Juvenile Justice (Amendment) Bill, 2015

  • The Rajya Sabha cleared the Juvenile Justice (Amendment) Bill, 2015

  • The bill lowers the age of a legally defined juvenile from 18 to 16 in the case of heinous crimes..
  • 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.
  • It was introduced in Parliament last year after public outrage because one of the offenders in the 2012 gang rape case was a few months short of 18 years of age.
  • The bill had already been passed by the Lok Sabha in May. It now needs the President’s assent to become law.

The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Amendment Bill 2015  

  1. The bill aims to “consolidate and amend the law relating to children alleged and found to be in conflict with law and children in need of care and protection by catering to their basic needs through proper care, protection, development, treatment, social re-integration, by adopting a child-friendly approach.”
  2. The bill allows for juveniles 16 years or older to be tried as adults for heinous offences like rape and murder. Heinous offences are those which are punishable with imprisonment of seven years or more.
  3. The bill mandates setting up Juvenile Justice Boards and Child Welfare Committees in every district. Both must have at least one woman member each.
  4. The Child Welfare Committees-  will look at institutional care for children in their respective districts. Each committee will have a chairperson and four other members, all specialists in matters relating to children.
  5. Juvenile Justice Boards- The decision to try a juvenile 16 years or older as an adult will be taken by the Juvenile Justice Board. The board will have a judicial magistrate and two social workers as members. If the board decides against it, the juvenile will be sent for rehabilitation.
  6. 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.
  7. The bill also deals with adoption of children and lays down the eligibility criteria for adoptive parents. A central adoptive resource agency will frame the rules for adoption, which will be implemented by state and district level agencies.
  8. Penalties for cruelty against a child, offering a narcotic substance to a child, and abduction or selling a child have been prescribed.

Key Issues and Analysis

  • 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 provision of trying a juvenile committing a serious or heinous offence as an adult based on date of apprehension could violate the Article 14 (right to equality) and Article 21 (requiring that laws and procedures are fair and reasonable).  The provision also counters the spirit of Article 20(1) by according a higher penalty for the same offence, if the person is apprehended after 21 years of age.
  • 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.
  • Some penalties provided in the Bill are not in proportion to the gravity of the offence.  For example, the penalty for selling a child is lower than that for offering intoxicating or psychotropic substances to a child.
  • The Standing Committee examining the Bill observed that the Bill was based on misleading data regarding juvenile crimes and violated certain provisions of the Constitution.

Source: PRS, Hindu 

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