08 Jul Juvenile Justice Amendment Act – A socio-economic analysis
Ministry of Women and Child Development had introduced the act in the aftermath of the Nirbhaya Rape case.
Provisions of the original Act:
- It classifies offences as petty, serious and heinous with different processes for each category.
- Age reduced from 18 years to 16 years for, to be treated as adult, in case of heinous crimes. And also gives statutory status to the Child Adoption Resources Authority (CARA).
- It also proposes several rehabilitation and social integration measures for institutional and non-institutional children. It provides for sponsorship and foster care as completely new measures. It also covers children requiring care, protection, and adoptions (a single male cannot adopt a girl child).
- Mandatory registration of all institutions engaged in providing child care.
- New offences including illegal adoption, corporal punishment in child care institutions, the use of children by militant groups, and offences against disabled children are also incorporated.
- The Juvenile Justice Board will assess whether the perpetrator of a heinous crime aged between 16 and 18, had acted as a ‘child’ or as an ‘adult.’ The board will be assisted in this process by psychologists and social experts.
Rationale of the bill:
- Under the existing act, the government is facing implementation hurdles and procedural delays. The National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) data also underscores a surge in juvenile crime, especially in the 16-18 age bracket.
- The Supreme Court had also asked the government to re-visit the Juveniles law so that a juvenile accused of rape and murder cannot get away by claiming he was too young to understand the consequences of his crime.
Supreme Court in Shahaab Ali vs State of U.P:
- The Supreme Court has made it clear that the police has no right to detain children in conflict with law in a lockup or a jail. S/he has to be placed immediately under the care of the special juvenile police unit or a designated child welfare officer.
- The child has to be produced before the Juvenile Justice Board (JJB).
- Once a child is produced before a JJB, bail is the rule (43A). And even if, for some reason, bail is not granted, a child cannot be put behind bars. He has to be lodged either in an observation home or in a place of safety.
The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Amendment Act 2021
- It means that DMs and ADMs will monitor the functioning of various agencies under the JJ Act in every district – including the Child Welfare Committees, the Juvenile Justice Boards, the District Child Protection Units and the Special Juvenile Protection Units.
- The DM will also carry out background checks of CWC members, who are usually social welfare activists. This can prevent child abuses.
- Instead of the court, the District Magistrate (including Additional District Magistrate) will now issue adoption orders.
- Rehabilitation Management Committee set up under JJ Act said that the juvenile’s mental health report was not available in most cases, which is a crucial part of the rehabilitation plan. Thus, not letting people to understand the condition of the juvenile viz., whether he has remorse on the act or not.
- An emotionally disturbed young person would need a comprehensive and long-term mental health plan including services like psychiatric assessment and therapy, counselling, day-to-day supervision, monitoring, life skills education, etc.
- The main failure is in the juvenile justice cares homes and their working which allows the radicalization and exploitation of the juvenile rather than rehabilitation.
- A committee setup by US centre for disease control, reviewed the US juvenile transfer system and found that those transferred to adult jails became more hardened criminals then those who served juvenile rehabilitation centre.
Thus in conclusion it can be said that the act has various provisions to deal with the necessity of the life. However the recent amendment has been debated to strengthening the bureaucracy at the cost of civil society.