A district level consultative meeting held in Churachandpur district opened up a wide forum deliberating on Juvenile Justice Act, Substance Abuse Act and the role that the media has to play specifically concerning the Acts. We must congratulate the organisers for executing such consultative meeting which is the crying need of the hour. Though Churachandpur Chapter of Manipur Alliance for Child Right is at a nascent stage, the organisation has been able to make some positive interventions in the district. Dealing with sensitive cases like child sexual abuse; which even involved cases of rape, intervention on corporal punishment meted out to school children, taking up stringent measures against domestic torture of girl child etc. The consultative meeting should be an ongoing exercise. Though the organisers have expressed their disappointment over the slim attendance of participants, we would say the number of attendance was optimal. An increase in the number of participants would have become a crowd. For a consultative meeting on a subject like child rights, it is important to get on hold to the right focus. We have seen many consultative meetings getting fuddled just because too many talking heads wish their voices to be heard. Giving little attention to what the previous speaker has said, another speaker would make a rambling speech repeating the same points. Precious time will get wasted, and you realise that a little progress has been made on the subject and the discussion. This was not so for the May 29 meeting at the District Training Center in Churachandpur.
During the meeting the role of the law enforcing agencies and that of the media were underscored by the professionals who are currently working in their respective fields. Quite essentially the nuances of the Acts were highlighted by rights activist. We would say this is where the crux of the consultation lies. Without understanding the working principal of the Acts, it is simply impossible to focus on the issue. There are legal technicalities which are not easy to understand, after all not every one of us is a legal expert. Most often the legal definitions and guidelines that appertain to the Act seem to nestle only in the ivory tower of the jurisprudence. And this is where the proactive role of the rights activists is called for. They should act as the vital link between the Acts and the common man, for whom the laws are being made. Consultations of this kind should be the beginning in this direction. For instance, the specificity of age of a juvenile which was raised by a lady participant is a case in point. Section 2(l) of JJ Act defines a juvenile as any child who has not yet completed eighteen years of age. Section 15(1) (g) of the same Act further mandates that a juvenile convicted of any offence can be sentenced to be sent to a special home for a period of three years, maximum and thereafter be released on probation. The 2012 Delhi gang rape case had bought forth the age issue. One of the accused, according to reports was a juvenile, who was the most aggressive during the act of the crime. There was widespread debate among the legal experts and rights activist as far as the Act is concerned. It is heartening to see such nuances were touched upon during the consultative meeting. The Alliance should further carry forward their work to the grassroots; at the community level and at the schools, where children spend time for their learning almost equally with the time they spend at home. Community leaders and schools authorities are some of the people who should be sensitised from time to time. There is a long road ahead for the Alliance. Please keep going.