or aiding or abetting all acts of domestic violence. There are other powers vested in the Magistrate including granting residence orders and monetary reliefs.     Section 23 further empowers the Magistrate to pass such interim order as he deems just and proper including an ex-parte order.    The breach of protection order by the respondent is regarded as an offence which is cognizable and non-bailable and punishable with imprisonment extending to one year (vide Section 31).  By the same Section, the Magistrate is also empowered to frame charges under Section 498A of IPC and/or Dowry Prohibition Act. A Protection Officer who fails or neglects to discharge his duty  as per the protection order is liable to be punished with imprisonment (vide Section 33). The provisions of the Act are supplemental to the provisions of any other law in force. A right to file a complaint under Section 498A is specifically preserved under Section 5 of the Act.

15.1   An interplay of the provisions of this Act and the proceedings under s.498A assumes some relevance on two aspects: (1) Seeking Magistrate’s expeditious intervention by way of passing a protective interim order to prevent secondary victimization of a complainant who has lodged FIR under s.498A. (2) Paving the way for the process of counselling under the supervision of Magistrate at the earliest opportunity.

16.      With the above analysis and the broad outline of the approach indicated supra, the Commission invites the views of the public/NGOs/institutions/Bar Associations etc. on the following points, before preparing and forwarding to the Government the final report:

Questionnaire

1)    a) What according to you is ideally expected of Police, on receiving the FIR alleging an offence u/s 498A of IPC?  What should be their approach and plan of action?

b) Do you think that justice will be better meted out to the aggrieved woman by the immediate arrest and custodial interrogation of the husband and his relations named in the FIR?  Would the objective of s.498A be better served thereby?

2)    a) The Supreme Court laid down in D.K. Basu (1996) and other cases that the power of arrest without warrant ought not to be resorted to in a routine manner and that the Police officer should be reasonably satisfied about a person’s complicity as well as the need to effect arrest.  Don’t you agree that this rule applies with greater force in a situation of matrimonial discord and the police are expected to act more discreetly and cautiously before taking the drastic step of arrest?

b) What steps should be taken to check indiscriminate and unwarranted arrests?

3)    Do you think that making the offence bailable is the proper solution to the problem?  Will it be counter-productive?

4)    There is a view point supported by certain observations in the courts’ judgments that before effecting arrest in cases of this nature, the proper course would be to try the process of reconciliation by counselling both sides.   In other words, the possibility of exploring reconciliation at the outset should precede punitive measures.  Do you agree that the conciliation should be the first step, having regard to the nature and dimension of the problem? If so, how best the conciliation process could be  completed with  utmost expedition? Should there be a  time-limit  beyond which  the police shall be  free to  act without  waiting for the outcome of conciliation process?

5)    Though the Police may tender appropriate advice initially and facilitate reconciliation process, the preponderance of view is that the Police should not get involved in the actual process and their role should be that of observer at that stage?   Do you have a different view?

6)    a) In the absence of consensus as to mediators, who will be ideally suited to act as mediators/conciliators – the friends or elders known to both the parties or professional counsellors (who may be part of NGOs), lady and men lawyers who volunteer to act in such matters, a Committee of respected/retired persons of the locality or the Legal Services Authority of the District?

b) How to ensure that the officers in charge of police stations can easily identify and contact those who are well suited to conciliate or mediate, especially having regard to the fact that professional and competent counsellors may not be available at all places and any delay in initiating the process will lead to further complications?

7)  a) Do you think that on receipt of complaint under S.498A, immediate steps should be taken by the Police to facilitate an application being filed before the Judicial Magistrate under the PDV Act so that the Magistrate can set in motion the process of counselling/conciliation, apart from according interim protection?

b)  Should the Police in the meanwhile be left free to arrest the accused without the permission of the Magistrate?

c)  Should the investigation be kept in abeyance till the conciliation process initiated by the Magistrate is completed?

8)    Do you think that the offence should be made compoundable (with the permission of court)?

Are there any particular reasons not to make it compoundable?

9)    Do you consider it just and proper to differentiate the husband from the other accused in providing for bail?

10)                       a) Do you envisage a better and more extensive role to be played by Legal Services Authorities (LSAs) at Taluka and District levels in relation to s.498A cases and for facilitating amicable settlement?   Is there a need for better coordination between LSAs and police stations?

b) Do you think that aggrieved women have easy access to LSAs at the grassroot level and get proper guidance and help from them at the pre-complaint and subsequent stages?

c)Are the  Mediation Centres in some States well equipped and  better suited to attend to the cases related to S,498-A?

11)                       What measures do you suggest to spread awareness of the protective penal provisions and civil rights available to women in rural areas especially among the poorer sections of people?

12)                       Do you have any informations about the number of and conditions in shelter homes which are required to be set up under PDV Act to help the aggrieved women who after lodging the complaint do not wish to stay at marital home or there is none to look after them?

13)                       What according to you is the main reason for low conviction rate in the prosecutions u/s 498A?

14)                       (a) Is it desirable to have a Crime Against Women Cell (CWC) in every district to deal exclusively with the crimes such as S.498A?   If so, what should be its composition and the qualifications of women police deployed in such a cell?

(b) As the present experience shows, it is likely that wherever a CWC is set up, there may be substantial number of unfilled vacancies and the personnel may not have undergone the requisite training.   In this situation, whether it would be advisable to entrust the investigation etc. to CWC to the exclusion of the jurisdictional Police Station?

Promise to women

Posted in CRIME AGAINST WOMEN, CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM, SEXUAL OFFENCES by NNLRJ INDIA on December 2, 2010
Sexual Harassment (The Office)

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T K RAJYALAKSHMI IN THE FRONTLINE

ON November 4, the Union Cabinet gave the go-ahead for the enactment of a law on protection of women from sexual harassment at the workplace. Titled Protection of Women against Sexual Harassment at Workplace Bill, 2010, the draft law is basically a new avatar of the ones prepared in 2004. This development has been pending for long considering the fact that the Supreme Court laid down as early as 1997 certain guidelines to prevent the sexual harassment of women at their workplaces, in its landmark judgment delivered in Vishaka vs the State of Rajasthan and others.

Vishaka, a non-governmental organisation working for gender equality, had filed a writ petition seeking the upholding of the fundamental rights of working women under Article 21 of the Constitution. The immediate reason for the petition was the gang rape of a saathin (a social worker involved in women’s development programmes) of Rajasthan in 1992.

The assault was an act of revenge as the saathin had intervened to prevent a child marriage. The accused were acquitted by the trial court. However, following a hue and cry raised by women’s organisations, the High Court stayed the acquittal.

While some government departments, Ministries, universities and even a small section of the media set up complaints committees as stipulated by the apex court, the private and unorganised sectors did not make much headway in this regard.

Although the Cabinet has cleared the decks for the presentation of the Bill in the ongoing winter session of Parliament, it is quite possible that the introduction of the Bill may be delayed by the din created by the 2G spectrum scam. Women’s organisations feel that the delay may help as the time lag can be used to address certain defects in the Bill. One redeeming feature of the proposed Bill is that women can, at least on paper, look forward to a more decent and secure workplace environment and the employer is liable to pay a fine of Rs.50,000 if he fails to comply with the provisions.

DEFINITION

The definition of sexual harassment in the Bill broadly follows the one expounded by the Supreme Court in 1997. It includes any physical contact and advances or demand or request for sexual favour, unwelcome sexually coloured remarks or gestures, showing pornography or any other unwelcome physical, verbal or non-verbal contact of sexual nature. It recognises the promise of or threat to a woman’s employment prospects or creation of hostile work environment as sexual harassment at the workplace and expressly seeks to prohibit such acts. It provides protection not only to women who are employed but also to those who enter a workplace as clients, customers, apprentices and daily wage workers, or who are employed in an ad hoc capacity.

The deficiencies in the Bill are significant, and women’s organisations have expressed concern over the non-inclusion of certain categories of the female workforce.

First, although the Bill is comprehensive in its definition, it excludes domestic workers from its ambit. The draft Bills prepared painstakingly by the National Commission for Women and the Ministry of Women and Child Development (MoWCD) in collaboration with women’s organisations had included domestic workers in the definition of “employee”.

According to the earlier drafts, an employee was defined as one “employed at a workplace for any work on regular, temporary, ad hoc or daily wage basis, either directly or by or through an agent, including a contractor, with or without the knowledge of the principal employer, whether for remuneration or not, or working on a voluntary basis or otherwise, whether the terms of employment are express or implied and includes a domestic worker, a co-worker, a contract worker, probationer, trainee, apprentice or by any other name called”.

NEW CLAUSE

A new clause in the Bill brings students, research scholars in colleges/universities, patients in hospitals and women in the unorganised sector under its purview but leaves out domestic workers. Most of these features were present in the draft Bills of the NCW and the MoWCD. The NCW’s latest version of the draft Bill, evolved in January 2010, widened the scope to include research scholars and students and like the draft prepared by the Department of Women and Child Development (before it became a full-fledged Ministry), domestic workers were covered in the definition of employee. Workplace, therefore, included “home or dwelling place”.

Even the definition of sexual harassment has undergone some change. While the Bill draws on the definition provided in the Supreme Court guidelines, wherein sexual harassment was defined to include “unwelcome sexually determined behaviour, physical contact, sexually coloured remarks, showing pornography, request for sexual favours or any other unwelcome conduct, whether verbal, textual, physical, graphic, electronic or any other action, not limited to, implied or overt promise of preferential treatment, implied or overt threat of detrimental treatment or threat about present/future employment status, conduct which interferes with work, or creates an intimidating or hostile work environment”, it has excluded humiliating conduct that could constitute a health and safety concern to the woman.

Curiously, the Bill also provides for safeguards against malicious complaints of sexual harassment but with the caveat that a mere inability to substantiate the complaint or provide adequate proof would not make the complainant liable for punishment.

Reacting to this aspect, the All India Democratic Women’s Association (AIDWA), which has welcomed the Union government’s decision to introduce such a Bill, stated that the inclusion of the feature providing punishment for malicious complaints went totally against the Vishaka judgment, which had clearly stated that no action should be taken against a woman for making a complaint. The entire idea of a civil law to deal with cases of sexual harassment, it held, was meant to provide an atmosphere that helped women victims to make complaints, as aggrieved women employees were usually hesitant to lodge complaints, fearing reprisals. AIDWA said that in its experience of dealing with cases of sexual harassment at the workplace, it had found that accusations of false complaints were routinely made against the women victims. The organisation has, therefore, demanded that the clause pertaining to punishments to women for false complaints should be removed.

The Bill provides for a “complaints and redress mechanism”, more or less on the lines of the previous drafts, but it has some flaws. The redress mechanism requires every employer to constitute an internal complaints committee which is to be headed by a woman and has women constituting 50 per cent of its members.

As a large number of establishments (41.2 million of the 41.83 million) in the country have fewer than 10 women workers on their rolls, it will not be feasible to set up a complaints committee in each of them. Hence, the Bill provides for the constitution of local complaints committees by the designated district officer at the district or sub-district level. The idea is to ensure that every woman in any workplace, irrespective of its size or nature, will have access to an effective redress mechanism.

The local committees are expected to inquire into the complaints and recommend action to the employer or the district officer. Fearing the possibility of threat to or aggression against the complainant during the pendency of the enquiry, the Bill entitles the woman to seek interim relief in the form of a transfer, either of her own or for the respondent, or seek leave from work.

A definite time frame has been laid down for the inquiry and disposal of the complaints. The complaints committee is required to complete the inquiry within 90 days and the employer or the district officer has been given 60 days to implement the committee’s recommendations. AIDWA has expressed concern over the discretionary powers given to the district officer in the appointment of the committees. This, it feels, can lead to a certain degree of arbitrariness over the constitution of the committees.

The Bill does not make it clear if the recommendations made by the local committees have to be mandatorily implemented by the employer. AIDWA has demanded clarity on this aspect specifying that no additional inquiries be initiated even as the recommendations for punishment are followed scrupulously. The organisation has also suggested that the Bill include the NCW’s proposal to provide monetary compensation to the victim for the trauma and loss of opportunity suffered by her.

The welcome feature of the proposed Bill is that as the State and Central governments will oversee its implementation, employers are duty-bound to include a report on the number of cases filed and disposed of in their annual report. Organisations that do not prepare annual reports will forward this information to the district officer.

The Bill makes it mandatory for every employer to implement the provisions of law within his/her establishment while the State and Central governments have been made responsible for overseeing and ensuring the implementation of the law.

It is hoped that the Bill will be enacted with the inherent flaws rectified. As far as apprehensions of the misuse of the law are concerned, such a possibility exists with regard to every piece of legislation.

The experience of women’s organisations and people dealing with cases such as these shows that laws pertaining to the safety of women are seldom put to good use.

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Integrated Child Protection Scheme (ICPS)

Devi and Arul, two street children. Thiruvanmi...

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Evaluation of the child protection schemes of the Ministry of Women & Child Development, including the scheme ‘An Integrated Programme for Street Children’, in 2007 revealed shortcomings and gaps in these schemes and their implementation.To bridge these gaps and to provide safe and secure environment for overall development of children in difficult circumstances, the Government of India in the Ministry of Women and Child Development, has introduced a new comprehensive Centrally Sponsored Scheme, namely, Integrated Child Protection Scheme (ICPS) w.e.f. 2009-10 by merging three erstwhile schemes, including the scheme ‘An Integrated Programme for Street Children’ with additional components. This Scheme is being implemented through State Governments/ UT Administrations.

Under this Scheme, there is provision for setting up of ‘Open Shelters’ for children in need of care and protection, including the street children, in urban and semi-urban areas. The programmes and activities of these Open Shelters inter alia include age-appropriate education, access to vocational training, recreation, bridge education, linkages to the National Open School Programme (NOSP), health care, counseling etc.

There is no proposal in the Ministry of Women and Child Development to conduct a specific study to ascertain the number of street children in the country; However, ICPS provides for setting up of District Child Protection Societies by the State Governments/ UT Administrations in every district of the State. The role and responsibility of the District Child Protection Society includes identifying families and children at risk to prevent destitution of children and carrying out a situational analysis of children in difficult circumstances, including street children.

Section 62 of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000 provides that every State Government/Union Territory Administration shall constitute Child Protection Units for every district. To facilitate the States/UTs in setting up such Units, financial assistance is being provided to them on a cost sharing basis (90 per cent for North Eastern States and State of Jammu & Kashmir and 75 per cent for other States) through a Centrally Sponsored Scheme, namely Integrated Child Protection Scheme (ICPS).

As ICPS has been introduced very recently, i.e. in 2009-10, and the States have just commenced the implementation the Units are being progressively established by them. During the current year, 18 States have submitted the financial proposals for release of grants under this Scheme. Funds have already been released to 7 States. State -wise number of Units established, and funds released to them are at Annex.

ICPS provides for establishment of institutional mechanisms for monitoring the implementation of ICPS, including performance of the DCPS. Such mechanisms include District Child Protection Committees (DCPCs) at District level and State Child Protection Committee (SCPC) at State level and Central Project Support Unit (CPSU) under the Government of India in the Ministry of Women and Child Development. As the Scheme is at the initial stage of implementation, it is early to undertake the annual appraisal.

This information was given by Smt. Krishna Tirath, Minister of State for Women and Child Development in a written reply to a question in the Lok Sabha today.

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