Shivam Dheeran talks about Juvenile Justice System in India.
I think it’s important for us as a society to remember that the youth within juvenile justice systems are, most of the time, youths who simply haven’t had the right mentors and supporters around them – because of circumstances beyond their control.
Juvenile Justice System is the most progressive bit of legislation adopted for children. The newest amendment in this regard was the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act 2015. The act came into force from 15 January 2016 after it received presidential assent on 31st December 2015. It was implemented with the hope of rehabilitating them, with their overall development.
Initially young offenders were treated in criminal law in the same way as adult offenders. It is unfair for a child who is not mature enough, to be punished with the punishment as that of an adult. He needs to be rehabilitated and as far as possible restored to his family with the minimal punishment possible. Due to this, the Juvenile Justice Act was passed. An age limit of 18 years was prescribed in this act below which the offenders will be tried as Juveniles. They will be prosecuted as well as punished by Juvenile Courts.
In a few days, the need for a more stringent system for juveniles was felt because of the many horrible crimes committed by them. There was a lot of public demand for punishing these juveniles as adult. Because of which the Juvenile Justice Act was amended. The latest in this regard is Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015. In this amended act, the age bar for juveniles has been lowered down to 16 from 18. Now, everyone above the age of 16 will be tried in the court of law for heinous crimes, as adult.
The first legislation on Juvenile Justice was brought before the court in 1850 with the Apprentice Act which required that children convicted between the age of 10 – 18 be provided with vocational training as a part of their rehabilitation process. The Juvenile Justice Bill was first introduced in Lok Sabha on 22nd August 1986. This act was further amended in 2006, 2011 and 2015. It is applicable in whole of India expect for the state of Jammu & Kashmir which has enacted Jammu & Kashmir (Care and Protection of Children) Act 2013. This law is very similar to India’s national Juvenile Justice Act expect this does not contain any provision on adoption.
Earlier, the word Juvenile was used for a person below the age of 18. The age 16 for being a Juvenile was changed after the Delhi gang rape. It was found that one of the accused in Delhi gang rape was a few months away from 18 and so he was being tried as a Juvenile. The verdict for him was announced by a Juvenile Court sentencing him to 3 years in a reform home. The whole of India including the victims’ mother criticized the judgment. On 12 August 2014, a new bill was introduced by Maneka Gandhi in the Parliament in which the age for Juveniles was lowered down to 16. On 31 December 2015, the President gave assent to the bill.
Summary of the Bill
The bill was given assent by the President on 31st December 2015. Certain changes have been brought in this bill, which are as follows –
- It will allow a Juvenile Justice Board, to decide whether a Juvenile criminal in the age group of 16 – 18 be tried as an adult or not.
- A person giving alcohol or drugs to a child shall be punished with 7 years of imprisonment and/or a fine of 1 lakh Rupees.
- A person selling a child will be punished with 5 years of imprisonment and a fine of 1 lakh Rupees.
- The process of adoption of orphaned, surrendered and abandoned children has been made more streamlined.
- Foster Care has been introduced in this bill in which families will sign up for foster care and abandoned, orphaned or children in conflict with law will be sent to them. Such families shall receive financial aid from the government and will be regularly monitored.