Juvenile Justice Act

In this blogpost, Komal Rastogi, student, Nirma University, Ahmedabad, writes about the amendments in the Juvenile Justice Act, 2000, the new features which have been introduced in Juvenile Justice Act, 2015, the comparison between different countries and India.

Amendments to the Juvenile Justice Act, 2015

The Delhi gang rape case have triggered many major changes in the criminal system of India. Rajya Sabha has passed the Juvenile Justice Bill 2014 after the post of many people in the case of Nirbhaya where the juvenile convict was released. The government of India replaced the Juvenile Justice Act 2000 in 15th January 2016. This act helps the children who are in conflict with laws and protect them from the harsher punishments of the district and high court.

This is an Act to consolidate and amend the law relating to children in need of care and protection, by catering to their basic needs through development, treatment, and social re-integration, by adopting a child-friendly approaches. One of the main aim to pass the amendment was that the minor of age 16-18 years were committing heinous crimes such as rape, etc. The structure of the Juvenile Justice Act 2015 are as follows.

Key features:

  • The Juvenile Justice Act divided the crimes into three different categories i.e. the petty offence, serious offences and heinous offences.
  • Juvenile Justice Board to be constituted in every district to deal with children in conflict with the law. The board comprises of a metropolitan judge and judicial magistrate with two social workers along with women.
  • Excluding the offence of heinous crimes, for all other cases, the juvenile will get the institutional care for a maximum of three years by the Juvenile Justice Board.
  • “A Children’s Court is a Sessions Court notified under the Commissions for Protection of Child Rights Act, 2005. For this Bill, once a juvenile is referred by a Juvenile Justice Board to a Children’s Court it will determine whether to try him as an adult or else recommend counseling, stay at observation home, etc.”[1]

 

The other major changes in the Juvenile Justice Act 2015 are:

Firstly, the minor accused of age more than sixteen should present before the Juvenile Justice Board and then the Board will decide whether to send the Juvenile for trial as an adult or to send an accused to the rehabilitation center. This method is judged on the mental and physical ability of the child.

Secondly, the act of juvenile justice treats a minor of age sixteen-eighteen years as an adult if he has committed any heinous crime in a conflict of the law. Minor who have committed a serious offence may be tried as an adult only if he is apprehended after the age of twenty-one years.

  • If a minor of age seventeen years or more committed a serious offence and had been apprehended before twenty-one years of age, then the prescribed punishment is maximum three years in a special home with counselling.
  • If a minor who committed a serious crime who is apprehended after the age of twenty-one years then the punishment will be tried as an adult and the imprisonment of three to seven years have been prescribed.
  • If the minor of age seventeen have committed a heinous crime and has been apprehended below the age of twenty-one year then the prescribed punishment is based on evaluation of mental and physical capacity, etc., may be tried as a child (max. three years) or adult (more than seven years)
  • If the minor committed heinous offence and apprehended after the age of twenty-one year, then the case will be tried as an adult and imprisonment of 7 years and above is prescribed.

Thirdly, “A new clause on fair trial is added, under which the assessment will look into the special needs of the child, under the tenet of a fair trial under a child-friendly atmosphere.”[2]

Fourthly, no life-imprisonment or death sentence to a juvenile.

Fifthly, the inquiry of the case should be completed within four months of the first production of the child in the Juvenile Justice Board. This can be extended for the maximum of two more months by recording the reason in writing.

Sixthly, the assessment of the heinous crime should be disposed of within 60 days from the first production of the child before the juvenile justice board.

Seventhly, “inter-country adoption allowed if adoption cannot take place within the country, within 30 days of the child being declared legally free for adoption.”[3]

Eighthly, if the biological parents want to give their child for adoption, then they have given a chance to rethink about their decision for three months instead of one month.

Ninthly, “any child who has been abandoned by biological parents due to unavoidable circumstances will not be considered to be willfully giving up the child.”[4]

Comparison of penalties in Juvenile Justice Act 2015 to Juvenile Justice Act 2000:

Firstly, for giving a child alcohol or any intoxicating liquor or narcotic drug, the punishment up to seven years and penalty up to one lakh rupees.

Secondly, for buying or selling of a child have a prescribed punishment of five years of punishment and a fine up to one lakh rupees.

Thirdly, for employing a child for begging in streets or train would amount to imprisonment up to five years and fine up to one lakh rupees.

Fourthly, for subjecting a child to cruelty would lead to the punishment up to three years of imprisonment and a fine of amount one lakh.

Comparison between other countries and India in case of Juvenile Justice Act

  • Minimum age for the Juvenile at which he can be charged with an offence:

United States of America: the age ranges from six to ten years

United Kingdom:  the age limit is ten years.

South Africa: the age is of ten years.

France: by offence committed

Canada: after the age of twelve years.

Germany: at the age of fourteen years.

India (Juvenile Justice Act 2000): under IPC after the age of seven years.

India (Juvenile Justice Act 2015): same as the J J Act 2000

  • The age in which Juvenile can be tried as an adult:

United States of America: from the age of 13 years

United Kingdom: 17 years in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, 16 years in Scotland

South Africa: juvenile can be treated as an adult from the age of sixteen years

France: the age of being an adult is sixteen

Canada: the age of the juvenile who will be treated as an adult is fourteen years

Germany: at the age of fourteen years.

India (Juvenile Justice Act 2000): any juvenile cannot be tried as an adult

India (Juvenile Justice Act 2015): from the age of sixteen in the case of heinous crimes

  • The types of offences for which the minor can be tried:

United States of America: aggravated sexual abuse, murder, assault, robbery, firearms offences, and drug offences

United Kingdom: Murder, rape, causing any explosion likely to endanger life or property.[5]

South Africa: robbery, murder, rape

France: armed robbery, murder, rape and drug offences

Canada: serious bodily harm to any person, murder, and aggravated sexual assault

Germany: abuse of persons who are incapable of resistance, or sexual abuse, or child abuse leading to death

India (Juvenile Justice Act 2000): cannot be trialed

India (Juvenile Justice Act 2015): “Serious offence (punishment 3-7 years e.g. cheating, counterfeiting) or heinous offence, (punishment > seven years e.g. murder, rape, robbery)”[6]

 

References

[1] Retrieved on http://www.prsindia.org/uploads/media/Juvenile%20Justice/Legislative%20Brief%20Juvenile%20Justice%20Bill.pdf

[2] Retrieved on http://www.dnaindia.com/india/report-14-notable-amendments-to-the-juvenile-justice-act-2084147

[3] Supra note 1

[4] Supra note 2

[5] Supra note 1

[6] Supra note 1

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