- An Overview of the Act
- Chapter 1
- Chapter 2
- Chapter 3
- Chapter 4
- Chapter 5
- Relevant Case Laws
Protection of rights of children, being a member of vulnerable section of our society, has always been an important issue all over the world. United Nations has from time to time come up with one or the other conventions and acts in order to protect their rights. India being party to UN conventions has therefore made every effort to formulate laws in compliance of them.
A similar attempt had been made in 2000 by the Indian government when it passed The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000 (hereinafter ‘JJ Act’ or ‘the Act’) in conformity of the Convention on the Rights of a Child adopted by General Assembly in 1989.
2. An overview of the Act
- The Juvenile Justice Act has been divided under five chapters and targets two types of children:
- Juvenile in conflict with law (JCL)
- Child in need of care and protection (CNCP)
- Chapter one defines various terms used in the Act. Apart from this, it provides for the situation where a child on whom there was an inquiry going on and during the continuation of that inquiry he/she ceases to be a juvenile.
- Chapter two deals with the first target group of children covered under the act – JCL and lays down various provisions under which such children shall be dealt with.
- Chapter three provides for CNCP and therefore makes provisions for them.
- Chapter four deals with rehabitation and social integration of children.
- The final chapter, Chapter five lays down some miscellaneous provisions relating to welfare of children.
i) Chapter I –
- 2 of the Act provides for the meaning of various terms which shall have the same meaning as provided there unless otherwise stated, throughout the reading of the Act. Some important definitions covered by S. 2 are as follows:
- 2 (k) defines juvenile as any child who is under the age of 18 years.
- 2(d) specifies who shall be considered CNCP.
- 2(l) states that any child under age of 18 years and who has committed an offence shall be considered as JCL under the Act.
The Act under S. 3 states that if an enquiry is going on against a JCL or CNCP and during the continuance of that enquiry the child ceases to be a juvenile, even then the enquiry would continue as the child is still a juvenile.
ii) Chapter II –
- The second chapter of the Act addresses the provisions relating to JCLs.
- Under the Act, provision has been made to establish Juvenile Justice Boards (JJBs) wherever the State Government deems it fit which shall deal with the cases concerning JCLs.
- JJBs shall constitute of a bench comprising Metropolitan magistrate or Judicial magistrate of first class along with two social workers, one of them being a woman.
- The magistrate appointed as Principal magistrate for JJBs is required to have a background of child psychology or child welfare.
- The term and tenure of JJB has also been provided under the Act to be of three years.
- A High court or Court of Session can be conferred upon by the powers of JJBs when an appeal or revision has been made to them as part of the Act.
- JJB shall conduct their proceeding in any of the observation homes.
- A provision has been made to set up Observation Homes and Special Homes in every district or in a group of districts as the State deems fit for the reception and rehabilitation of JCLs
- The State may either itself set up these homes or it may contract a voluntary organisation to do so.
- Observation homes are meant for juveniles whose proceedings are underway.
- After the completion of proceedings of a particular case, if the JJB decides that the rehabilitation of the child is not yet complete, JCL concerned will be placed in a Special home for no longer than three years.
- The JCL must be placed with the Special Juvenile Police Unit (SJPU) as soon as the police comes in contact with him which shall report the child to the Board without any delay.
- Bail shall be made available to juveniles in all cases provided that the Board finds that the release of the child will not place him in any danger or in the influence of criminals.
- If the child is not released on bail he is only to be placed into the custody of an Observation Home.
- The SJPU are responsible for informing the juvenile’s parents about the arrest of JCL and inform the Probation Officer to make the necessary enquires about the child.
- The JJB is required to make an inquiry into the case involving JCL and if it can be sufficiently determined that the child is guilty of the crime then they can take any of the actions described under S. 15 of the Act.
- For the child to be discharged, a social investigation report will be required from the probation officer
- Even after the discharge of child, the probation officers may be required to continue a follow up of the child.
- 16 provides that a juvenile cannot be charged with death penalty, imprisonment which can extend to life imprisonment or can be committed to prison for inability to pay a fine or for providing a security for the bond.
- Under this Act, juvenile cases cannot be processed along with non-juvenile cases. He/she cannot be rendered unfit or ‘disqualified”. He/she cannot be exposed to media or magazines, newspapers and that visual media is not permitted to release information about the juvenile.
- Juvenile who runs away from the Observation Home or Special homes can be brought back without a warrant and without punishment.
- Cruelty (such as assault or neglect) towards juveniles in the home or by any person in charge of him/her is a punishable offence.
- This Act also has provisions to penalize people who exploit children for commission of any crime. Any person who employs a child in any hazardous industry or employs him/her for begging or provides him/her with drugs or alcohol is liable for imprisonment along with fine.
iii) Chapter three
- A child in need of care and protection has been defined under section 2 of the act.
- The state will appoint child welfare committees to deal with the matters relating to CNCP.
- The committee is required to have 5 members including chairperson one of whom should be woman and one child expert.
- It also provides for termination of member on grounds of:
- Misuse of power
- Conviction for offence involving moral turpitude
- Failure to attend committee meetings for less than ¾ of annual sittings or 3 consecutive months.
- The act provides for a special juvenile police, childline organisation, social worker, public spirited citizen or the child himself can produce the CNCP before the committee.
- The Committee may on receiving the report from special juvenile police may uphold an enquiry or pass an order to send the CNCP to children home for speedy enquiry
- The primary objective of the committee is to restore the child with a children’s home or shelter.
- Special juvenile police unit(SJPU) has been established by the act in order to effectively handle juveniles.
- Every police station is required to have a juvenile or child welfare officer especially trained for purpose.
- The parent of juvenile need to be informed as soon as he is arrested for alleged commission of offence.
- Section 37 of the act makes provision for shelter homes which shall be voluntary organisations recognised by the state governments for juveniles.
- Such shelter homes shall act as drop-in centers for children in urgent need.
- The shelter homes shall have amenities as provided under the rules.
- If the child hails from outside the jurisdiction of committee, the committee shall order transfer of child to competent authority having jurisdiction and such child shall be escorted by the staff of home. The travelling allowance may be paid to the child by the state government.
iv) Chapter Four
- This chapter deals with rehabilitation and reintegration of the child.
- It should begin during the stay of child in the home allotted to him and shall be carried out by any other following means:
- Foster Care
- Aftercare organisation
- The provisions for each of the four means mentioned above have been discussed under Section 41-44 of the act.
v) Chapter Five
- This chapter deals with various miscellaneous provisions.
- Section 46 requires the parent or guardian incharge of child to be present in any proceeding concerning him.
- Section 47 states that if the competent authority thinks that attendance of child is not essential for the enquiry he may dispense with his attendance and continue with the process.
- The act makes provision to send a child in need of treatment to an approved medical facility.
- Section 49 provides that a competent authority can take reasonable measures to find out the age of the child if need be.
- The report of probation officer or social worker has to be treated as confidential under the act. However, if the competent authority deems fit its substance can be communicated to the child or his parent/guardian.
- An appeal from the order of Juvenile Justice Board can be made to the Court of Session within a period of 30 days.
- Revision of Judgement of JJB can be done by High Court on its own motion or on an application.
- Any other competent authority can also amend the order of JJB on having received an application in this behalf.
- The state Government can create a fund for the welfare and rehabilitation of juvenile covered under this act.
- Such funds shall be administered by state advisory board as may be prescribed.
- The police officers dealing frequently with juveniles under this act shall be specially instructed and trained for.
- State government may delegate its power under this act to any subordinate as it may deem fit.
- In case any difficulty arises in effectuating any provision of this act the central government may make rules to remove such difficulty.
4. Relevant Case Laws
- Sanjay Suri v Delhi Administration a separate structure to keep juveniles had been discussed by the court in this case.
- Bhoop Ram v State of UP the issue relating to age of commission of offence has been elucidated u/s 7A of the JJ Act.
- Gopinath Ghosh v West Bengal and Bhola Bhagat v Bihar The court held that the age determination of child is of paramount importance to find out whether the accused falls under the purview of the JJ Act and accurate recording of the same is essential for deciding the duration of institutionalization.
- Sunil Rathi v State of U.P the case discussed the validity of medical evidence in recording the age of the child.
- Sanat Sinha v Bihar Issue of high pendency of cases was taken up and addressed by the insertion of Sec.14(2) in the Act.
- Vishal Jeet v. UOI Several directions were issued to the Governments for eradicating the child prostitution and for providing adequate rehabilitative homes.
The Juvenile justice Act is a step in a right direction by the parliament wherein intelligent differentia has been created with regard to the categorisation of children and rightly focuses on rehabilitation and care of the children and at the same time ensures that Juvenile in conflict with law are dealt properly.
Also, enough checks and balances have been created wherein the committees have been especially created under this Act that will be under the supervision of Courts if need be.