An Insight to Juvenile Justice in India
Due to their inability to rationalize decisions children are considered juveniles. And despite the popular belief that children are at their core, purest of heart and any actions performed by them are all out of innocence has been contested upon from centuries. At times children involve themselves in activities which are considered far unacceptable by the standards of societal norms and are consequently considered delinquent. And juveniles who perform these activities are hence marked delinquent juveniles. However, it cannot be neglected that Children are after all irrational, and no matter what they do, every child deserves a second chance at life for they are the faces of tomorrow and with this thought, within the legal subject there is a different branch which deals with juveniles. Hereinafter, the author has tried to express a brief explanation of the juvenile justice system in India from a legal perspective.
THE LEGAL CONCEPT OF JUVENILE DELINQUENCY
The term 'juvenile' has been defined by Rule 2.2 (a) of the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Administration of Juvenile Justice (The Beijing Rules), 1985. It has been stated that "A juvenile is a child or young person who, under the respective legal systems, may be dealt with for an offence in a manner which is different from an adult". In India, Section 2(e) of the Juvenile Justice Act, 1986 had well-defined the term "delinquent juvenile" as follows; "a boy below the age of 16 years and girl below the age of 18 years who has been found to have committed an offence punishable under any law for the time being in force."
However, this particular act of 1986 had been repealed by the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000. In this Act, the phrase "juvenile in conflict with law" has been preferred rather than the term "delinquent juvenile". In Section 2 (l) of the Juvenile Justice Act, 2000, "juvenile in conflict with law" has been mentioned as; "a juvenile who is alleged to have committed an offence and has not completed 18 years of age as on the date of commission of such offence".
In this modern time, the term 'juvenile delinquent' is taken as a belligerent term. And hence a new term has been preferred that is 'juvenile in conflict with law'. All the conducts of a juvenile in conflict with the law come under the jurisdiction of Juvenile Courts and thus India being no different adapted to the changing times repealing its previous act of 1986 in 2000. However, the Juvenile Justice Act, 2000 was replaced by The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015.
THE 2012 DELHI GANG RAPE AND THE EFFECTS ON JUVENILE JUSTICE ACT
The saddening incident that occurred on 16th December 2012 changed the precepts of Juvenile Laws in India since, on this day; an innocent girl of 23 years old was brutally raped and murdered by 6 individuals, 1 of whom was a juvenile. The popularly known 'Nirbhaya Case' had many aftermaths. The key aftermath being the introduction of Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Bill, 2014 by the then Women and Child Development Minister, Maneka Gandhi. Since one of the convicts in Nirbhaya case had been a juvenile, he was released after three years of imprisonment on 20th December 2015, as the law back then considered the convict as a juvenile, under 18 years of age at the time when the crime was committed and hence was not liable for any serious punishment as that of an adult. This brought serious concerns over the Juvenile Justice System in India with numerous uproar and protests.
However, the new Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015 enacted by the Parliament of India has made provisions to allow for juveniles in conflict with the law from the age group of 16-18 years of age to be tried as adults for involvement in brutal crimes. Section 15 of the 2015 Act allows for Preliminary assessment into the heinous offences by the Juvenile Justice Board which can then be passed to Children's Court for the trial of the case having jurisdiction to try such offences as provided in Section 18 (3) of the Act. Section 19 provides in the Powers of Children's Court for the trial of the child as an adult as per the provisions of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 and pass appropriate orders after trial.
Thus, the Juvenile Justice Bill 2015 has brought together a judicial waiver system which will now allow juveniles to be treated as adults in the criminal justice system in certain conditions and punish them as well which is supposed to reduce the criminal tendencies of those juveniles who think they can get away with the crime.
RATIONALE OF JUVENILE JUSTICE SYSTEM
The rationale of the Juvenile Justice System has been well portrayed in rule 1(4) of the General Principles of Beijing Rules, which has stated that; 'Juvenile justice shall be conceived as an integral part of the national development process of each country, within a comprehensive framework of social justice for all juveniles, thus, at the same time, contributing to the protection of the young and the maintenance of a peaceful order in society'.
And hence the bottom line of the entire juvenile justice system can be summarized in the following four ways:-
i. First, to identify the root cause of the delinquent activities which provoke juveniles in committing the offences.
ii. Second, to find the measures to prevent the juveniles from further being hoven into delinquent activities.
iii. Third, to rehabilitate and reform a juvenile who has been convicted for delinquent activities and re-socialize them.
iv. Fourth and final, to address community safety against the threat of delinquents based on correctional and restorative justice.
In India, laws take care of children in need of care and protection to prevent them from coming in conflict with the law, with this view there are two categories of children which have been covered by the Juvenile Laws They are as follows-
a) Children in need of care and protection (CNCP).
b) Juveniles in Conflict with Law (CICL).
The laws concerning juveniles in India have been established for the reduction of deprivation of liberty to least possible form and only in the best interest of the child while at the same time basing any form of treatment to juveniles in conflict with Law on the "principle of diversion and restorative justice". This principle provides in for qualified guiding of children in conflict with the law away from judicial proceedings through proper development and implementation of procedures, structures and such programs which enable many, possibly most, to be dealt with by non-judicial bodies, thereby avoiding any sorts of the adverse effects of formal judicial proceedings and a possible criminal record.
Thus, the Juvenile Laws in India are less punitive towards juveniles with the minimum age of criminal responsibility of 7 years. There are numerous statutory bodies under the law, separate for police inquiry, police investigation and administration of the juvenile justice system. The Child Welfare Committee (CWC) is one such statutory body for inquiry in cases of children in need of care and protection, Juvenile Justice Board (JJB) in case of the juveniles in conflict with law. Other statutory bodies for police investigation include the special juvenile police units (SJPU) at the District Level and Designated Juvenile Welfare Officers (JWO) in every police station. For administration of the Juvenile Justice System, there are other statutory bodies as the State Child Protection Society and District Child Protection Units.
At last but not the least, the ambit of Juvenile Justice in India focuses on the reintegration and rehabilitation of minor convicts with a motive to protect children's rights and give them a chance to live once more. The juvenile system gives every child a second chance at life for they are the change-makers of tomorrow.
1. United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Administration of Juvenile Justice ("The Beijing Rules"), 1985, available at-[https://www.ohchr.org/Documents/ProfessionalInterest/beijingrules.pdf] accessed on July 19 2020.
2. Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000, available at- [https://indiankanoon.org/doc/148942/] accessed on July 18 2020.
3. Juvenile Justice Coordination Committee, 'Juvenile Delinquency' edited by Prof.Dr. Laxmi Prasad Mainali, Rom Thapa, pg. 5 , available at - [http://cjcc.gov.np/pdf/JUVENILEDELINQUENCY-86] accessed on July 19 2020
4. Unicef, Toolkit on Diversion and Alternatives to Detention, available at- [https://www.unicef.org/tdad/index_56037.html] accessed on July 20 2020.
5. Juvenile Justice in India Policy and Implementation Dilemmas, available at – [https://www.slideshare.net/HAQCRCIndia/juvenile-justice-in-india-policy-and-implementation-dilemmas] accessed on July 19 2020.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
This blog has been authored by Prashamsa Ghimire who is a 1st Year B.A., LL.B. (Hons.) student at National Law College, Tribhuvan University, Nepal.
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