The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, of 2000 is repealed by the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, of 2015, which went into effect on January 15, 2016.
The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Children, which India signed on December 11, 1992, is the focus of the Act. It outlines procedural safeguards for minors involved in legal disputes. It aims to resolve issues with the current Act like lengthy adoption procedures, a backlog of cases, institutional accountability, etc. Since there has been a rise in crimes committed by children between the ages of 16 and 18 in recent years, the Act also aims to address this issue.
Who is a juvenile?
A juvenile is defined by legislation as a person who is under the age of 18:
- Any child under the age of seven cannot be found guilty of a crime, according to Indian legislation.
- As both were referred to as juveniles under previous laws, it was difficult to distinguish between children in need of care and protection and those who were in trouble with the law.
- The terms “children in conflict with the law” and “children in need of care and protection” are used in the amended legislation (2015 Act) to make the distinction clear.
In 2011, a process of consultation with various stakeholders was launched by the Ministry of Women and Child Development as it started to consider several wanted amendments. The public’s view of the Act was significantly impacted by the Delhi gang rape case in December 2012. A few months under the age of 18, one of the defendants in the 2012 Delhi gang rape was prosecuted in a juvenile court by the Act. The Supreme Court of India considered eight writ petitions that claimed the Act and several of its provisions were unconstitutional, causing the juvenile court to postpone its decision. The Supreme Court rejected the challenges in the second week of July 2013, finding the Act to be valid. The Supreme Court rejected requests to lower the legal drinking limit for adults from 18 to 16 years old after the Indian government said that no plan exists to do so. A punishment of three years in a reform home was imposed on the case on August 31, 2013, when it was brought back before the juvenile court. The victim’s mother disagreed with the decision and claimed that the court was encouraging other teens to commit the same crimes by not punishing the juvenile. Maneka Gandhi, the minister of women’s and children’s affairs, stated in July 2014 that new legislation allowing 16-year-olds to be tried as adults was in the works. Teenagers intentionally perpetrated 50% of juvenile crimes, according to her, but they believed they could get away with it. She continued by saying that they would be scared if the law were changed to enable them to face adult criminal charges for rape and murder. Maneka Gandhi presented the legislation to the Parliament on August 12. The final draft was approved by the Cabinet on April 22, 2015, following some revisions. The Lok Sabha approved a revised juvenile justice bill on May 7, 2015. If they perpetrate heinous crimes, the new bill will permit minors between the ages of 16 and 18 to be tried as adults. To determine whether the horrifying crime was done by a “child” or an “adult,” the Juvenile Justice Board will investigate the case.
- The term “juvenile” has been renamed “child” or “child in conflict with the law” throughout the Act to eliminate its negative connotation.
- Adding new meanings for terms like “petty, serious, and heinous offences” and “orphaned, abandoned, and surrendered children;”
- Clear deadlines for the Juvenile Justice Board’s (JJB) investigation; clarity in the roles, duties, and powers of the JJB and the Child Welfare Committee; The Act requires the establishment of Child Welfare Committees and Juvenile Justice Boards in each area. Each must include at least one lady.
- Special rules for heinous crimes done by minors older than 16 years old – Special measures have been put in place under Section 15 to deal with juvenile offenders who perpetrate heinous crimes between the ages of 16 and 18. After performing a preliminary evaluation, the Juvenile Justice Board is given the choice to refer cases involving such children who have committed heinous crimes to a Children’s Court (Court of Session). The provisions call for keeping children in a “place of safety” both during and after the trial, up until the age of 21, at which point the Children’s Court will evaluate the child. After the evaluation, the kid is either released on probation or, if they don’t change, they are put in jail for the remainder of their sentence. The legislation will safeguard victim rights and serve as a deterrent to young offenders who commit heinous crimes like rape and murder.
- To simplify the adoption of orphan, abandoned, and surrendered children, a new part on adoption has been added. The current Central Adoption Resource Authority (CARA) is given the status of a statutory body to allow it to carry out its role more effectively and to streamline adoption procedures for the orphan, abandoned, and surrendered children. Adoption is covered in depth in a separate chapter (VIII), along with penalties for not following the prescribed procedure. Timelines for both domestic and international adoption have been simplified, and this includes the declaration of a child’s legal availability for adoption. According to the rules, a person who is single or divorced can adopt as well, but a single man cannot adopt a female child.
- Inclusion of new offences committed against children: The Act includes several new offences against minors that are currently not sufficiently addressed by any other laws. These include kidnapping and selling children for any reason, including unlawful adoption, using corporal punishment in childcare facilities, using children as weapons for militant groups, and using disabled children as objects of abuse.
- Mandatory registration of Child Care Institutions: All child care institutions, whether run by the State Government or by voluntary or non-governmental organisations, which are meant, either wholly or partially for housing children, regardless of whether they receive grants from the Government, are to be mandatorily registered under the Act within 6 months from the date of commencement of the Act. The legislation stipulates severe penalties for non-compliance.
- Penalties: Child abuse, providing a child with a narcotic drug, kidnapping, and selling a child all carry harsh penalties. Anyone in a position of authority who fails to report an abandoned or orphaned child within 24 hours may face up to six months in jail, a fine of Rs 10,000, or both. The punishment for failing to register a childcare facility is up to a year in jail, a fine of one lakh rupees, or both. Giving alcohol, drugs, or psychoactive substances to a child is punishable by up to seven years in jail, a fine of one lakh rupees, or both.
Effects of the Act:
Positives of the Juvenile Justice Act of 2015
The 2015 JJA has a lot of advantages. It was passed into law to fix the flaws in the earlier legislation. The following are some significant advantages of this Act:
- There is a marked difference between children who need protection and care and those who are in legal trouble.
- It mandates the registration of all children’s homes, enhancing the system’s efficiency and openness.
- Between the ages of 16 and 18, it aims to lessen the number of crimes done by juveniles.
- It gives justice to the victims of such crimes by allowing 16 to 18-year-olds to be judged as adults in cases of heinous crimes.
Cons of the Juvenile Justice Act of 2015
There are also some drawbacks to the JJA as modified. Below is a discussion of a few legal issues.
- Numerous psychological studies highlight how vulnerable adolescents between the ages of 16 and 18 are due to physical and hormonal changes. Further harm may result if juvenile offenders are treated as adults for adult offences and imprisoned. The minor will interact closely with experienced criminals in such settings, which could hinder their rehabilitation.
- Some contend that Article 14 of the Constitution, which gives every citizen the right to equality, is violated when minors between the ages of 16 and 18 are treated differently.
- In 1992, India signed the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. According to this Convention, any individual below the age of 18 is to be treated like a child. This is in contravention of 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. The environment in which children raised in slum regions are nurtured must be improved if the juvenile crime is to be decreased. Additionally, all classes need to promote an atmosphere of open dialogue between parents and kids.
- Non-Cognizable Offenses: According to the JJ Act of 2015, “non-cognizable offences” are defined as crimes against children that are listed in the chapter “Other Offenses Against Children” and carry sentences of three to seven years in jail.
- The juvenile justice act separated the three different types of crime into three distinct categories: petty theft, major offences, and heinous offences.
- No J.J. protection will be given to a 16-year-old who has committed a heinous crime and is being handled as an adult in the aforementioned situation.
- If anyone forces or gives a minor alcohol or any other intoxicating substance, they could receive a sentence of up to 7 years in prison and/or a fine of up to one lakh rupees, among other penalties.
Sheela Barse & Anr. V. Union of India & Ors. [1986 AIR 1773]:
This appeal was submitted to the Honourable Supreme Court to request guidelines regarding the release of juvenile offenders under the age of 16 from detention facilities. Additionally, the petitioners asked for the production of comprehensive data regarding juvenile detention facilities, as well as the presence of juvenile courts, homes, and schools across the nation.
The Hon’ble Supreme Court, acting on the petition, directed:
- Every week, the State Legal Aid & Advice Board will send two attorneys to each jail in the state to help minors (under the age of 16) who are being held in detention facilities.
- The number of children’s homes, remand homes, and observation homes for children in each state, as well as the total number of inmates housed in those facilities, must be reported by each state government.
- States to effectively implement the “Children’s Act” they passed. To demonstrate their compliance with those Acts, they must submit affidavits of reason. District and Sessions Judges should pay frequent trips to the district jails and should pay special attention to the needs of juvenile Inmates.
Sheela Barse & Ors. v. Union of India & Ors. [1986 SCALE (2) 230:
In this instance, the Hon’ble Highest issued the following guidance about minors: When a kid is charged with a crime that carries a sentence of less than seven years in jail, the investigation must be finished within three months of the FIR filing, and the trial must be finished within six months of the charge sheet filing. There should never be a situation where children are housed in jail. The State Governments are required to set up remand and observation facilities. The kids should be released on bail if there is no room for them in these remand or observation institutions. The Union Government should enact a Children’s Act for the trial of children under the age of 16 and provide the rehabilitation of such youngsters in order to maintain complete uniformity.
Hari Ram v. State of Rajasthan & Anr. [2009 SCC 13 211]:
The Juvenile Justice Act of 1986 set a maximum age of 16 for male minors to be classified as juveniles. Nonetheless, children up to the age of 18 are treated as juveniles under the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000 (“JJ Act, 2000”). So, the main question on the court’s agenda, in this case, was whether the JJ Act of 2000 applies to crimes that were committed prior to its implementation. The court determined that, upon a joint reading of Articles 2(k), 2(l), 7A, 20, and 49, it is evident that all individuals who were under the age of 18 on the date the offence was committed, even prior to the implementation of the JJ Act of 2000, would be treated as juveniles.
Jitendra Singh @ Babboo Singh & Anr. v. State of U.P. [Criminal Appeal No. 763 of 2003]:
In this instance, the court decided that anyone asserting they were a minor on the day of the offence should do so as soon as possible before the Trial Court or the High Court. Yet, if for some reason no such claim is made, it does not prevent someone from bringing such a claim before the Supreme Court. The JJ Act is a helpful piece of legislation, and a technical defence (such as a delay in filing a juvenile claim would not prevent someone from filing a claim under the Act. Yet, it is the individual making the allegation who has the burden of proof to establish a prima facie case for requesting an investigation into the claim of juvenility.
A 2015–16 economic study discovered a significant drop in enrolment at public schools in provincial regions between 2007 and 2014. It emphasized the need to greatly increase these numbers to achieve the universalization of education. However, taking into account such suggestions, the amount of money allocated to the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan was increased by at least 1%. For the welfare of working children who require care and security, there is only one welfare program known as the child labour program, and even that has seen a slight drop in funding.
The need for care and security for some children should be noted, just as it is unlikely that children in legal trouble will find a position in the budget. Juveniles are increasingly victims of crimes against them, which renders them much more helpless; as a result, it is disturbing that child safety is not taken into account. The reformative and rehabilitative methodology adopted by the acts of 2000 and 2015 will surely suffer from inadequate funding for essential plans.
In response to the shortcomings of child protection, the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection) Act of 2015 was enacted. However, a similar situation still exists as a result of a lack of responsibility, dedication, and coordination between various Child Protection partners, and experienced and sane social work professionals in the use of ICPS from the state level to the local level. A single entity should be in charge of child protection, and it should have a strong, suitable, and effective hierarchical structure that extends down to the village level.