TOPIC: General Studies 2
- Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.
- Mechanisms, laws, institutions and Bodies constituted for the protection and betterment of these vulnerable sections.
In News: The Union Cabinet, chaired by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi approved the proposal of the Ministry of Women and Child Development to amend the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015 to introduce measures for strengthening Child Protection set-up to ensure best interest of children.
What is the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children Act) 2015?
- Updated Legislation: It 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.
- Change in nomenclature: The Act changes the nomenclature from Juvenile to child or ‘child in conflict with law’. Also, it removes the negative connotation associated with the word “juvenile”.
- Special Provisions for Age 16-18 years: One of the main provisions of the new Act was that juveniles charged with heinous crimes and who are between the ages of 16-18 years would be tried as adults and processed through the adult justice system. This provision received an impetus after the 2012 Delhi gangrape in which one of the accused was just short of 18 years, and was therefore tried as a juvenile.
- Juvenile Justice Board: The nature of the crime, and whether the juvenile should be tried as a minor or a child, was to be determined by a Juvenile Justice Board (set up in every district). Also Child Welfare Committees must be set up in every district. Both must have at least one woman member each.
- Adoption Related Clauses: Another major provision was that the Act streamlined adoption procedures for orphans, abandoned and surrendered children and the existing Central Adoption Resource Authority (CARA) has been given the status of a statutory body to enable it to perform its function more effectively
- Inclusion of New Offences: The Act included several new offences committed against children (like, illegal adoptions, use of child by militant groups, offences against disabled children, etc) which are not adequately covered under any other law.
What are the amendments passed by the Union Cabinet?
1. The inclusion of serious crimes apart from heinous crimes
- It has included for the first time the category of “serious crimes” differentiating it from heinous crimes, while retaining heinous crimes. Both heinous and serious crimes have also been clarified for the first time, removing any ambiguity.
- What this means is that for a juvenile to be tried for a heinous crime as an adult, the punishment of the crime should not only have a maximum sentence of seven years or more, but also a minimum sentence of seven years.
- This provision has been made to ensure that children, as much as possible, are protected and kept out of the adult justice system.
- Heinous crimes with a minimum imprisonment of seven years pertain mostly to sexual offences and violent sexual crimes. Crime like the possession and sale of an illegal substance, such as drugs or alcohol, will now fall under the ambit of a “serious crime’’.
2. Expanding the purview of district and additional district magistrates
- The NCPCR report pf 2019-19 had found that not a single Child Care Institution in the country was found to be 100 per cent compliant to the provisions of the JJ Act.
- DM and ADMs will monitor the functioning of various agencies under the JJ Act in every district. This includes the Child Welfare Committees, the Juvenile Justice Boards, the District Child Protection Units and the Special juvenile Protection Units.
- Amendment says that no new children’s home can be opened without the sanction of the DM. They are also responsible now for ensuring that CCIs falling in their district are following all norms and procedures (earlier the process was relaxed and lacked effective oversight)
- The DM will also carry out background checks of Child Welfare Committee members, who are usually social welfare activists, including educational qualifications, as there is no such provision currently to check if a person has a case of girl child abuse against him.
- To hasten the process of adoption and ensure the swift rehabilitation of children into homes and foster homes, the amendment further provides that the DM will also now be in charge of sanctioning adoptions, removing the lengthy court process.
While the amendments have been welcomed by most, in its attempt to provide better protection to children in need of care, the challenge perceived is that of having given too many responsibilities to the DM.
The amendments, once approved by Parliament, will increase the role of district magistrates and empower them to undertake inspections of childcare institutions.