Juvenile justice is a law by which children are protected and are also given proper care who have a conflict with the law. Children are considered as the pillars of a country as they are the youth who brings a change in society and works for its upliftment. But some children get to indulge in crimes may be forcefully, intentionally, or for some other reason. As per Indian law, a person under the age of 18 years is considered a juvenile. Minor is also a term used for this age group but the main difference in juveniles is the children who are involved in a crime and now need proper care and protection. Juvenile has its origin from the Latin word juveniles which means ‘young’. According to a doctrine of doli incapax children below the age of 7 years, can’t be convicted for an offense because he is not capable of understanding the nature of the crime because he does not have that mental capacity at this age.
Laws are made for citizens to protect their interests and manage society in a systematic way. The juvenile justice act was mainly made for children by which they can be protected and their interests are safeguarded by the act. Now many legislations are relaxed on minors’ acts as they do not have the mental capacity to understand the end result of their actions. That’s why it’s the duty of the law to safeguard them in society so that no one with bad intentions can take advantage of a minor. This concept is too mentioned in the Indian Penal Code in section 82 which states that nothing done by a child below 7 years can be treated as offense.
This act is developed so well and is able to protect the interest of the minor and cater to their needs. The Constitution of India also provides sections where the law imposes duties on the state to ensure the basic human rights of children and protect them and their basic needs. This law focuses on children and reforms and rehabilitates them so that they can reintegrate into society and become changed and responsible citizens of the country.
HISTORY OF JUVENILE JUSTICE ACT
The first legislation was The Apprentices Act, 1850. According to this act now the children who were involved in petty crime will be treated as apprentices instead of sending them to prison. Other legislations were the Indian Penal Code, the Reformatory school act (1897), the Code of Criminal procedure (1898), and Recommendations by the Indian Jail Committee in 1920, which had mention about different treatment for the young offenders from adult offenders. Madras high court then enacted the children act in 1920 and following it other states too enacted acts by which children were then tried by the juvenile court. After India’s independence, the Constitution formed several provisions which were fundamental rights and directive principles of state policy for the protection and development of children. The Government of India passed the Child Law in 1960. This act worked as a protector of children and provided them with care, education, and training, etc. This Act introduced three tire institutions systems and also made a special school for delinquent children. Juvenile’s act formed standards for the protection of juveniles. The Juvenile justice act, 1986 gave a definition of a juvenile a child in case of the boy has not completed the age of 16 years and in case of a girl not completed 18 years age and it was replaced by the Juvenile Justice (care and protection of children) Act, 2000 which made a clear view of juveniles. The law was passed by Parliament after many controversies and protests. It has brought many changes to existing law. The law allows teens involved in heinous crimes to be treated like adults up to the age of 16 -18. The juvenile justice system needs to be more sensitive and adapt to changing social conditions. The law gives them a clear definition of orphans, and abandoned children and provides them with an organized system. It defines the vicious, trivial, and serious crimes of children. The law gives more power and function to the Juvenile Justice Council and the Child Welfare Commission. Parliament recently passed a law to change juvenile justice in 2021 (care and protection) to strengthen child protection and adoption. Many adoption cases are pending in court and jurisdiction is now being transferred to district judges to speed up legal proceedings. Early adoption of a child is final after the adoption order has been issued by the civil court. This change empowers district judges to issue such adoption orders.
The main role of the juvenile justice system in India is to enact juvenile law in such a way that the child is not tried in regular courts and that the child is corrected in every possible way. The majority of children who commit crimes come from poor or illiterate families. Juvenile law focuses on educating children, not punishing them. Child trials are based on irreversible treatment through social control agencies such as observation families, special families, and special schools.
THE NEED FOR LEGISLATION OF JUVENILE JUSTICE ACT OF 2015
Before the children act of, 1960; concept of juvenile didn’t have any uniformity regarding the age of the juvenile delinquent in India. Each state had its own age limitation for the offense committed by the children. According to Haryana, children act child meant a boy who has not attained the age of 16 years and girl who has not attained 18 years of age. U.P. and east Punjab act, children act defined children as a person who id below 16 years of age. Under the A.P. Children Act, 1920 “child” means a person under 14 years.
The JJ Act, 1986 was repealed and replaced by the 2000 Act and a clear picture about the age limit was set properly by the Government of India in its obligation to the international obligations. Now the age of juveniles in conflict with the law for males and females has been fixed at 18 years.
SCOPE OF THE ACT
- The act removed the negative connotations with the word “juvenile”, the law changes the term from “juvenile” to “child”
- The act included new definitions such as orphaned, abandoned, and surrendered children; and petty, serious, and heinous offenses committed by children
- Now teenagers within the age of 16-18 will be tried as adults for serious crimes.
- The act made it mandatory to form juvenile justice boards and child welfare committees in each district.
- JJb will investigate whether the child had that mental ability to know the offense consequences or not and after that it can be concluded whether the person will be treated as an adult or need to be set in rehabilitation.
- Institutional care will be managed by the convention on the rights of the child and will take proper care and protection.
- Act also has mention regarding adoptive parents, their eligibility, and also the procedure is laid down for adoption.
- All penalties are also mentioned in the act regarding the cruelty done with the children.
- Ram Vijay Singh vs State Of U.P. on 25 February 2021
In a 38-year-old case relating to murder the 3-Judge Bench of Rohinton Fali Nariman, Hemant Gupta* and B.R. Gavai, JJ., had held
“The ossification test conducted in the year 2020 when the appellant was 55 years of age cannot be conclusive to declare him as a juvenile on the date of the incident.”
- Shilpa Mittal vs State Of Nct Of Delhi on 9 January 2020
ISSUE- The child should be tried as an adult or not?
JUDGEMENT- It was held that this Act does not deal with the fourth category of offenses which is punishable for more than seven years but does not consist of minimum imprisonment or minimum imprisonment of fewer than seven years. This type of issue is to be dealt with according to this procedure unless the Parliament itself deals with it. The court had also directed the High Court to take out the child’s name from the Child in Conflict with law. Therefore, the matter was disposed of in the favor of the child.
- Union Of India vs Ramesh Bishnoi on 29 November 2019
HELD- The Apex Court opined that crimes committed when one is a juvenile must not be held against a person into adulthood, particularly when it comes to future job prospects. It was observed,
“The thrust of the legislation, i.e. The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000 as well as The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015 is that even if a juvenile is convicted, the same should be obliterated so that there is no stigma with regard to any crime committed by such person as a juvenile. This is with the clear objective to reintegrate such juvenile back in the society as a normal person, without any stigma.”
The act to have loopholes and it’s the need of the hour to bring some reforms in the working of the juvenile justice act. Children should be given a chance to reform themselves and their mistakes so they can also be a part of society. Treating children as adults and punishing them as adults destroys their life from where there is no comeback. Indian constitution is flexible and the justice system is also very reformative in that it gives criminals a chance to restore their life and brings them back as civilised people in society. And we need to look at the grassroots of the reason why children are getting into criminal activities and then put a stop there which will help society to develop. And this can be done by the juvenile homes very easily by reaching children’s mindset and improving it on a positive side. They can get an education to have a brighter future and remove all bad intentions and they can get motivation and courage to face the world after coming out. According to statistics, we can see juveniles commit very less crime comparatively so we should not focus on tougher laws rather we should work on the implementation of law in an effective manner. Children and youth are important for society and this Act is the best way to protect them and bring them on the right path and bring there life back to normal days with respect in society.
– Nancy Shonak
Legal Intern, LawDIKTAT