'Why no guidelines to protect children from sexual abuse?'
New Delhi: The Delhi High Court has asked the central and Delhi governments to apprise it on the steps taken for framing guidelines to prevent sexual abuse of children in schools and educational institutions.
Issuing notice, a division bench of Chief Justice D. Murugesan and Justice Rajiv Sahai Endlaw sought a response by Dec 5 from the union ministry of women and child development and the Sheila Diskhit-led Delhi government on a plea filed by an NGO seeking guidelines for prevention of sexual abuse of children.
The HAQ Centre for Child Rights filed a public interest litigation (PIL) pointing out that the Juvenile Justice Act Rules make it mandatory for the authorities to frame the guidelines, but neither the central or Delhi governments had done so.
Seeking a direction to government to issue the guidelines, petition said: "Every person, school or such other educational institutions should abide by guidelines issued by central government and state government."
"However, the fact remains that till date, neither the central government nor the government of Delhi have issued any such guidelines for prevention of sexual abuse of children."
The plea further stated that the NGO, on several occasions, had advocated with both the governments about the need to frame and issue the guidelines.
Advocate Anant Asthana, who filed the petition, said: "Despite increasing incidents of sexual abuse of children in institutions being reported and despite there being an urgent need for such guidelines for schools, educational institutions, government have not issued these guidelines as mandated by law. Now with no guidelines, action is taken against the accused after the incident happened."
He said after formulation of uniform guidelines, all schools and educational institutions would have to follow the law.
"Now, there is no lawful mechanism to protect children from sexual abuse in schools and educational institutions, but after the formulation of these guidelines, monitoring of such cases will increase."
He said that the guidelines would make possible the early detection of child abuses cases.
"The guidelines would increase the monitoring of sexual abuse cases. We feel the incidents would also decreas if guidelines are framed. The schools and educational institutions would be made answerable if they fail to take any action on the issue," Asthana said.
The petition has been filed on the basis of an RTI reply provided by the Delhi government. NGO Pratidhi had filed a RTI query seeking information from the Delhi government on the status of the guidelines as per Rule 31 of the Delhi Juvenile Justice Rules, 2009, which made it mandatory to protect children from sexual abuse.
Although there is no data available on sexaul abuse in educational institutions, many such incidents have come to light in the national capital that have shocked the nation.
In September alone, two cases of sexual abuse came to light - both involving schoolbus drivers and minors.
In the first incident, a three-year-old boy was allegedly sodomised by his schoolbus driver and cleaner, while in second incident a 7-year-old girl accused her bus driver and cleaner of trying to rape her.
In another incident in July, a schoolteacher at Hauz Khas was arrested for raping a student. The teacher was also blackmailing the victim, threatening to make public her obscene photographs.
Such cases have also been reported from other cities and towns and many NGOs want the government to frame guidelines that could save students from sexual attacks by their own teachers or professors.