This article is written by Moumita Mondal who is pursuing a Certificate Course in Advanced Criminal Litigation & Trial Advocacy from LawSikho.
Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015 was enacted in such a way as to provide care and security to the children committing a crime. It prevents the child from not becoming a habitual criminal. Children are the future of the nation. The best facilities are given to these children for their growth and development. Thus, Lok Sabha has taken the initiative to modify the Juvenile Justice Act to create a meaningful life for the juveniles. This Act had explained the meaning of the word ‘Juvenile’ referring to the child who has not attended the age of majority while committing the offense.
This article discusses the Juvenile Justice Act, and its recent amendments proposed by the Lok Sabha. I will also be discussing the recent verdict and the provisions relating to this Act.
About the Juvenile Justice Act
The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection Act) 2015, was enacted to prevent children from committing further crimes. Counseling sessions and educational workshops are conducted for these children to develop a sense of maturity and reasoning. This Act mainly focuses on the growth and development of the children. Analytical thinking and a good sense of understandability thrive in these children.
Section 2(12) of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act says that a person would be regarded as a child if he had not completed the age of at least 18 years. Section 2(13) of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015, had already explained the meaning of “child in conflict with law”. If the child is presumed to have committed the offense or discovered to have committed the crime when he has not completed the age of majority, then this is known as a “child in conflict with law”. Section 2(35) of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection Act) 2015 says that the child would be known as the ‘juvenile’ if he has not attained the age of 18 years.
Children are committing crimes due to different reasons. These children are so poor that they are bound to commit the crime. Another reason is the lack of education. Education plays a vital role in the life of children. It is because it helps the children to develop a sense of maturity.
The children are not mature enough to understand the difference between the wrong and right paths. This Act was enacted separately for these children that differs from the Acts for the Adults. This Act does not give any punishment to the children. In the eyes of the law, children are not considered adults.
Recent verdicts on the JJ Act
In one of the recent judgments, the court had already stated that the child would be known as abandoned if his parents have neglected or the whereabouts of the parents are not known and so, the procedure will go along as per Regulation 6 of the Adoption Rules. This method helps to find the biological parents or legal guardians of the child.
In one of the recent judgments, the couples were belonging to different religions for which their parents did not consider their relationship. And, so both of them broke off their relationships. Anitha, a fictitious name, given by the court, was unmarried, and thus, she gave her child to the committee while signing the Deed of Surrender. Then, the Committee proceeded to allow the child for adoption to another couple. Later, both of the couples filed a writ petition before the High Court to get their child back. The court asserted that the child would be treated as legitimate even if he is born from a living relationship. He is a legal child as like a child born from married couples. The court had considered the process as illegal as the deed of surrender was signed only by Anitha whereas it was not signed by both of them. Thus, the court had passed an order by approving the return of the child to the parents.
Recent Amendments made by Lok Sabha
About Adoption Orders
Recently, the Lok Sabha had made few changes in the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Amendment Bill, 2021. In this Bill, the Lok Sabha had proposed to redefine the list of serious offenses. It also asked to grant powers to the Magistrate to pass the orders for adoption. The Ministry of Women and Child Development have already taken the initiative to ensure that the security is efficient for children under the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children), 2015.
According to the Bill, the punishment prescribed under the ‘serious offenses’ consists of two parts:
- Minimum imprisonment term for 3-7 years.
- Maximum imprisonment exceeds 7 years but does not consist of minimum imprisonment nor minimum imprisonment of fewer than 3 years.
The Children’s Court is empowered to take cognizance for offenses that exceed 7 years imprisonment. And, also the punishment is only triable if it is less than 7 years.
Procedure relating to Adoptions
Section 58 of the JJ Act explains the procedure through which the adoptive parents can apply for an adoption. Thus, in this way they can get an adopted child only after the order passed by the Court. In this procedure, getting approval from the court in the final order is relevant. Section 101(3)(b) of the JJ Act, says that no appeal can be made by a person if the Child Welfare Committee discovers that the person is not a child. And, the appeal can be filed by the aggrieved person within 30 days before the Divisional Committee, if he is not satisfied with the order passed by the court.
Role of District Magistrate
The District Magistrate is empowered to keep track of different agencies who are in charge of these laws under this Act. He is authorized to direct the District Child Protection Units and also Child Welfare Committee. He also evaluates the performance of the Child Welfare Committees.
Child Welfare Committees
The Child Welfare Committees includes a Chairman and four members among which there is a woman and another would be a specialist who would look into the issue related to the child.
Section 27 of this Act says that the State must consist of one or more Child Welfare Committees in every district to enable them to look into the issues relating to the care and safety of the children. Subsection 4 of Section 27 talks about the eligibility of the members required for an appointment for the Child Welfare Committees. The member must have at least 7 years of experience in the health, education, or well-being of the child. Also, the person must hold a degree in child psychology, psychiatry, law, or social services.
If a person had infringed any rights of the child, then he would not be eligible for the post of Child Welfare Committee. Also, he would not be fit for this post if he had been engaged in activities such as child abuse or child labor.
The purpose behind the amendment of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2021
The main objective of modifying the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2021 are as follows:
- The District Court has lots of pressure as they are assigned to complete every work. Due to this reason, the matter remains incomplete. Thus, the Minister should make sure that they get the assistance so that the subject is not ignored.
- Only a single authority is appointed to deal with the matter relating to the children that could harm the child’s welfare.
- The power to deal with the child’s matter has not been granted to the Judges who are expert in this field. Thus, it has led to major complications in this field.
- In Shilpa Mittal vs. State of NCT of Delhi on 9 January 2020, a question arose before the court that the child should be tried as an adult or not. In this case, the child was above 16 years but below the age of 18 years when he had committed the offense. The Juvenile Justice Board had directed to punish the child as an adult because the crime committed by him was serious. Then, the mother of the child approaches the High Court as the term of the punishment for the offense was not passed under Section 2 (33) of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015. The High Court expressed that the punishment can be given to the child which is similar to the punishment given to an adult if he has committed any serious offense such as rape and murder which is punishable for more than 7 years. An appeal was filed before the Supreme Court as the order was contradictory. It was held that this Act does not deal with the fourth category of the offenses which is punishable more than seven years but do not consist of minimum imprisonment or minimum imprisonment of fewer than seven years. Hence, this is known as a “serious offense” in the context of this Act. This type of issue is to be dealt with according to this procedure unless the Parliament itself deals with it. The court had also directed the High Court to take out the child’s name from the Child in Conflict with law. Therefore, the matter was disposed of in the favor of the child.
- In Dr. Subhramanium Swamy And Ors vs Raju The Member Juvenile Justice…, on 28 March 2014, among the five persons, only one was not given the death sentence by the session court. The petitioners had sought in the appeal that the juvenile must also be tried and punished along with the other four accused. The first appeal was filed before the High Court of Delhi which was dismissed. Another appeal was filed before the Supreme Court which was not considered. Thus, the Supreme Court had rejected the application which was filed by Dr. Subhramanian Swamy. And, also the court did not consider the writ petition filed by the victim’s parents.
In the Nirbhaya rape case, one of the five accused got acquitted because he was aged 17½ when he had committed the rape. The child is treated differently from the adult. Various judgments state that the child would be regarded as abandoned if they are not cared for by their parents. Legislatures have taken immediate steps to ensure that the rights of the children are protected. They have also tried their best to ensure that these children could start afresh which is different from their past. Various educational programs, counseling workshops, and developmental activities are conducted to promote values among these children. And, nowadays, a preliminary assessment is conducted to test the mental capacity of the juvenile who has committed a serious offense.
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