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Guidelines for assessment of child suspects in ‘heinous’ offences

Published: 20th Apr, 2023

Context

The National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) has issued guidelines for the first time for conducting “preliminary assessment’’ to determine whether a child should be treated as a minor or not in criminal cases.

About the move:

  • Criminal Cases by children come under the “heinous” offences category of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015.

The JJ Act, 2015 was amended to include “serious’’ offences as a separate category apart from the existing categories of “heinous” offences and “petty” offences.

  • The main aim of the guidelines is to determine whether the accused should be treated as a minor or not during the trial.

Need of assessment:

  • The sole aim of preliminary assessment is to determine whether the child in the age of 16-18 years should be tried as an adult in case of heinous offence.
  • There are two essential conditions that call for preliminary assessment.
  • First, the offence is in the category of “heinous” as defined in the Act.
  • Second, the child who has allegedly committed the crime is in the age group of 16-18 years.

What makes difference amongst type of Crime?

Heinous offences

Petty offences

Serious offences

includes crimes for which the minimum punishment is imprisonment for seven years or more

includes crimes for which the maximum punishment is imprisonment up to three years

 

includes crimes for which the punishment is a minimum imprisonment for a term more than three years and not exceeding seven years

Provision of Juvenile Justice (JJ) Act 2015:

  • Definition of ‘a child’:
  • The child is defined in the JJ Act, 2015 as a person who has not completed 18 years of age, there is a specific provision under which initiation of an inquiry into a heinous crime has been differentiated based on age of the child.
  • According to Section 15(1) of the Act, in case of a heinous offence alleged to have been committed by a child who has completed or is above the age of 16, the Juvenile Justice Board (JJ) shall conduct a preliminary assessment with regard to his mental and physical capacity to commit such offence, ability to understand the consequences of the offence and the circumstances in which he allegedly committed the offence.
  • The Board may then pass an order that there is a need for trial of the child as an adult.

Role of JJ Board:

  • The Juvenile Justice Board (JJB) is solely responsible for conducting preliminary assessment, which it must complete within three months from the date of first production of the child before it.
  • In case the Board determines that there is a need for a trial of the child as an adult, it will then transfer the case to the Children’s Court.

How the exact age is determined by the board?

  • To determine the offender’s age, the JJ Board would either obtain the date of birth certificate from the school, or the matriculation or equivalent certificate from the concerned examination Board in the absence of the birth certificate given by a civic body.
  • Only in cases age shall be determined by an ossification test or any other latest medical age determination test” conducted on the orders of the JJ Board.

National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR):

  • NCPCR is a statutory body under the Commissions for Protection of Child Rights (CPCR) Act, 2005. It comes under the administrative control of the Ministry of Women & Child Development, Government of India.
  • The Child is defined as a person in the 0 to 18 years age group.
  • The commission's mandate is to ensure that all laws, policies, programmes, and administrative mechanisms are in consonance with the Child Rights perspective as enshrined in the Constitution of India and also the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.
  • The Commission visualizes a rights-based perspective flowing into National Policies and Programmes, along with nuanced responses at the State, District and Block levels, taking care of specificity and strengths of each region.
  • Composition:
    • This commission has a chairperson and six members of which at least two should be women.
    • All of them are appointed by the Central Government for three years.
    • The maximum age to serve in commission is 65 years for Chairman and 60 years for members.

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