Juvenile justice bill 2014 is the most awaited amendment to JJ act 2000 in the wake of release of Juvenile convict in Nirbhaya case. Some claim the bill is need of the hour to act as a perfect deterrent against juvenile crimes while we also certain sections of the populations claiming the bill violates the basic tenets of child rights
The Juvenile justice bill 2014 mainly amends five important aspects of the Juvenile justice bill 2000
The Bill replaces the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000. It addresses children in conflict with law and children in need of care and protection
The Bill permits juveniles between the ages of 16-18 years to be tried as adults for heinous offences. Also, any 16-18 year old, who commits a lesser, i.e., serious offence may be tried as an adult only if he is apprehended after the age of 21 years.
Juvenile Justice Boards (JJB) and Child Welfare Committees (CWC) will be constituted in each district. The JJB will conduct a preliminary inquiry to determine whether a juvenile offender is to be sent for rehabilitation or be tried as an adult. The CWC will determine institutional care for children in need of care and protection.
Eligibility of adoptive parents and the procedure for adoption have been included in the Bill.
Penalties for cruelty against a child, offering a narcotic substance to a child, and abduction or selling a child have been prescribed.
Issues of the bill
The bill is an attempt to strike a perfect balance between punishing and reforming of the juvenile however there are certain aspects of the bill which needs to addressed in a holistic approach to make it more sensible and just.
There are differing views on whether juveniles should be tried as adults. Some argue that the current law does not act as a deterrent for juveniles committing heinous crimes. Another view is that a reformative approach will reduce likelihood of repeating offences.
The bill talks about establishing Juvenile justice boards in every district. However nowhere in the bill it is clearly mentioned about the functioning and how the juvenile boards are constituted.This needs to be addressed.
Even though the bill fixes frequency of meetings of child welfare committees. The credible functioning of child welfare committees is highly disputed and again the bill does not address this issue.
The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child requires all signatory countries to treat every child under the age of 18 years as equal. The provision of trying a juvenile as an adult contravenes the Convention
Article 20(1) of the Constitution states that a person cannot be subjected to a penalty greater than what would have been applicable to him, under a law in force at the time of commission of the offence Under the Bill, if a juvenile between the ages of 16-18 years commits an offence and is apprehended at a later date,he may face a higher penalty than what would be applicable to him if he had been apprehended at the time of commission of the offence. This provision in the bill is against the spirit of article 20(1)of Indian constitution
The bill is in contravention with article 14 as the bill creates distinction between two juveniles who have committed the same offence on the basis of the date of apprehension. This needs to be addressed
The bill is also in contravention with article 21. It states that no person can be deprived of their right to life or personal liberty, except according to procedure established by law. The differentiation based on the date of apprehension may fail this standard.
The definition of the term Orphanage is highly controversial. This definition is literally shouldering away the responsibility,safety and security of the child. This needs to be tweaked.
“After care” is another issue that needs to be addressed properly. Vast majority of intellectuals are questioning that how One time financial assistance which will be given to the child after his term at child care centre will help him in getting education or vocational skills. By leaving a child who has no education or skill to society this bill is doing more bad than good.
The bill does not talk about the welfare of the children who are already present in the juvenile homes or children who are leaving on streets. The bill majorly focuses on the children who have committed serious offences.
Juvenile justice bill is the much needed reform. With some minor changes in the bill this can play a very important role in creating an awareness in the society and also among the children who commits such serious offence. It is the collective responsibility of parents ,Society and state in nurturing the kids in true spirit so that they do not become detrimental to the welfare of the nation.It is high time that the bill should be passed and then the focus should tilt towards the right implementation of it.