What is the Act about?
The Juvenile Justice Act is a branch of criminal law that applies to people who are too young to be held accountable for their actions. Since children are seen as the most valuable asset, there is a pressing need to address juvenile justice. The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act 2015 was passed by the Indian Parliament amid heated debate, lengthy hearings, and street demonstrations by child rights organizations and some members of Parliament. The primary goal of this act is to address numerous concerns relating to child care, probation, social reintegration, and children in legal dispute.
History of the Act:
Juveniles were given special care under the Criminal Procedure Act of 1898. According to the Act, offenders under the age of twenty-one were eligible for probation if they behaved well. After which the Indian Jail Committee drafted the Indian Children Act which gave the specific regional government have the authority to enforce independent juvenile laws in their jurisdictions. Subsequently the provinces of Madras, Bengal, and Bombay each passed their own Acts, these laws included provisions for the establishment of a specialized juvenile justice system. The most significant change brought under this subject was with the introduction of The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000. Anyone under the age of 18 was deemed a child under this act, and they were never permitted to stand trial as an adult. “Nirbhaya Delhi Gang Rape Case,” an incident that occurred on December 16, 2012 questioned the purpose and the objective of this very law. The after effect of this incident posed concerns about the applicability of law in the field of juvenile justice since one of the accused was 6 months under the age of 18. The presence of an individual under the age of 18 in such a heinous crime as rape forced the Indian legislature to pass a new law. This resulted in the introduction of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015.
Critical Analysis of the Act:
The definitions used are dealt under Section 2 of the Act. Section 2 (12) defines a “child” as means a person who has not completed eighteen years of age and Section 2 (13) states that a “child in conflict with law” means a child who is alleged or found to have committed an offence and who has not completed eighteen years of age on the date of commission of such offence. As per the Juvenile Justice Act of 2000, a person was considered juvenile if he/she was below 18 years of age. Following the amendment, it was determined that, depending on the nature of the offence, an individual between the ages of 16 and 18 may be tried as an adult. This amendment established a distinction between a child and a juvenile, meaning that someone convicted of a crime and between the ages of 16 and 18 is a juvenile, not a child. The case is heard by the juvenile justice board if the aspect of heinous crime is lacking. The objective behind this is so that the accused’s age does not obscure the essence of the cruelty he committed on the victim and to ensure that children who come into conflict with the law are treated differently than adults, depending on the circumstances of the case.
It is necessary to ensure that Act isn’t in conflict with other laws. Section 15 of the Act provides that if a child has completed or is over the age of sixteen and is accused of committing a heinous crime, the Board shall perform a preliminary examination of his mental and physical capacity to commit the crime, ability to recognize the ramifications of the crime, and the circumstances under which he allegedly committed the crime. If this isn’t ensured then it would amount to violation of Section 84 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860.
Section 53 reflects upon rehabilitation and reintegration services in institutions registered under this Act and management of the same, which aims are proving basic facilities to these children and also aiming at their skill development, through like skill education and by improving themselves as an individual with the help of occasional therapy by counselling according to the need of the juvenile. This is considered to be beneficial to the child when he leaves for the real world.
Sections 74 to 89 of the Act provides provisions to protect the children from offences against them. Any person who reveals a child’s name, address, or school, or any other information that could lead to identification of the child in violation of the law, a child victim or witness of a crime, shall be punished by imprisonment for up to six months or a fine of up to two lakh rupees, or both. Whoever has actual charge or power over a child and assaults, abandons, beats, reveals, or wilfully neglects the child, or causes or procures the child to be assaulted, abandoned, harmed, revealed, or neglected in a manner likely to cause the child undue mental or physical distress, shall be punished by imprisonment for a period up to three years. Any person who employs a child for begging or exploits a child employee shall be punished with imprisonment for a period of five with and/or a fine of one lakh rupees. Whoever gives intoxicating liquor or narcotic drug or psychotropic substance to a child shall be punishable with imprisonment for seven years and/or fine which many extend up to one lakh rupees. Anyone who sells or buys a child for any reason is subject to rigorous imprisonment which may extend to five years and a fine of one lakh rupees. However, this is contrary to Section 370 of the Indian Penal Code, according to which, anyone who commits the offence of human trafficking shall be punishable with rigorous punishment for a term not less than seven years and which may extend to ten years or even to imprisonment for life it the accused in involved in trafficking of more than one individual. These provisions aim at protecting the children of the country, however, it is the duty of the legislatures to ensure that the provisions are in contrary to any other laws. The Act also takes the child’s welfare into consideration by under Section 92 regarding the placement of a child suffering from disease requiring prolonged medical treatment in an approved place.
The Act also authorizes a Juvenile Justice Board, comprised of psychologists and sociologists, to determine whether or not a juvenile delinquent aged 16 to 18 can be charged as an adult. A new provision on fair trial has been introduced, in which the review would include the child’s special needs as part of the tenet of a fair trial in a child-friendly setting and Act establishes foster care. The police force’s special juvenile unit will also receive proper instruction which would help in avoiding kind of issues regarding the same.
Challenges faced by the Juvenile System in India:
There are many Challenges faced by the Juvenile System in India such as the lack of adequate funding to carry out programmers to meet the needs of children’s treatment and safety. As a result, children who are subject to Juvenile Justice Board are not reintegrated into society on time, affecting their mental health and changing their attitudes. Lack of standards in government-run Child Care Institutions (CCIs) such as Special Homes, Shelter Homes, Day Care Centers and Children Homes run by government and non-governmental organizations. There is a lack of understanding among police officers about procedure to be followed. Section 107 of the Act speaks about establishing of Special Juvenile Police Units in each district and city, headed by a police officer and two social workers having experience of working in the field of child welfare, of whom one shall be a woman. These officers are required to undergo training to enable to them to provide protection of the children. However, there is glitch implementation of the same. Since there is a need to secure to the interest of the child, there should be no compromise with respect to the qualifications of these officers.
In most cases, children who have been juveniles are more receptive to improvement. The failures in the criminal justice system can be traced back to a lack of education, a lack of social services, and an inability to incarcerate the most violent criminals. Aside from ensuring public safety, the primary priorities of the criminal justice system should be skill enhancement, rehabilitative, recovery, meeting medical needs, and effective reintegration of juveniles into the community. The Juvenile Justice Act should be aggressively implemented. Thus, the government must ensure that the act is duly carried out by the authorities. Ensuring and improving the efficiency of the juvenile protective care process will offer justice to juvenile offenders who have come in conflict with the law.
VIT School of Law