India’s status as a technological power house in the world would remain on paper if the state does not take advantage of its resources to benefit the children or track the missing ones, the Supreme Court has said. The apex court, while stressing the need for use of technology in Juvenile Justice Boards (JJB) and Child Welfare Committees (CWC), said it was “disheartened” that there was an acute shortage of computers and peripherals in these bodies. A bench of Justices Madan B Lokur and Deepak Gupta said the use of technology would help in dealing with crucial issues like tracing and tracking of missing children, rescuing those working in hazardous industries and victims of child sexual abuse. “It is well-known that our country is a technological power-house and if we are unable to take advantage of the resources available with us and fully utilise the benefits of technology through computers and the internet for the benefit of children, our status as a technological power house would be in jeopardy and would remain only on paper,” the bench said.
It said the data regarding children could be easily collected by using computers and the internet. “This would be of great assistance in planning and management of resources and MWCD (Ministry of Women and Child Development) and others concerned with child rights must take full advantage of this,” the bench said. The apex court also said that the Centre and states needed to look into this aspect and provide necessary software and hardware to JJBs and CWCs for their functioning. “Similarly, the use of video conferencing could also be considered in appropriate cases where some inconvenience to the juvenile in conflict with law necessitates the use of video conferencing facilities,” it said.
The top court complimented the MWCD for bringing out an online central monitoring system in this regard but said it was “unfortunate” that there was not much active cooperation of the states in updating the information on this system. It asked the states to update the information on the online monitoring system “once a quarter”, adding “surely that cannot be a difficult task”. “Needless to say, updating information is extremely important so that there can be efficient planning which will ultimately lead to better management of issues concerning children,” the bench said.
It directed the MWCD to continue to make creative use of information and communication technology not only for the purpose of collecting data but also for other issues connected with the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act. “With the utilisation of technology to the fullest extent, administrative efficiency will improve considerably, which in turn will have a positive impact on the lives of children,” it said. The court said this in a judgement in which it passed a slew of directions for implementation of provisions of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act. The verdict came on a PIL seeking implementation of the Juvenile Justice Act and its rules. The petition has raised the issue of alleged apathy by the governments in implementing the welfare measure.