Juvenile Justice Care and Protection of Children Act, 2015

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Author : aniketsml
Published on : February 04, 2016


  
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Juvenile Justice Care and Protection of Children Act, 2015

Children are greatest national asset and resource. Children should be allowed and provided opportunity to grow up to become robust citizens, physically fit, mentally alert and morally healthy, endowed with skills and activations needed by the society. Equal opportunities for development to all children during the period of growth should be provided for reducing inequality and ensuring social justice, which in turn would serve as an effective tool to curb delinquency in juveniles. Children are expected to be obedient, respectful and imbibe virtues and good quality in them. Due to various reasons children do not follow settled social and legal dictum. In recent years, it has become very clear that juvenile delinquency is the most important aspect of the subject matter of criminology. These years have also seen an urge for an objective appraisal of the problem and the development of the new techniques. Delinquent behaviour has assumed serious forms among the juveniles, which is a sign of sick society. The disorder and destruction due to deviant behaviour, a worldwide phenomenon, is assuming alarming proportions in social organizations and is awakening call to those who are either in its grip or are likely to get struck.

Who Is Juvenile?

Juvenile can be defined as a child who has not attained a certain age at which he, like an adult person under the law of the land, can be held liable for his criminal acts. The juvenile is a child who is alleged to have committed /violated some law which declares the act or omission on the part of the child as an offence. Juvenile and minor in legal terms are used in different context. Juvenile is used when reference is made to a young criminal offenders and minor relates to legal capacity or majority. To make the meaning more clear resort can profitably be made to some other source. The concept of the juvenile varies from State of State for convenience. In India, until passing of Children Act, 1960 there was no uniformity regarding age limitation of juvenile delinquent. Bombay Children Act 1948 defined “Child” to mean a boy who has not attained the age of sixteen years or girl who has not attained the age of eighteen years. The U.P. Children Act defined “Child” as a person under the age of sixteen years. The East Punjab Act, Andhra Pradesh (Telangana Area) Children Act also prescribed the sixteen years age limit but included the children who are in certified schools, though they have attained the age of 16 years. Under A.P. Children Act 1920 “child” means a person under 14 years and when used to reference to send to certified school applies to that child during while period of detention notwithstanding that the child attains the age of fourteen before expiration of that period. The Saurashtra & West Bengal defines a 'child” a person who has not attained the age of eighteen years. Haryana Children Act has also maintained this difference in defining child as a boy who has not attained the age of sixteen years and a girl who has not attained age of eighteen years. Juvenile Justice Act, 1986 defined a juvenile or child to be a person who in case of a boy has not completed age of 16 years and in case of a girl 18 years of age. The JJA Act, 1986 was repealed by 2000 Act and the distinction with regard to age between male and female juveniles has been done away with by the Government of India in performance of its obligation to the international obligations. Now age of juvenile in conflict with law for male and female has been fixed at 18 years. A juvenile in conflict with law under the JJ (C & P) Act, 2000 is a juvenile who is alleged to have committed an offence and has not completed 18 years of age as on the date of commission of such offence. Recently under the new Juvenile justice act, 2015 In case of a heinous offence alleged to have been committed by a child, who has completed or is above the age of sixteen years, the Juvenile Justice Board shall conduct a preliminary assessment with regard to his mental and physical capacity to commit such offence, ability to understand the consequences of the offence and the circumstances in which he allegedly committed the offence.

Why there is a need for a new bill:
After the 2012 Delhi Gang Rape it was found that one of the accused was a few months away from being 18. So, he was tried in a juvenile court. On 31 July 2013, Subramanian Swamy, a BJP politician filed a Public Interest Litigation in the Supreme Court of India seeking that the boy be tried as an adult in a court. The Court asked the juvenile court to delay its verdict.

After the Supreme Court allowed the juvenile court to give its verdict, the boy was sentenced to 3 years in a reform home on 31 August 2013.The victim’s mother criticised the verdict and said that by not punishing the juvenile the court was encouraging other teenagers to commit similar crimes. In July 2014, Minister of Women and Child Development, Maneka Gandhi said that they were preparing a new law which will allow 16-year-olds to be tried as adult. She said that 50% of juvenile crimes were committed by teens who know that they get away with it. She added that changing the law, which will allow them to be tried for murder and rape as adults, will scare them. The bill was introduced in the Parliament by Maneka Gandhi on 12 August 2014.On 22 April 2015, the Cabinet cleared the final version after some changes. The government introduced the Juvenile Justice Bill in August 2014 in Lok Sabha and gave various reasons to justify the need for a new law. It said that the existing Juvenile Justice Act, 2000 was facing implementation issues and procedural delays with regard to adoption, etc. Additionally, the government cited National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) data to say that there has been an increase in crimes committed by juveniles, especially by those in the 16-18 years age group.

NCRB data shows that the percentage of juvenile crimes, when seen in proportion to total crimes, has increased from 1% in 2003 to 1.2% in 2013. During the same period, 16-18 year olds accused of crimes as a percentage of all juveniles accused of crimes increased from 54% to 66%.A PRS analysis of the statistics on incidence of crimes by children:

 

Juveniles between 16-18 years apprehended under IPC  
Crime 2003 2013
Burglary 1,160 2,117
Rape 293 1,388
Kidnapping/abduction 156 933
Robbery 165 880
Murder 328 845
Other offences 11,839 19,641
Total 13,941 25,804
Note: Other offences include cheating, rioting, etc.  Sources: Juveniles in conflict with law, Crime in India 2013, National Crime Records Bureau; PRS.

Changes made in the act:
(1) The bill will allow a Juvenile Justice Board, which would include psychologists andsociologists, to decide whether a juvenile criminal in the age group of 16–18 should tried as an adult or not.

(2) The bill introduced concepts from the Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Cooperation in Respect of Inter-country Adoption 1993 which were missing in the previous act.

(3) The bill also seeks to make the adoption process of orphaned, abandoned and surrendered children more streamlined.

(4) The bill introduces foster care in India. Families will sign up for foster care and abandoned, orphaned children, or those in conflict with the law will be sent to them. Such families will be monitored and shall receive financial aid from the state. In adoption, disabled children and children of physically and financially incapable will be given priority. Parents giving up their child for adoption will get 3 months to reconsider, compared to the earlier provision of 1 month.

(5) A person giving alcohol or drugs to a child shall be punished with 7 years imprison and/or₹1,00,000 fine. Corporal Punishment will be punishable by ₹10,000 or 3 months of imprisonment. A person selling a child will be fine with ₹1,00,000 and imprisoned for 5 years.

(6) The bill allows for juveniles 16 years or older to be tried as adults for heinous offences like rape and murder. Heinous offences are those which are punishable with imprisonment of seven years or more.

(7) The bill mandates setting up Juvenile Justice Boards and Child Welfare Committees in every district. Both must have at least one woman member each.

(8) The decision to try a juvenile 16 years or older as an adult will be taken by the Juvenile Justice Board, which will have a judicial magistrate and two social workers as members. If the board decides against it, the juvenile will be sent for rehabilitation.

(9) The Child Welfare Committees will look at institutional care for children in their respective districts. Each committee will have a chairperson and four other members, all specialists in matters relating to children.

(10) Any child that found committing any crime will now be send for a preliminary assessment for a period of three months, up from the earlier one month. A clarification is added that the preliminary assessment is not a trial, but to assess the child’s capacity to commit the crime.

(11) There will now be proper training of special juvenile units in the police force.

(12) NCPCR and SCPCR will be the nodal authorities to be responsible for monitoring implementation, the publicity of the amended act, and to look into cases that arise out of the Act.

Criticism:
During the debate in the Lok Sabha in May 2015, Shashi Tharoor, an INC Member the Parliament (MP), argued that the law was in contradiction with international standards and that most children who break the law come from poor and illiterate families. He said that they should be educated instead of being punished. Child Rights Activists and Women Rights Activists have called the bill a regressive step and have criticized the Bill. Many experts and activists viewed post December 2012 Delhi Gang Rape responses as creation of media sensationalisation of the issue, and cautioned against any regressive move to disturb the momentum of Juvenile Justice Legislation in the Country. However some sections in the society felt that in view of terrorism and other serious offences, Juvenile Justice Act of 2000 needed to be amended to include punitive approaches in the existing Juvenile Justice Law, which so far is purely rehabilitative and reformative. Some argued that there is no need of tampering with Juvenile Justice Act for putting up effective deterrent against terrorism. Retired Judge of Delhi High Court, Justice RS Sodhi on 8 August 2015 told Hindustan Times, "We are a civilised nation and if we become barbaric by twisting our own laws, then the enemy will succeed in destroying our social structure. We should not allow that but we must condemn this move of sending children to fight their war”. They have been saying there is no need to carve out an exception for children in a particular age group solely based on the perceived heinousness of the offence. The division into two groups — one below 16 and another above 16 — goes against the core principle that all children should be treated as such till the age of 18. This age has been fixed based on studies in child behaviour and the U.N. Convention of the Rights of the Child. A parliamentary Standing Committee opposed the change, noting that subjecting juveniles to the adult judicial system would go against the objective of protecting all children from the rigours of adult justice. It noted that the Supreme Court had not agreed with the view that children involved in certain offences should be tried as adults.

Conclusion:
There was never any doubt that the progressive juvenile law enacted in 2000 was not being implemented properly and that there was a need to revisit its provisions. In many ways, the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Bill, 2015, passed by the Lok Sabha, is a forward-looking and comprehensive enactment that provides for dealing with children in conflict with the law and those requiring care and protection. However, its laudable features have been overshadowed by one provision that states that children in the 16-18 age group will henceforth be tried as adults if they are accused of committing ‘heinous offences’. The government believes that the provision will help address public disquiet over the perception that young offenders are getting away with light punishment after committing crimes such as murder and rape.

References:

# See the Black Dictionary of Law.
# Standards and Goals. 1976, Standard 9.2.
# The Bombay Children Act, 1948, Section 4.
# http://bombayhighcourt.nic.in/libweb/actc/yearwise/2016/2016.02.
# The Uttar Pradesh Children Act. 1951, Section 2(4)
# 16-Year-Olds to be Tried as Adults in Extreme Crimes, Says Lok Sabha". NDTV.
# Rajya Sabha passes Juvenile Justice Bill; Jyoti's parents welcome development". The Indian Express.
# SC Asks Swamy To Inform JJB To Defer Verdict On Juvenile".Tehelka.
# Delhi gang rape: Teenager found guilty". BBC News.
# Juvenile Justice Bill introduced in Lok Sabha". The Indian Express.
# Juvenile Justice Act: Government gives nod for proposal to try 16-18 year olds under adult laws". DNA India.
# Juvenile Justice Bill passed; 16-18 years to face adult laws in heinous crimes". DNA India.
# http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/Rajya-Sabha-passes-Juvenile-Justice-Bill