The article is written by Jyotika Saroha. The article deals with Section 75 of the Juvenile Justice Act 2015, which talks about the punishment for cruelty to children. It primarily discusses the meaning of cruelty, acts that amount to cruelty, and significant legislation providing for the protection of children. Further, it talks about the important provisions of the said Act and the ingredients laid down in Section 75. Lastly, the article addresses statistics pertaining to crimes against children in India.

“The most sophisticated people I know-inside, they are all children.” ~Jim Henson


India is a country that consists of various religions, castes, sects, and cultures. For any country to achieve developed status, it must focus on the growth and development of its children. It is a well-known fact that the Indian government always tries to uplift children by promoting their growth and development through the implementation of various schemes and projects. Despite adopting several measures to promote their growth, there are certain factors that affect it, with cruelty being one of them. Cruelty is prevalent in the country and affects not only children but also individuals of other age groups. Nowadays, many cases of abuse and cruelty against children are being reported on a daily basis, and the data is pretty shocking. It has taken many forms, ranging from bodily injury to sexual, physical, and mental abuse.

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What is cruelty

Cruelty involves the infliction of cruel, brutal, harsh, and extremely ferocious treatment upon a person. It entails administering unwarranted mental, physical, or emotional pain to a person. In Russell v. Russell (1997), the word ‘cruelty’ was defined as conduct that poses danger to health or life and causes harm to the body or mental state of a person. The element of apprehension is of utmost importance in this definition, and without the presence of apprehension, the act would not amount to cruelty. This definition, established in the 19th century, widely covers both physical as well as mental cruelty. 

Children are considered the most vulnerable section of society, and even after numerous schemes and projects aimed at uplifting children, they are still subjected to cruelty and other heinous crimes. Cruelty to children refers to the act of causing negligence towards a child, physical harm to his body, or any other harm that may endanger their life and lead to psycho-social impacts on his or her health. 

Acts that amount to cruelty to children

According to societal standards, parents often believe that behaving in a strict manner and rebuking children for small things will prevent a child from misbehaving. However, some children, after experiencing such severe treatment from their parents, take drastic measures, such as committing suicide, involving themselves in the wrong company, or leaving their homes. Following are some acts that amount to cruelty:

Scolding or beating at school

Children in schools not only face harsh treatment from their parents but also from their teachers. Scolding and beating children at school by teachers could have serious impacts on the psychological health of a child. It may cause stress, anxiety, and depression in the child. They may also show aggressive behaviour sometimes, which will indirectly cause harm to them. In order to prevent the abuse caused to children in schools, it is the duty of the teachers and other staff members to create a friendly environment rather than beating them or scolding them for minor mistakes.

Neglecting and abusive behaviour by parents

In India, it is generally seen that parents beat their children in order to make them learn something, be it discipline, etiquette, or studying, but due to such behaviour, a feeling of fear is being created, which is not good for their growth and development. It makes them emotionally vulnerable; the child may feel bad about such behaviour, and it can have a negative impact on his or her mind.

Cruelty to children is a serious phenomenon prevalent in society at present, which not only hinders their growth but also impacts their mental well-being. There are various offences committed against children that have been prevalent in society since traditional times, but now the numbers have seen a steady increase. These offences include child prostitution, child trafficking, kidnapping, child labour in factories, child begging, and involving children in the sale of drugs, etc. The most vulnerable targets are those who come from poor families or belong to the weaker strata of society. 

Legislations regarding the protection of children

There are various laws that provide protection to children, obliging states to take necessary measures to ensure the primary responsibility for the betterment of children in every sphere of their lives. The Indian Constitution provides for provisions that empower children by promoting their welfare.

Article 14 states that every citizen is equal in the eyes of the law. The word ‘citizen’ includes every man, woman, and child as equals in the eyes of law.

In Gaurav Jain v. Union of India (1997), the Supreme Court laid down that the children of a prostitute have the same rights and opportunities as those of other children. As per Article 14 of the Indian Constitution, all citizens shall be treated equally in the eyes of the law and are entitled to the same legal protections as those of others.

Article 15 provides for the prohibition of discrimination and also obliges the state to make special provisions regarding women and children. This provision has been added in order to protect and promote their welfare. The objective of this special provision is to uplift women and children through various policies and programs, for instance, by providing them with reservations in educational institutions, health facilities, etc.

Article 21A was added to the Indian Constitution by way of the 86th Amendment, making it compulsory for the state to provide free education to children between the ages of 6-14. This Amendment is considered an important step that helps in promoting the growth and development of children. In the case of Mohini Jain v. State of Karnataka (1992), it was held that the right to education is an important fundamental right and should be protected at every cost. It is the duty of the state to ensure that proper education is being provided to the children owing to their financial ability.

Article 24 provides for provisions relating to child labour and prohibits the employment of children in factories who are below the age of 14 years. In the case of People’s Union for Democratic Rights v. Union of India (1983), the petitioner organisation saw the bad working conditions of children who were below the age of 14 in various Asian projects. The Court, in its judgement, stated that the said construction activity is very dangerous for children. The Court looked into the provisions of the Employment of Children Act, 1938, which does not include the children under 14 years of age who were working on dangerous construction activities. The Supreme Court directed the states to include the said hazardous construction industries in the list of the Act. 

Article 39(f) provides that the state is under the responsibility to make sure that children are getting proper opportunities and facilities to develop in a healthy manner. It further ensures that their childhood is not affected by any kind of exploitation.

The legislation that prohibits the employment of children is the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986. It prohibits the employment of children in hazardous factories and mines and lays down certain regulations in order to protect children from exploitation. 

Further, the legislation regarding the protection of children from sexual offences and addressing such crimes is the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012. It defines ‘child’ as a person below the age of 18 and outlines various forms of child abuse and sexual abuse against children. This Act is significant legislation in terms of child protection and promoting their overall growth. It is characterised by child-friendly provisions that prioritise the well-being and future of children.

In addition, the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015, focuses on the proper care, development, and promotion of the social welfare of children. This legislation aims to provide a supportive environment for children’s growth while ensuring their protection and rehabilitation when necessary. 

Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015

The very first legislation that dealt with juvenile justice came into force in 1850, which provided for the training of children that had been convicted of different offences. Later, the National Children’s Act, 1960, came into force with the intervention of the government but was eventually replaced by the Juvenile Justice Act, 1986. In 1992, when India signed the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC), the Juvenile Justice Act, 2000 was implemented to align with the standards of the convention. Subsequently, the 2002 Act was also repealed”, and the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015, came into force in order to meet the standards prescribed by international conventions. Prior to this, there was no uniformity in the laws regarding the protection and care of children and the age limitation of juveniles. 

Data from the National Crime Record Bureau (NCRB) shows that there has been an increase in crimes committed by juveniles aged between 16 and 18. In the Delhi gangrape case, one of the accused was tried as a juvenile, as he was 17 years old at the time. He had committed the most brutal act among all of them and was sentenced under the previous Juvenile Justice Act. He was sent to the rehabilitation home after committing the crime as he was below the age of 18. The case of a juvenile was one of the most controversial and debated topics at that time. Following this tragic incident, there have been demands to reduce the age of juveniles under the said Act. The juvenile was not tried as an adult at that time, but due to the public hue and cry Amendments made in the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015, juveniles within the age group of 16-18 who are involved in such serious crimes can now be tried as adults.

The Juvenile Justice Act, 2015 defines ‘child’ under Section 2(12) as a person who is below the age of 18 years. The Act categorises children into two main groups: “child in conflict with law,” defined under Section 2(13) of the Act, which refers to a child who has committed an offence or is below the age of 18 years, and “child in need of care and protection” outlined under Section 2(14)”, which refers to a child:

  • Who is found without any home or is found without any means of livelihood.
  • Who is found begging, living on a street, or working in contravention to the labour laws
  • Who is living with a person or a guardian who has caused him injury or has exploited, abused, or neglected him. The said person has threatened to kill, injure, or exploit him.
  • Who is mentally incapable or mentally unsound and has no one to support him or look after him.
  • Whose parents have abandoned him and are not willing to take care of him.
  • Who has run away from his home.
  • Who seems to be vulnerable and is likely to get involved in drug abuse or trafficking.
  • Who is a victim of an armed conflict, natural calamities, or of any civil unrest.

The Act also classifies offences under the categories of petty offences, serious offences, and heinous offences.

Section 75 of Juvenile Justice Act, 2015 

Section 75 of the Juvenile Justice Act, 2015, deals with the punishment for cruelty to a child. It states that if a person who has actual control or charge of a child assaults, abandons, neglects him wilfully, abuses him, or exposes him, causing mental or physical illness to that child, the person shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years and also with a fine of one lakh rupees or with both. The first proviso to this section states that if a child is abandoned by the biological parents in some unforeseen circumstances or due to reasons that are out of their control, then it shall be presumed that such abandonment is not wilful, and the provisions of this Act shall not apply in such cases.

The second proviso to this section provides for the offence of assaulting, abandoning, neglecting, or abusing the child by a person employed by an organisation entrusted with the protection and care of the child. As per this section, he shall be punished with a rigorous imprisonment that may extend up to five years and a fine that may extend up to five lakh rupees.

The third proviso to this section lays down that if, due to such cruelty committed against the child, he has become physically disabled, mentally incapable, or rendered mentally ill to perform regular tasks, or has a risk to life, such person shall be punishable with rigorous imprisonment for not less than three years, which may also extend to ten years, and he shall also be liable to a fine of five lakh rupees. 

Exceptions to the rule under Section 75 

The Juvenile Justice Act, 2015, provides for exceptions for the biological parents of a child subjected to cruelty. Section 75 of the Juvenile Justice Act, 2015, deals with the punishment for cruelty to a child, but there is an exception provided within the proviso to said section. The very first proviso to Section 75 states that if the child is being abandoned by the biological parents due to some unavoidable circumstances beyond their control, then that act would not attract the punishment laid down under Section 75 of the Juvenile Justice Act, 2015. If this were to happen, then it shall be presumed that such an act or abandonment is not willful and is totally done in some unforeseen circumstances.

Also, recently, in Kothakonda Aishwarya v. The State of Telangana (2023), the Telangana High Court held that if a juvenile works voluntarily or by his own wish, then Section 75, which deals with the punishment for cruelty to a child, and Section 79, which deals with the provision regarding the exploitation of a child employee, a punishable offence under the said section, would not come into effect. 

Further, in the case of Anurag s/o Jamnashankar Pandey v. State of Maharashtra (2022), the petitioner, a headmaster, was accused of violating Section 75 of the Juvenile Justice Act. The Bombay High Court observed that the phrase “actual charge of, or control of,” implies that the children should be under the actual charge or control of a person. The court further held that the petitioner, merely by virtue of his position, could not be held liable under Section 75, emphasising that a person must either commit the offence or contribute towards its commission to be held liable. This case highlights the requirement for real, rather than theoretical, control over children to establish liability under Section 75. 

Statistics regarding crimes against children

Criminal litigation

According to the data published by the government, one child goes missing every nine minutes. In 2011, it was shown that around 36,000 children were reported missing, and not all cases were reported to the police. The possibility exists that all the children who go missing are either trafficked or kidnapped. Trafficked kids are subjected to physical as well as mental cruelty. They are beaten, tortured, and sold in foreign countries in order to involve them in illegal activities like drugs, prostitution, etc. for money. In the recent scenario, around 1.68 lakh cases of crimes against children were booked in the year 2022, compared to 1.28 lakh in the year 2020. These crimes include cases of kidnapping and abduction. Rape is considered the most heinous crime, and between 2016 and 2022, over 96 percent of rape cases were registered, as per the National Crime Record Bureau (NCRB).

In Bachpan Bachao Andolan v. Union of India and Ors. (2011), a public interest litigation was filed under Article 32 of the Constitution in the wake of serious crimes committed against children, including physical, mental, or emotional abuse and inhumane treatment. The Court took cognizance of the said matter and issued certain directions, like mandatory registration of cases by police officials involved in cases of missing children, preparation of standard operating procedures in all states, appointment of special child welfare officers, etc. The Ministry of Women and Child Development came up with Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) regarding cases of missing children.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has provided a definition of child maltreatment as the abuse or neglected behaviour that happens to a child who is below 18 years of age. It includes all types of maltreatment that happen to a child, such as sexual abuse, beating, torturing, physical or emotional abuse, etc., that can cause possible harm to the health, development, and dignity of a child. Studies suggest that children who are prone to these types of violence do not receive sufficient nutrition, a child-friendly environment, or good opportunities. In the famous book named Bitter Chocolate, the author highlights how punishing or physically abusing children in India for minor mistakes is a cultural norm. 

Looking at the condition of children in foreign countries like the United Kingdom, various legislation dealing with child abuse has also been enacted in order to promote their welfare and protect them from harassment. Both India and the United Kingdom focus on the protection of children from any kind of maltreatment. For instance, POCSO has enabled the setting up of Special Courts to deal with cases relating to child abuse, and in the United Kingdom, there are Crown Courts to deal with such cases.

However, instances of child abuse persist worldwide. In one such case, a Norway-based Indian couple named Chandrasekhar Vallabhaneni and Anupama used to maltreat their child. When the case went to the Norwegian Court, they were charged with torturing and maltreating their child and found guilty of burning and beating him.

A recent incident in Agra, Uttar Pradesh, enraged the nation when a school teacher asked students to slap an eight-year old boy belonging to a minority community and made communal comments. Following this incident, the teacher was faced with charges under Section 504 and Section 323 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860, for intentionally insulting and with an intention to provoke children, and for voluntarily causing hurt. After a thorough investigation into the incident, the teacher was also booked under Section 75 of the Juvenile Justice Act, 2015. A separate FIR was also lodged under Section 74 of the said Act against an employee of Alt News for disclosing the identity of the minor child, as Section 74 prohibits the disclosure of the identity of children.

This incident highlights the importance of protecting children, as indicated in the ongoing case of Kriti Kishore Chavan and Anr v. The State of Maharashtra (2020), where the court, while reviewing the matter, emphasised the necessity of examining evidence before deciding whether to proceed with trial or drop the charges under the Juvenile Justice Act. In this case, the court examined the application for discharge in light of the allegations under Sections 75 and 79 of the Juvenile Justice Act. The court noted that the victim, a female child, was kept at the accused’s house for work, possibly violating this rule. As a result, the court rejected the application for discharge, emphasising the need to consider the evidence before deciding whether to proceed with the trial or drop the charges. 

Some preventive measures

Children are considered the most vulnerable section of society, and they need extreme protection and care, especially during their childhood days. Following are some preventive measures that could help in preventing abuse or cruelty to a child.

Child-friendly environment

In order to prevent children from experiencing any kind of abuse or cruelty, it is essential to create a child-friendly environment at home or at school. Parents should involve themselves with their children while talking, playing, and helping them in their studies. They should give proper time to their children. There should be a high level of understanding between children and parents, and parents should understand the unsaid or unnoticed aspects of their kids. Children should be treated gently and lovingly and should not be punished or rebuked for minor mistakes. 

Mental and physical fitness

To ensure their mental and physical fitness, proper, nutritious food should be given to them. Also, children should learn discipline from their childhood only in order to tackle any kind of difficulties that come to them in the future. Discipline is key to good etiquette and maintaining good social and emotional behaviour. 

Education and awareness

Education and awareness are also the most important facets of providing a balanced life for children. It is important for society to learn about measures to provide a better and safer environment for children. Parents should make sure that their children are spending time with the right persons and are not learning habits that can influence them badly.

Child welfare programs

Child welfare programs play a great role in lessening such crimes against children as they spread awareness about the child rights and responsibilities of adults towards them. There are various child development programs conducted by the government at different levels that focus on the growth and development of children.


It can be stated that treating a child in an ill-mannered way, physically or mentally abusing them, or subjecting them to cruelty is unfortunately a dark reality in today’s world. Cruelty towards children has become a very common phenomenon not only in India but also in other countries, with an increase in criminal activities targeting children. This issue is highly sensitive, as children constitute one of the most vulnerable sections of society, and most cases of child cruelty go unnoticed and unreported due to the stigma associated with them. Often, people tend to overlook such cases due to their sensitive nature. 

Over the years, the government has taken significant steps to promote the welfare of children and protect them from any kind of abuse. However, such practices are not confined to rural or poor households but also exist in modern cities, adversely affecting the mental well-being of children. To prevent such abusive behaviour, a child-friendly environment needs to be fostered. Children rely on adults for care and guidance, and they should be treated in a friendly manner while being provided with proper care and opportunities.   

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) 

What amounts to cruelty?

Acts that amount to cruelty include physical and emotional abuse, abusive behaviour, willful neglect, and actions that may pose a threat to life or cause bodily harm to a person. 

What is child abuse or neglect?

Children are the most vulnerable section of society and are exposed to various forms of abuse, be it physical, mental, or emotional, from their parents, relatives, teachers, or peers. Neglecting a child means neglecting his or her basic needs, not providing him or her adequate food, clothes, study materials, and other things, including love and affection from their parents, which is a very common kind of abuse.

What could be some signs that a child is facing trauma and needs help?

If a child is looking lost, not feeling good, not playing as on usual days, showing different behaviour, feeling sad or depressed, not talking with anyone, or feeling scared to sleep without anyone, these factors might indicate that a child is facing trauma and needs support from his or her parents or from the person concerned.

What is the exception to Section 75 of the Juvenile Justice Act, 2015?

Section 75 of the Juvenile Justice Act, 2015, prescribes the punishment for assaulting, abandoning, neglecting, or abusing a child. However, according to the proviso to the section, if a child is abandoned by their biological parents due to some unavoidable circumstances that are not in their control, it shall be presumed that they have not willfully abandoned the child, and it shall not attract the punishment laid down in Section 75 of the said Act.


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