- GS-2: Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.
- GS-2: Mechanisms, laws, institutions and Bodies constituted for the protection and betterment of these vulnerable sections.
The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Amendment Bill, 2021
Context: The above bill which seeks to amend the Juvenile Justice Act, 2015, was passed by both Houses of Parliament.
Key Features of Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children Act) 2015
- 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.
- 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: It 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.
Key Features of 2021 Amendment Bill
- Re-defines Serious offences
“serious offences” includes the offences for which the punishment
under the Indian Penal Code or any other law for the time being in force, is,
- minimum imprisonment for a term more than three years and not exceeding seven years; or
- maximum imprisonment for a term more than seven years but no minimum imprisonment or minimum imprisonment of less than seven years is provided.
Under the 2015 Act offences committed by juveniles are categorised as heinous offences, serious offences, and petty offences
- There was ambiguity over definition of “Serious Crime” hence the amendment tries to define it.
- Heinous Crimes are those where maximum sentence of seven years or more, but also a minimum sentence of seven years.
- Classification of offences
- Offences punishable with imprisonment of more than 7 years shall be cognizable and non-bailable.
- cognizable – where arrest is allowed without warrant
- Offences punishable with imprisonment between 3-7 years shall be non-cognizable and non-bailable. Earlier, such offences are cognizable and non-bailable.
- Offences punishable with imprisonment less than 3 years shall be non-cognizable and bailable
- Designated Court
- The Bill also proposes that notwithstanding anything contained in CrPC or the POCSO Act, or the Child Rights Act, offences under the JJ Act shall be triable by the Children’s Court.
- Presently, only such offences that are punishable with imprisonment for more than 7 years are triable by the Children’s Court. Other offences (punishable with imprisonment less than 7 years) are triable by Judicial Magistrate.
- Currently, adoption procedure involves a seal of approval by the Civil Court, which passes the final adoption order.
- The Bill provides that instead of the court, the District Magistrate (including Additional District Magistrate) will issue such adoption orders, both for intra-country and inter-country adoptions.
- The bill provides that any person aggrieved by an adoption order passed by the District Magistrate may file an appeal before the Divisional Commissioner within a period of 30 days.
- Endeavour shall be made to dispose of such appeals within 4 weeks
- Additional Functions of District Magistrate (DM)
- DM including Addition DM will monitor the functions of various agencies under JJ Act.
- This includes the Child Welfare Committees, the Juvenile Justice Boards, the District Child Protection Units and the Special juvenile Protection Units.
- No new children’s home can be opened without the sanction of the DM.
- DM is also responsible now for ensuring that child Care institutions falling in their district are following all norms and procedures (earlier the process was relaxed and lacked effective oversight)
- Child Welfare Committees (CWCs)
- The Bill seeks to strengthen the CWCs by incorporating provisions relating to educational qualifications for its members and stipulating eligibility conditions for selection of the Committee
The bill provides that a person will not eligible to be a member of the CWC if he/she
- has any record of violation of human rights or child rights,
- has been convicted of an offence involving moral turpitude,
- has been removed or dismissed from service of the central government, or any state government, or a government undertaking,
- is part of the management of a child care institution in a district.
Removal of Members: The appointment of any member of the committee shall be terminated by the state government after an inquiry if they fail to attend the proceedings of the CWCs consecutively for three months without any valid reason or if they fail to attend less than three-fourths of the sittings in a year
Critical Analysis of Amendment Bill:
- The Bill puts entire onus of children’s welfare on District Magistrates, ignoring the fact that the DMs are over-burdened authorities, with the charge of entire district and other multifarious duties.
- Centralizing all powers with respect to children rehabilitation in one authority (DMs) may lead to delays, and may have wider repercussions on child welfare.
- The Grievance redressal powers under the Act have been taken away from the judiciary and have been given to the executive. It seeks to take away the role of judges who are specialized authorities in dealing with the nuances of law. This has serious implications on the doctrine of separation of powers.
Connecting the dots:
- 2012 Gang Rape – Inflection point in fight against Women’s safety
- Empowering the Youth
- Skill India Mission