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Juvenile Justice Amendment Act may backfire

  • Category
    Polity & Governance
  • Published
    6th Jul, 2022

Overview

  • About Juvenile Justice Act
  • Need to Invoke such laws
  • Recent Amendments
  • Concerns

Context

State Commissions for the Protection of Child Rights in Delhi, Punjab, Chandigarh, Rajasthan and West Bengal have publicly spoken out against the 2021 JJ Act amendment and have even flagged it to the Union government.

Background

  • The JJ Act was introduced and passed in Parliament in 2015 to replace the Juvenile Delinquency Law and the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children Act) 2000.
  • This provision received impetus after the 2012 Delhi gang rape in which one of the accused was just short of 18 years, and was therefore tried as a juvenile.
  • The JJ Act, 2015, was amended in 2021 to introduce multiple changes. It has received Presidential assent and has been notified as well.
    • However, its implementation has still not been ordered. 

Analysis

How has the Act evolved?

  • Year 2000
  • The Juvenile Justice (JJ) system is based on principles of promoting, protecting and safeguarding the rights of children.
  • It was enacted by the Indian Parliament in 1986.
  • In the year 2000, the Act was comprehensively revised based on the
    • United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), which India had ratified in 1992
    • the Beijing Rules
    • the United Rules for the Protection of Juveniles Deprived of their Liberty; and all other national and international instruments
  • The Act clearly defined children as persons up to the age of 18 years (Section 2 (k) of the Act defines “child” as a person who has not completed eighteen years of age.)
    • The Act is based on the provisions of Indian Constitution and the four broad rights defined by the UN CRC:
      • Right to Survival
      • Right to Protection
      • Right to Development
      • Right to Participation
  • Year 2015
  • The JJ Act, 2015 combined and amended the law associated to children who are positively asserted and found in conflict with the law and the child needs to provide care and security.

Recent amendments to the JJ Act, 2015:

  • Adoption:Under the Act, once prospective adoptive parents accept a child, an adoption agency files an application in a civil court to obtain the adoption order.  The adoption order issued by the court establishes that the child belongs to the adoptive parents.  
    • The amendment provides that instead of the court, the district magistrate (including additional district magistrate) will perform these duties and issue all such orders. 
  • Appeals:The 2015 Act provides that there will be no appeal for any order made by a Child Welfare Committee concluding that a person is not a child in need of care and protection.  
    • The amendment removes this provision.
  • Serious offences:The Act provides that the Juvenile Justice Board will inquire about a child who is accused of a serious offence.  
    • The amendment adds that serious offences will also include offences for which maximum punishment is imprisonment of more than seven years, and minimum punishment is not prescribed or is less than seven years.

Serious offences are those for which the punishment is imprisonment between three to seven years.  

  • Offences against children: The Act provides that an offence under the Act, which is punishable with imprisonment between three to seven years, will be cognizable (where arrest is allowed without warrant) and non-bailable.  
    • The amendment provides that such offences will be non-cognizable and non-bailable.

What important bodies are pointing out at the amendments?

  • Preventing police from making arrest: The child rights bodies pointed out an amendment in Section 86 (2) of the JJ Act, 2015, which changed the nature of certain serious crimes from “cognisable” to “non-cognisable”.
    • The crucial amendment will prevent the police from arresting the accused without a warrant and start an investigation without the permission of the court. 
  • Violates India’s international obligation: The commissions also argued that the amendment to the 2015 Act violates India’s international obligation for being a signatory in United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child or even the progressive spirit of the JJ Act, 2015.

What is claimed by the government?

  • The Union government had claimed that it had reclassified the crimes in the amended act to shield children from arrest without warrant in such cases.

Facts:

  • Data from the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) shows that since it started recording these crimes in 2017, they had risen by over 700% by 2019.
  • The NCRB in 2017 recorded 278 cases of crimes committed by CCI in-charges across India involving 328 child victims.
  • These cases rose to 1,968 by 2019, involving as many as 2,699 child victims.

Way Forward

Government should constitute a panel taking members from different stakeholders to examine and scrutinize all the details of the act once again from alpha to omega. Also the government should take the state commissions, child activists, civil societies, and people at large, in confidence and ensure that their apprehensions are taken care of.

PRACTICE QUESTION

Q1. Critically analyze the provisions of the Juvenile Justice Amendment Act 2021.

Q2. Why is juvenile delinquency on the rise? What measures have been taken to address it?

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