The Women and Child Development (WCD) Ministry today issued an advisory on handling of child abuse cases in shelter homes, giving the district magistrate the power to take immediate direct charge of an erring institution.
The advisory was issued after several reports of abuse of children at child care institutions surfaced recently.
"In the case of abuse and disruption of service delivery to the vulnerable children living in the institutional care, it is the prime responsibility of the government to take immediate action for ensuring protection and well-being," the two-page advisory stated.
Noting that disruption of service delivery and welfare measures in the institutional care amounts to failure in delivering assigned duties by the child care institutions as well as child welfare committees, the ministry said the district magistrate may "immediately assume the direct responsibility of these institutions".
The advisory also said children who have been abused must be provided necessary medical care, psychological support and counselling within 24 hours.
"The district magistrate may consider empanelment of psychologists in the district or engage institutions capable of providing psychological care to such child victims for the purpose," the advisory said.
The district magistrate has also been given the power to take a decision if there is a need to completely change the management and staff of the institution while children continue to live in the same facility or relocate the children to some other facility.
It also directed the district administration that under no circumstances the identity of the children should be revealed to media or to general pubic.
"The press statements may be issued by the designated officer of district administration at a definite time to apprise the media about the developments in the case. No direct access should be given to media inside the children's home," it said.
The ministry said the advisory has been formulated to help the district administration in formulating an action plan during any case pertaining to child abuse in child care institutions.
The Centre had in August told the Supreme Court that 1,575 minors, who were victims of sexual abuse, and 189 victims of pornography were living in 9,589 child care institutions across the country.
The Centre, while referring to a study conducted on child care institutions across the country, told the apex court that there were 9,382 children in conflict with law in such homes -- 6,928 boys and 2,454 girls.
The report further said that the number of children in need of care and protection was found to be 3,68,267 in these 9,589 child care institutions, of whom 1,98,449 were boys, 1,69,726 girls and 92 were transgenders.