Juvenile Justice Care and Protection of Children Bill
Till 1986 Juvenile Act, the age up to which a person is considered a juvenile was 16. But in 2000, the age was increased to 18 in the light of UN Human Convention Charter. The present amendment brings it down again to 16.
However, a person between the ages 16-18 if committed a major crime (7 years or more punishment) then he will be tried as an adult. A District Juvenile Justice Board will be established, consisting of 1 judicial magistrate and 2 social workers, to examine the case and determine whether to try the accused as juvenile or as an adult.
India is deviating from the UN Convention on the Rights of Child, aka Beijing Rules, according to which the age is 18 to be considered as a juvenile.
Arguments against new amendments
Up to 18 it is growing age. There is no proof that children will mature quite early by that age.
Juvenile crime has actually come down.
Just on the basis of one case (Nirbhaya case for e.g.) the law should not be changed. Lots of children will be implicated with the new amendments.
Large number of poor children does not have even age certificates. Such children are vulnerable to being wrongly booked as adults under the act.
Many children addicted to drugs and other things which the society is not considering. This has to be solved first. Amendments to law will not solve the problem of juvenile crimes.
It is true that innocent children will implicated with the new amendments. But how can we presume innocence even after committing heinous crimes? For example, in dowry related death cases, if death happens within 7 years of marriage, the partner is presumed to be guilty until proven innocent by himself. The onus of proving innocence is with the accused himself. It is a way to protect the rights of victims. Similarly, if a victim is died due to crime committed by a juvenile, how can the system let him go scot-free on the pretext of juvenile innocence? Such juveniles have to be tried as adults for committing heinous crimes.
To say that innocent children will be implicated is wrong from another perspective. The law provides safeguards for the protection of innocent juveniles. The juvenile justice board headed by a district magistrate has to approve first for a juvenile to be treated as an adult. Indian system has many examples of such safeguards existing in other areas also. For example, a mentally deranged person cannot be taken into custody without permission from a magistrate. Many civilized countries in the world have banned death penalty. But Indian judiciary has invented “rarest of rare case” doctrine and struck a balance without completely saying either yes or no to death penalty. There should always be balance between the rights, values and interests of different parties involved in the case. Hence lowering the age with required safeguard is OK.
Just because the safeguards and other provisions in the law will be misused (for example, misuse of POTA, TADA acts), one cannot argue that such amendments should not be made.
The punishment for juveniles is not life sentence or a death penalty. It is only 3 years.
The need of the hour is a larger budgetary support from government on children to provide better rehabilitation facilities. There should be a balance between both reform and rehabilitation of the juvenile and punishment to juvenile.