Children in Conflict with Law
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This article is written by Sparsh Agrawal, a student of Symbiosis Law School, Hyderabad. In this article, he discusses various procedures pertaining to the Children in conflict with the law under the Juvenile Justice Act, 2015. 

Introduction

The fundamental object of the Juvenile Justice Act is to ensure that the child is protected from violence, abuse, and exploitation. This will ensure that if a child commits an offense he is not tried in the same way as adults. The term “Children in Conflict with the Law” means a person who is below 18 years of age comes in contact with the justice system as a result of being suspected or accused of commission of an offense. A child can come in conflict with the law when he commits petty offenses such as vagrancy, begging, or alcohol use or serious/heinous kinds of offenses such as rape or murder.

Therefore, this article discusses the relevant procedures pertaining to the Children in conflict with the Law under the Juvenile Justice Act, 2015.

Relevant Definitions

Board: The Juvenile Justice Board was constituted under Section 4 of Juvenile Justice Act, 2015. It is a competent authority which deals with the matters pertaining to children in conflict with the law and takes appropriate steps for rehabilitation.

Child Welfare Police Officer: Such an officer is designated in every police station, who is not below the rank of assistant sub-inspector. He deals exclusively with cases pertaining to juveniles in coordination with the police authorities and NGOs.

Children’s Court: The courts are established under the Commission of Protection of Child Rights Act 2005 or under the Protection of Children from Sexual offenses Act, 2012. If at all the court is not existing, the sessions court will have jurisdiction to deal with the matter.

Probation Officer: Such an officer is appointed by the state government as a probation officer under the Probation of Offenders Act, 1958.

Special Juvenile Police Unit: They are present in each district in order to deal with the victims or perpetrators of the crime. They are designated as Child welfare Police officers in every Police Station.

Procedure in relation to Children in Conflict with Law

Chapter IV of the Juvenile Justice Act, 2015 talks about the Procedure in Relation to Children in Conflict in Law.

The apprehension of a child alleged to be in conflict with the law

Section 10 of the Juvenile Justice ( Care and Protection of Children ) Act talks about the apprehension of a child alleged to be in conflict with the law.

The following is the Stepwise procedure to be followed for the apprehension of the child in a conflict of law:

  1. Firstly, the police will inform the Special Juvenile Police Unit about the same. After this, the case will be forwarded to Child Welfare Police Officer of the concerned police station and in order to keep a record of the case, there will be an entry made in the track child portal.
  2. Secondly, there will be the filing of DDR in case of Petty offense, an FIR will be filed for serious crimes or heinous crimes which will depend upon the nature of offense which the alleged child has committed. 

Note: FIR is recorded by the police for cases involving cognizable offenses. The other reports records and cases involving non-cognizable offenses are recorded in daily diary register (DDR).

  1. Thirdly, the child will be sent for a medical examination. This examination shall be carried out by designated Child Wellbeing and Protection Officer (CWPO) or Special Juvenile Police Unit (SJPU). Furthermore, the information about the apprehension shall be sent to the parents and Probation officer to carry out the investigation.
  2. Fourthly, the alleged child shall be produced before a Juvenile Justice Board within 24 hours by the designated Child Welfare Police officer. However, if the board is not in session, the child alleged to be in conflict with the law will be produced before a single member of the Board.
  3. Fifthly, after the child has been produced before the relevant authority, for the time being, the child may be sent to Observation Home/ Place of Safety for temporary shelter or the child may be bailed out of the board.
  4. Sixthly, the designated Child Wellbeing and Protection Officer (CWPO) shall forward the information to DCPU and SALSA in order to assess whether free legal aid is required for the Child alleged to be in conflict with the law.

Do’s and Don’ts at the time of apprehension

  • The child cannot be kept in lock-up or jail or be kept with an adult accused.
  • There must be no delay in the transfer of charge to the Child Welfare Police Officer from the nearest police station.
  • The child cannot be handcuffed or chained.
  • The child must be provided with appropriate medical assistance, along with it he must be provided with assistance from the interpreter if he finds the language difficult to understand or any other assistance as per child’s requirements.
  • Meals must be provided to the child.
  • When the child is interviewed in front of a police officer, his parents can be present.
  • A child cannot be compelled to confess his guilt. Furthermore, he must be interviewed at the Special Juvenile Police Unit or at child-friendly premises or child-friendly corner at the police station.
  • A child cannot be compelled to sign any statement.
  • The police officials at the time of apprehension must be in plain clothes.
  • In case the child is a female, then the female Child Welfare Police officer shall take the female child for apprehension or for production before the Juvenile Justice Board.

Do’s at the time of Child’s Medical Examination

The child alleged to be with the conflict of law can be subjected to sexual abuse or it may be affected by HIV/AIDS or any other disease. This is because such children are more vulnerable and at high risk for physical, emotional, and sexual abuse.

Therefore the following points must be considered at the time of Child’s Medical Examination:

  • The designated Child Welfare Police officer shall take the child to the hospital for medical examination.
  • It must be ensured that the child is comfortable during the medical examination.
  • When there is a female child, the medical examination shall be conducted by a female doctor only.
  • The procedure of medical examination must be clear to the child to ensure there is no anxiety or discomfort to the child.
  • During the process of medical examination, the child cannot be asked questions regarding the case of the child in conflict with the law.
  • The child cannot be asked any personal question.

Procedure on the production of the child accused who is in conflict with the law (Section 14 and Section 15 of the Juvenile Justice Act 2015)

  1. The child who has been alleged to be in conflict with the law has to be produced before the Board within the 24 hours of his apprehension.
  2. The board shall conduct an inquiry in compliance with the provisions of the act and it may pass such orders in relation to such a child as it deems fit in accordance with Section 17 and Section 18 of the Juvenile Justice Act, 2015.
  3.  In case there is a case of heinous offense, then a preliminary assessment under Section 15 must be disposed of by the Board within a period of 3 months from the date when the child was produced before the board for the first time.

Role of persons in whose charge the child has been placed

Section 11 of the Juvenile Justice (Child Protection and Care) Act talks about the role of persons in whose charge the child has been placed. 

The provision states that when a person is in charge of the child, he will have the responsibility of the child as if the said person is the child’s who is responsible for the child’s maintenance. 

The necessary condition provided here is that the person will be in charge of the child for the period stated by the board and notwithstanding the child is claimed by his parents or any other person; except the board is of the opinion that the parent or any other person is fit to exercise charge over such child.

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Bail to a person who is apparently child alleged to be in conflict with the law

Section 12 of the Juvenile Justice (Child Protection and Care) Act talks about the bail to a person who is apparently a child alleged to be in conflict with the law.

The provision states that the juvenile who has committed a bailable or non-bailable offense can be released on bail with or without surety. However, the juvenile cannot be released if there are reasonable grounds that would bring the child in association with any of the known criminals or expose him to any moral, physical or psychological danger or his release would defeat the ends of justice. 

The Hon’ble Supreme Court of India in the Judgement of Om Prakash v. State of Rajasthan observed that the Juvenile Justice act was incorporated with the laudable object of holding separate trials for children/ juvenile as they are pushed by the force of circumstance and not by choice. However, if the juvenile is involved in the commission of “heinous nature” like the rape or murder, providing bail to the juvenile would defeat the purpose of ends of justice as mentioned under Section 12 of the act.

Information to Parents, guardians or probation officer

Section 13 of the Juvenile Justice act talks about the information to parents, guardians, or the probation officer. The provision states that the designated Chief Welfare Police officer of the police station or the Special Juvenile Unit to which the child was brought, must inform the parent or guardian of the child directing them to present before the board where the child was produced.

The probation officer, or if there is no probation officer, a Child Welfare Officer within two weeks must submit a social investigation report regarding the background of the child and other material information for assistance to the Board for initiating the inquiry proceedings.

If at all, the child is released on bail, the probation officer or the Child Welfare Officer must be informed by the Board.

Inquiry by the board

In order to ensure fair and speedy inquiry, the board takes the following steps for inquiry:

  1. At the time of initiating the inquiry by the board, the board must be satisfied that the child who is in conflict with the law is not subjected to any ill-treatment by the police officials or any other persons, this also includes a lawyer, a probation officer. Moreover, if the board recognizes that the child has been subjected to ill-treatment, then it will take corrective steps for the same.
  2. Under the relevant provisions of the act, the proceedings against the child who is in the conflict with the law must take place in the simplest manner. This is done to ensure care for the child and the child is given a child-friendly atmosphere.
  3. The child, when brought before the board, must be given the opportunity of being heard and adequate participation in the inquiry process.
  4. In an inquiry, the cases of “petty offenses” are disposed of by the board through summary proceedings.
  5. In an inquiry, the cases of “serious offenses” are disposed of by the board in accordance with the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 under the procedure for trial in summons cases.
  6. In an inquiry, if the case is found be of “ heinous offense”:
    • The child who is below 16 years of age as on the date of when the offense was committed, shall be disposed by the Board under clause (e).
    • The child who is above the age of 16 years as on the date of when the offense was committed by him, shall be dealt in accordance with the manner stated under Section 15 of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act 2015.
    • The board reserves a right to pass any orders which necessary deems fit for the child. The board can send the child to an observation home or a place of safety or a fit facility or can bail him out if it deems it.
    • After the procedure of inquiry, if the Board is satisfied with the circumstances of the child, it can transfer the child to the Committee if a child is in need of protection and care.
    • The preliminary assessment into heinous offenses: The board does a preliminary assessment into “heinous offense” committed by the child as per Section 15 of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act.
  1. When a heinous offense is alleged to have been committed by the child, who has completed the 16 years of age, the board shall conduct a preliminary assessment pertaining to the mental and physical capacity to commit such an offense, his ability to understand the nature and consequence of the offense he has committed. Moreover, the Board can pass any order under provisions of sub-section (3) of Section 18 of the Juvenile Justice Act,2015. Furthermore, It is mandatory for the board to take the assistance of experienced psychologists or psycho-social workers or any other expert suitable for the job.
  2. When the Board is satisfied with the procedure of preliminary assessment it will dispose of the matter in accordance with the trial in summons case mentioned under the trial of summons case under Criminal Procedure Code, 1973.

Orders regarding the child

Section 18 of the Juvenile Justice ( Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015 talks about the orders regarding the child found to be in conflict with the law.

It states that:

  1. If the board is satisfied with the inquiry irrespective of his age he has committed the petty offense, serious offense, or he is below 16 years of age and commits a heinous offense; then notwithstanding anything in contravention to any other law, and based on the nature of offense if there is a specific need of supervision or intervention, and circumstances which are brought under the social investigation report and about the past conduct of the child, the Board may, it deems it to be fit:
  1. Allow the child to go, if there is compliance with the procedures of inquiry and there is counseling given to the child or to his parents or guardian.
  2. The board can even direct a child to participate in group counseling and activities of a similar nature.
  3. It can also issue an order that the child must perform community service under the supervision of the organization and institution appointed by the board.
  4. The board can order the child or his parents or guardian to pay the fine, provided that if the child is working the provisions of labor law are not violated.
  5. The board can allow the child to be released on probation for his good behavior and can place him under the care of a parent or guardian or a fit person. The board will execute a bond with such a person, with or without surety that person will work for a child’s good conduct and well being for not exceeding 3 years.
  6. The board can direct the child to be released on probation of his good conduct under the care and supervision of a fit facility which will ensure good behavior and well-being of the child for a period not exceeding 3 years. 
  7. The board can even direct the child to be sent to a special home for not exceeding 3 years in order to provide reformative services such as education, development of skills, counseling, behavior modification therapy, psychiatric support.
  1. In addition to the orders mentioned in (a) to (g); the board can pass orders to:
  • Attend school
  • Attend vocational training center
  • Attend a therapeutic center
  • Prohibit a child from visiting a particular place
  • order the child to undergo a de-addiction program
  1. The board after the preliminary assessment under the Section 15 of the act can pass an order if at all there is a need of trial of the child as an adult, then the Board will order the transfer of the child’s case to the Children’s Court which has the requisite jurisdiction for dealing such type of offenses.

Provisions regarding the Child runaway

Section 26 of the Juvenile Justice Act talks about the provisions regarding the Child runaway in conflict with the law.

The aforementioned provision states that any police officer can take charge of the child who has run away from a special home or an observation home or place of safety or any other care of a person or an institution where the child is placed. 

Further, the child must be produced within 24 hours preferably before the board has passed the order or the nearest board where the child was found.

Then, the Board will ascertain the reasons behind running away from the child and it can pass necessary orders of sending the child back to the institution or person or any other place that the board thinks is fit for the child. Along with this, the board must also issue additional directions of special steps to ensure that the child’s interests are protected.

It is pertinent to note that, no additional proceedings can be instituted against the child.

Conclusion

The procedure for children in conflict with the law is established in order to ensure that the justice system does not focus more on the punishment, but follows an approach to rehabilitate and reintegrate the child into the society in order to prosper their future endeavors. The provisions of the impugned procedures under the act ensures that the children are prosecuted in a children-friendly manner and not treated as adults. However, if a child commits an offense of heinous nature then he can undergo the same trial as an adult in order to achieve ends of justice.


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