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Juvenile Justice System and Laws in India
India laws regarding the juveniles have existed since 1850. The first law which recognised the issue relating to juveniles was The Apprentice Act, 1850. It concerned that the convicts of the age 10-18 should be given vocational training so that it could help them rehabilitate and reform.
After this The Indian Penal Code, 1860 protected the child and distinguished them as doli incapax and doli capax. The children below the age of seven years were considered to be doli incapax as they are not matured enough to understand the intensity and nature of any act. Whereas the children above seven and under twelve were considered to be doli capax.
What is the Meaning of Juvenile Justice System?
Juvenile Justice System is a system, which provides all the laws and procedures to be followed by the State in cases where a juvenile is in conflict with law or has committed any offence or requires any help in regard to, is protection, legal assistance, etc.
Constitutional Provisions Related to Juvenile Justice System
The Constitution of India provides many provisions in protection and safeguard of juveniles, which are as follows −
Article 15 gives the privilege to children by providing that the State can make laws especially in favour of women and children.
Article 21A has been inserted by the eighty-sixth Constitutional amendment making right to education a fundamental right for the children of the age six to fourteen years.
Article 23 prohibits human trafficking and forced labour.
Article 24 strictly prohibits the employment of children below the age of fourteen years in factories.
Article 39(e) being a Directive principle of State Policy gives the direction to the State to secure that the tender age of the children is not abused by entering into the jobs which are not suited for their age or strength due to economic necessity.
Article 39(f) further provides that State shall also try to secure that the children are given opportunities and facilities in order to develop in a healthy environment and also that they are protected from exploitation and moral and material abandonment.
Article 45 provides that the State shall try and provide early childhood care and education to a child till he completes the age of six years.
Article 47 specifically provides that it is the primary duty of the State to raise the level of nutrition and standard of living.
Laws Related to Juvenile Justice System in India
The later Acts which recognised the juveniles as a different category of offenders were The Reformatory School Act, 1897, The Code of Criminal Procedure, 1898 and The Children Act, 1960.
Juvenile Justice Act
This act was for the first time enacted in the year 2000. Later it was amended in 2006 and 2011. But due to various loopholes in the Act it was repealed and a new act naming The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015 has been enacted.
This act in its Preamble explains the purpose of its enactment i.e., to consolidate and amend laws relating to children in conflict with law and children in need of care and protection by catering them with their basic needs through proper care, protection, development, treatment, social re-integration, by adopting a child-friendly approach in the adjudication and disposal of matters in the best interest of children and for their rehabilitation through processes provided, and institutions and bodies established, hereinunder and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto.
This act under Section 2(35) explains that juvenile means a child below the age of eighteen years of age.
Furthermore, the definitions of child in conflict with law and child in need of care and protection has been given in Section 2(13) and 2(14) respectively. It explains that child in conflict with law means any child who has not completed the age of eighteen years and has committed any offence.
This particular condition where the child has not completed the age of eighteen years was highlighted in the Nirbhaya case where the co-accused was just short of six months from completing the age of eighteen years. Due to this reason he was not given a severe punishment. This led to a major protest by the public of India, but the Courts couldn’t help them to go with the prevailing law. This led to a major transformation in the juvenile laws in India.
The present Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act deals with all aspects with regard to the child in conflict with law. This lays down the provision to institute a Juvenile Justice Board which shall deal with the matters relating to the child in conflict with law. The members of the Board shall ensure that the child is safe in the Government’s custody and is being provided with all the necessities.
The act also provisions to form Child Welfare Committee. This committee has a pivotal role to play which can be explained in brief as follows −
It is this committee which helps in the investigations of the cases in which the child is involved.
Furthermore, the child is sent to foster care through this committee. The committee becomes a bridge between the child and the society.
It helps the parents rethink before surrendering their child and makes all the efforts in order to restore the abandoned child to their family.
When the Committee finds out that a child has been abandoned, or is an orphan, it declares the child to be open for adoption.
The children who sexually abused need a lot of care and support, thus, this committee along with other institutions work in order to provide proper medical, mental and legal support.
The child in conflict with law is not dealt with the procedure established under Chapter VIII of the Code of Criminal Procedure, rather the procedure established under this code is prevalent over them.
The act also provides for rehabilitation and social re-integration of juveniles in conflict of law and in need of care and protection. There are child care institutions which are registered as per the procedure established, help in the rehabilitation and re-integration. The Board or the Committee verifies this that the child is in the hand of right person and has all the required facilities for his betterment.
The act also provisions for the adoption of the abandoned, surrendered or the orphan child. This helps the child get a better future ahead and live a life with a brighter future.
India, being one of the largest child population countries, needs to be more and more alert in order to keep check on the offences committed by or against the children in the country. The present juvenile act has brought about a lot of security and alertness regarding the juveniles.
It majorly focuses that the children are neither tried in regular courts nor are they sent regular prisons. This is to protect their mental status. The punishment is more of a social reform than that of penal treatment.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q1. What is the maximum punishment a juvenile can get?
Ans. Usually, for a heinous crime, a child can be punished maximum for 3 years in jail, which is basically a rehabilitation centre for children. However, depending upon the types of crime and age of juvenile (especially one who falls between 16 and 18 years of age), this punishment may be given differently.
Q2. Who decides whether a person is a juvenile or not?
Ans. There is a separate and exclusive board namely Juvenile Justice Board that takes care of such questions.
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