Juvenile Justice Bill 2014 - Highlights and Amendments

Juvenile Justice Bill 2014 – Highlights and Amendments

Q: Recently, Cabinet approved amendments to the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act whereby juveniles can be tried as adults for heinous crimes. Discuss the key highlights of the Juvenile Justice Bill 2014 and the nature of the amendments to it.

Highlights of Juvenile Justice Bill 2014

• The Bill seeks to replace the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act 2000

• It meets the concerns of:

- Children in conflict with law
- Children in need of care and protection

• The Bill permits juveniles between 16 to 18 years to be tried as adults for heinous offences

• The Bill also holds that juveniles committing lesser serious offences should be tried as adults only if apprehended after 21 years of age

• The Bill also proposes Juvenile Justice Boards and Child Welfare Committees will be constituted in each district

• Juvenile Justice Board will conduct the starting inquiry to assess if the juvenile offender should be sent for rehab or tried as an adult

• Child Welfare Committee will determine institutional care for children in need of protection

• Eligibility of adoptive parents and process for adopting have also been stipulated in the bill

• Penalties for cruelty against children, offering narcotic substances to children or abduction or selling of children have also been outlined

Offences committed by juveniles are categorised as:
- Heinous offences: Minimum jail term of 7 years under IPC/other law
- Serious offences: 3 to 7 years of jail
- Petty offences: Below 3 years of jail

• Juvenile also cannot be given imprisonment for life without chance of release or death penalty
• As per the Bill, juvenile in conflict with law can spend as much as 3 years in special home/fit facility. But in some cases (heinous offences), they will be tried as adults

• The Juvenile Justice Board is to assess the mental/physical capacity of the juvenile to commit the crime and understand its consequences

The Board may recommend :

- Interventions such as counselling, community service
- Stay at observation home for short/long periods
- Refer juvenile to Children’s Court where he/she may be tried as an adult

Nature of Amendments: Analysis

There has been differing viewpoint on nature of amendment:

• Some say current laws do not deter juveniles from committing heinous offences

• Others hold reformative view will reduce likelihood of repetition of offences

• Trying a juvenile as an adult in the event of serious or heinous offences is also a violation of:

- Article 14: Right to Equality
- Article 21: Laws should be paid and reasonable
- UN Convention on Rights of Child entails signatory countries should treat children under the age of 18 as equal. Provision of trying the juvenile as an adult is a contravention of the convention

• Certain penalties outlines in the Bill are not in keeping with the gravity of the offence For instance, penalty for selling a child is lighter than offering them psychotropic or intoxicating substances

• Standing Committee constituted for reviewing the Bill said it was based on inaccurate data and violated certain Constitutional provisions

• The recommendations of the panel were overruled by the government which held that juveniles in age group 16 to 18 can be tired under the IPC if accused of heinous crimes

• SC has also recently observed need to rebook the provisions of the Juvenile Justice Act in case of heinous offences such as rape, murder, dacoity and acid attacks

Facts and Stats
• The amended Bill also seeks to streamline adoption procedures for 3 categories of children:

- Orphaned
- Abandoned
- Surrendered

• Statutory status has been proposed for the CARA/Child Adoption Resources Authority

• Sponsorship and foster care are also being used as measures

• Mandatory registration of institutions engaged in child care are also in the offing

• Other amendments to the Bill include inclusion of fresh offences such as:
- Illegal adoption
- Corporal punishment in child care institutions
- Use of children by militant groups
- Offences against disabled children

• The Bill makes the following recommendations:

- Increasing reconsideration period for surrendering children by parents or guardians
- Enhancing the period of inter-country adoption where children are not given for domestic adoption
- Assigning role of designated authority for monitoring Bill implementation to National Commission for Protection of Child Rights

The amendments also include spreading awareness about Bill provisions by state and central governments
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