Juvenile Justice Act, 2015

FEB 23

Mains   > Social justice   >   Human Resources   >   Women and Child issues

IN NEWS:

  • The Union Cabinet ushered in some major amendments to the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act 2015.

CONSTITUTIONAL PROVISIONS FOR CHILD WELFARE:

  • Article 15(3): empowers the state to make special provisions related to the empowerment of women and children.
  • Article 39 (e): directs the state to ensure that the health and strength of workers, men and women, and the tender age of children are not abused and that citizens are not forced by economic necessity to enter avocations unsuited to their age or strength.
  • Article 39 (f): directs the state to ensure that children are given opportunities and facilities to develop in a healthy manner and in conditions of freedom and dignity and that childhood and youth are protected against exploitation and against moral and material abandonment
  • Article 45: directs the state to ensure provisions for free and compulsory education for children.
  • Article 47: directs the State to raise the level of nutrition and the standard of living and to improve public health as among its primary duties.

HISTORY OF JUVENILE JUSTICE IN INDIA:

  • The first proper intervention by the government of India in justice for children was via the National Children’s Act, 1960.
  • This act was replaced later with Juvenile Justice Act, 1986.
  • In 1992, India ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC). To adapt to the standards of the convention, the 1986 act was repealed and the Juvenile Justice Act, 2000 was passed.
  • The Juvenile Justice Act, 2000 dealt with two categories of children viz. ‘child in conflict with law’ and ‘child in need of care and protection'.
  • The involvement of a minor in the heinous crimes in ‘Nirbhaya case’ forced the government to introduce a new law and thus the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act 2015 was introduced.

JUVENILE JUSTICE (CARE AND PROTECTION OF CHILDREN) ACT 2015:

  • The Juvenile Justice Act, 2015 (JJ Act) defines the legal framework in which juveniles (below 18 years old in India) can appear before a judge.
  • The Act guarantees the security, the protection, the education and the well-being of the children in need in India.
  • The JJ Act recommends enquiries to determine if the situation of vulnerability of a child requires a placement in a children’s home.
  • Features:
    • A juvenile is defined as anyone who has not completed the age of 18 years.
    • It mandates setting up Juvenile Justice Boards and Child Welfare Committees in every district. Both must have at least one-woman member each.
    • Offences committed by a juvenile are categorized into three:
      • 'Heinous offence' is offence with minimum punishment of seven years of imprisonment or more. Juveniles between the ages of 16-18 years will be tried as adults for heinous offences.
      • 'Serious offence' are offences with three to seven years of imprisonment. Any 16-18 years old, who commits a serious offence may be tried as an adult. But this is only if he/she is detained after the age of 21 years. and
      • 'Petty offence' is with a less than three-year imprisonment.
    • An entire chapter (Chapter IX) is devoted to deal with offenses against children.
    • Chapter VIII is devoted to the subject of adoption of children. The Central Adoption Resource Authority (CARA) was granted the status of a statutory body to enable it to perform its function more effectively.

2020 AMENDMENTS:

  • The amendment empowers the District Magistrates (DM) to issue adoption orders as well as monitor the implementation of the law.
  • DMs along with additional district magistrates (ADMs) will monitor the functioning of various agencies under the JJ Act in every district. This includes the Child Welfare Committees, the Juvenile Justice Boards, the District Child Protection Units and the Special juvenile Protection Units.
  • The amendments also state that crimes committed by children, in which the minimum sentence is less than seven years, will be categorized as “serious” and not “heinous” offences.

RATIONALE BEHIND THE AMENDMENT:

  • The additional powers to DM has been brought in based on a report filed by the NCPCR in 2018-19 which found that of the 7,000 children’s homes surveyed:
    • 1.5% do not conform to rules and regulations of the JJ Act
    • 29% of them had major shortcomings in their management
    • Not a single Child Care Institution in the country was found to be 100% compliant to the provisions of the Act
  • In January 2020, the Supreme Court had observed that offences that carried maximum of more than seven years imprisonment, but with no minimum sentence of fewer than seven years should be treated as ‘serious’ and not as ‘heinous’ offences.

CONCLUSION:

  • While the amendments have been welcomed by most, the challenge perceived is that of having given too many responsibilities to the DM.
  • What is still missing is the proper implementation of the existing provisions of the JJ Act, especially when it comes to childcare homes and juvenile protection.

PRACTICE QUESTION:

Q. Enumerate the salient provisions of the Juvenile Justice Act, 2015. How far can the recent amendments to the Act ensure the protection and rehabilitation of children in conflict with law?