UNDERSTANDING THE JUVENILE JUSTICE (CARE AND PROTECTION) ACT 2000
Crime has been rampant in India over the past few decades. Safety has become a growing concern for people. What’s more alarming are the statistics that show the disturbing trend in children below the age of 18 years who have been convicted:
- Children make up 42% of our country and 1.2% of the total crimes in India are committed by them.
- There has been a 288% increase in rape cases in the past 10 years and arrests of juveniles has also increased by 60%.
- 81% of the juveniles arrested live with their parents and majority of them come under the category of low-income families.
- Girls constituted only 6% of the total number of juveniles convicted.
It is easy to blame one another for the above numbers but before we do so, it is important to understand the laws and legislations in place for delinquency and the methods to help and rehabilitate them especially after the amendments to the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection) Act 2000.
What is the mentioned Juvenile Justice Act 2000?
- The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection) Act 2000 was brought into force with relation to the 1989 Convention on the Rights of the Child.
- The Act deals with laws relating to juveniles and vulnerable children who are in need of care and protection. It outlines the need for proper care, protection and treatment required to help in the development of their growth. It also adopts a child-friendly approach in the way the cases are handled to aid in the child’s well-being and help rehabilitate them.
- The Act was the sole framework for the juvenile system in India as it provides a unique approach towards the prevention and treatment of juvenile delinquency.
- It has seen changes in 2006 and 2010, but the biggest changes proposed by the Ministry of Women and Child Development were passed by the Lok Sabha in May this year.
Background to the Amendments
During the Nirbhaya case in 2012, one of the most important issues that came to light was the conviction of a minor who was 17 when he committed the crime. He was tried in juvenile court and given a sentence of 3 years for the brutal rape and murder. This created context for the amendments to the Juvenile Justice Act 2000 as people demanded stricter punishments for minors who had committed serious offences and/or heinous acts.
The amendments to the Juvenile Justice Act 2000
- If a crime has been convicted by a person between the ages of 16-18 years, it will be assessed by the Juvenile Justice Board to determine if the crime was committed as a ‘child’ or an ‘adult’.
- The board will constitute of social workers and psychologists who will be able to make a fair judgement about the intensity of the crime which will help safeguard the rights of the juvenile.
- A Child Welfare Committees will also be set up which will determine if a child needs to be placed in institutional care and protection.
- The new legislation now also clearly defines crimes as heinous, petty or serious - this aspect wasn’t included in the act before.
- The new Act includes processes for adoption of orphaned, abandoned and surrendered children. It established authority of the Child Adoption Resources Authority (CARA) which will also have powers to facilitate inter-country adoption.
- The Act also includes penalties against treating a child cruelly, offering narcotics to a child and abduction or selling of a child.
- The law also separately raised the age for consensual sex from 16 to 18 years which makes it illegal for children to be engaged in sexual activities.
Kamlesh Kumar Mishra, an advocate with Human Rights Law Network, offers an opinion to the Act - “Many of the ‘rape cases’ involve a relationship between a girl and boy who decide to elope and are eventually caught by the police and parents who press charges. They still are vulnerable and can be taught what is wrong and right.” Around 40% of the rape cases reported against under-age boys are consensual affairs between a girl and a boy.
There are different opinions on the new amendments as they are a direct violation to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child which India accepted and signed 25 years ago. Will having such a law be enough? Can stricter punishment solve the issue? Comment with your responses below or your tweet in your responses to #JaagoRe
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The Gazette of India
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