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DAILY NEWS ANALYSIS

  • 28 October, 2021

  • 8 Min Read

Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015

Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015

The Act seeks to achieve the objectives of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Children as ratified by India on December 11, 1992. It specifies procedural safeguards in cases of children in conflict with the law. It seeks to address challenges in the existing Activities such as delays in adoption processes, high pendency of cases, accountability of institutions, etc. The Act further seeks to address children in the 16-18 age group, in conflict with law, as an increased incidence of crimes committed by them has been reported over the past few years.

The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015 has come into force on January 15, 2016, and repeals the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000.

Key provisions

  • Role of State Governments
  • Institutional Care
  • Children in Conflict with Law
  • Children in Need of Care and Protection
  • Punishment for Offences Against Children
  • Rehabilitation and Social Reintegration
  • Monitoring

Who is a Juvenile?

  • As per law, a juvenile is any individual below the age of 18.
  • According to laws in India, any child below the age of 7 cannot be convicted under any law for any crime.
  • Under earlier laws, the distinction between children in conflict with the law and children in need of care and protection was vague, as both were termed juveniles.
  • In the amended law (2015 Act), the terms are ‘children in conflict with the law’ and ‘children in need of care and protection; so that the distinction is clear.

Key provisions

  • Change in nomenclature from ‘juvenile’ to ‘child’ or ‘child in conflict with law’, across the Act to remove the negative connotation associated with the word “juvenile”
  • Inclusion of several new definitions such as orphaned, abandoned and surrendered children; and petty, serious and heinous offences committed by children;
  • The Act mandates setting up Juvenile Justice Boards and Child Welfare Committees in every district. Both must have at least one woman member each.

Other Provisions

Separate new chapter on Adoption

  • To Streamline Adoption Of Orphan, abandoned and surrendered children - To streamline adoption procedures for orphan, abandoned and surrendered children, the existing Central Adoption Resource Authority (CARA) is given the status of a statutory body to enable it to perform its function more effectively.
  • Processes have been streamlined with timelines for both in-country and inter-country adoption including declaring a child legally free for adoption.
  • As per the provisions, a single or divorced person can also adopt, but a single male cannot adopt a girl child.

Inclusion of new offences committed against children

  • Sale And Procurement of children for any purpose including illegal adoption,
  • Corporal Punishment in childcare institutions,
  • Use of children by militant groups, offences against disabled children and,
  • Kidnapping and abduction of children.

Punishment for Offences Against Children

  1. Punishment for cruelty to children from six months to three years.
  2. The selling or buying of children will be a punishable offence with imprisonment of five years.
  3. Corporal punishment within a Child Care Institution will be a punishable offence.
  4. Adoption without prescribed procedures shall be punishable with imprisonment upto three years or fine of Rs.1 lakh or with both.
  5. For the effective implementation of these provisions, JJ Model Rules, 2016 provides for child friendly procedures for reporting, recording and trial.

The JJA, 2015 seeks to hold the child accused of crime accountable, not through punishments, but through counselling.

  • It also gives definitions for petty, serious and heinous crimes by children.
  • The Act gives more clarity on the functions and powers of the Juvenile Justice Board and the Child Welfare Commission.

Juvenile Justice Board:

  • This is a judiciary body before which children detained or accused of a crime are brought.
  • This acts as a separate court for juveniles since they are not to be taken to a regular criminal court.
  • The Board comprises of a judicial magistrate of the first class and two social workers, one of whom at least should be a woman.
  • The Board is meant to be a child-friendly place and not intimidating for the child.

Child Welfare Committee:

  1. The State Governments set up these committees in districts in accordance with the provisions of the Act.
  2. The Committees have the power to dispose of cases for the care, protection, treatment, development and rehabilitation of the children in need of care and protection, as well as to provide for their basic needs and protection.
  • An important provision of the amended Act is that it provides for minors in the age group 16 – 18 years to be treated as adults in the case of heinous crimes.
  • The Act distinguishes between children in conflict with the law and children in need of care and protection.
  • Under the previous Act, any minor, regardless of the crime committed, could be convicted only to a maximum of 3 years. Under no circumstances could the minor be tried in an adult court or sent to an adult jail, or given a penalty longer than 3 years.
  • However, this changed with the 2015 amendment. All children below the age of 18 would be treated equally except for heinous crimes. Any minor of the age group 16 – 18 and who has been accused of committing a heinous crime can be tried like an adult. For this, the Juvenile Justice Board would assess the child’s physical and mental capacities, his/her ability to comprehend the consequences of the crime, etc. and determine whether the child can be treated as an adult.

Mandatory registration of Child Care Institutions

Rehabilitation and Social Reintegration Measures

  • Under the institutional care, children are provided with various services including education, health, nutrition, de-addiction, treatment of diseases, vocational training, skill development, life skill education, counselling, etc to help them assume a constructive role in the society.
  • The variety of non-institutional options include: sponsorship and foster care including group foster care for placing children in a family environment which is other than child’s biological family, which is to be selected, qualified, approved and supervised for providing care to children.

Children in Need of Care and Protection

  • A child in need of care and protection is to be produced before the Child Welfare Committee within 24 hours.
  • The Act provides for mandatory reporting of a child found separated from his/her guardian.
  • Non reporting has been treated as a punishable offence.
  • The Child Welfare Committee must direct a Social Worker, Case Worker or the Child Welfare Officer to conduct the social investigation within 15 days.
  • The Child Welfare Committees shall meet atleast 20 days in a month and the District Magistrate shall conduct a quarterly review of the functioning of the Child Welfare Committee.
  • A child in need of care and protection will be placed in a Children‘s Home , The Child Welfare Committee could recognize a facility to be a Fit Facility to temporarily take the responsibility of a child.
  • The Specialized Adoption Agency is to take care of the rehabilitation of orphans, abandoned or surrendered children.

Rehabilitation and Social Reintegration

  • The restoration and protection of a child shall be the prime objective of a Children‘s Home/ Specialized Adoption Agency/ Open Shelter.
  • The Child Care Institution shall prepare Individual Care Plans for children in need of care and protection or children in conflict with law, preferably through family based care.
  • Any child leaving a child care institution on attaining 18 years of age may be provided with financial support.

Monitoring

  • The NCPCR and SCPCR are mandated to monitor the implementation of the provisions of the JJ Act, 2015 .

Negatives of Juvenile Justice Act, 2015

  • Many psychological studies point out the vulnerability of the 16 – 18 age group children because of hormonal and physical changes. Considering offences committed in this age as crimes and putting them in adult jails can cause further damage. In such environs, the minor will come into close contact with professional criminals, which can hamper their rehabilitation.
  • Some opine that the treating of minors between 16 and 18 years differently is a violation of Article 14 of the Constitution, which guarantees every citizen the right to equality.
  • India ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1992. According to this Convention, any individual below the age of 18 is to be treated like a child. This is in contravention to the amended law that gives provisions for treating 16 – 18 year-olds like adults.
  • A psychological assessment is to be made to assess whether the minor can be treated as an adult or not. However, this can be subjective and not entirely scientific.
  • The argument to include 16 – 18-year-old minors in a special bracket was based on the data from the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB). This data is itself questioned by many, and also, many of the cases were in the FIR stage and under preliminary proceedings only.
  • Most children who commit crimes are from the economically weaker sections of society. In order to reduce crime among children, there is a need to provide a better environment for the nurture of children who grow up in slum areas. Also, there is a need to foster a culture of open communication between parents and children among all classes.

Source: PIB


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