The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015
The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015, aims to amend and consolidate the law relating to children ‘alleged and found to be in conflict with law’, as well as children in need of care and protection. It lays down provisions for a ‘child-friendly’ approach in the adjudication and disposal of matters in the best interest of children. It also provides for establishing processes, institutions and bodies for the rehabilitation and social re-integration of children.
The Act – which Parliament passed on December 31, 2015 – came into effect
on January 15, 2016. Further, the Ministry of Women and Child Development,
government of India, issued the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of
Children) Model Rules on September 21, 2016. The provisions of the 10-chapter Act
are guided by ‘general principles of care and protection of children’ which are
detailed in Chapter II.
Who is covered under the Act?
The Act applies to all matters concerning children (persons below the age of 18) who are in need of care and protection or are in conflict with law. This includes matters regarding the apprehension, detention, prosecution, penalty or imprisonment, rehabilitation and social re-integration of children in conflict with law; and procedures, decisions or orders relating to the rehabilitation, adoption, re-integration, and restoration of children in need of care and protection.
The Act also contains provisions on ‘Offences Against Children’ in case a person, organisation, institution or agency, is found guilty of the same, under Chapter IX.
Who has the authority to carry out provisions of the Act?
State governments shall constitute Juvenile Justice Boards (JJBs) for each of their districts for exercising powers and discharging functions relating to children in conflict with law under this Act.
State governments shall constitute one or more Child Welfare Committees (CWCs) for each of their districts for exercising powers and discharging functions relating to children in need of care and protection under this Act.
What is the composition of JJBs and CWCs?
The JJB shall consist of a Metropolitan Magistrate or a Judicial Magistrate of First Class as the Principal Magistrate of the Board, and two social workers as members, of whom one shall be a woman. The social worker members shall be persons who have been actively involved in health, education, or welfare activities pertaining to children for at least seven years, or practicing professionals with a degree in child psychology, psychiatry, sociology or law.
The CWC shall consist of a Chairperson and four other members appointed by the state government, of whom at least one is a woman and another, an expert on matters concerning children. In addition, the District Child Protection Unit shall provide a Secretary and other staff that may be required for secretarial support to the Committee for its effective functioning.
What are the offences for which a child can be charged? What are the different orders that a Board can give in case a child is found to be in conflict with law?
Under this Act, offences by children are categorised as ‘petty’ (where the maximum punishment under the Indian Penal Code or any other law is imprisonment up to three years); ‘serious’ (where the punishment is imprisonment for between three and seven years); or heinous (where the minimum punishment is imprisonment for seven years or more).
The JJB decides, based on the nature of the offence, the ‘specific need for supervision or intervention’ and the past conduct of the child, whether it is necessary to try the child as an adult, following which the case may be transferred to the Children’s Court which has the jurisdiction to try such offences.
The orders that the JJB can give in case a child is found to be in conflict with the law are listed in Section 18 of the Act. They include allowing the child to go home after advise and admonition; directing the child to participate in group counselling; ordering the child to perform community service; ordering their guardian to pay a fine; directing the child to be released on probation of good conduct and placed under the care of their parent or guardian or another ‘fit’ person; sending the child to special home for not more than three years; sending the child to a ‘place of safety’ if the Board does not think it is in the child’s best interest to be placed in a special home; ordering the child to attend school, or a vocational training or therapeutic centre, or undergo a de-addiction programme; or prohibiting them from visiting a specified place.
In addition to the above, when the child in conflict with the law turns 21 years old and is ‘yet to complete the term of stay’, the Children’s Court shall follow up on whether the child has undergone ‘reformative changes’ and can be a contributing member of society. The court may decide to release the child on such conditions as it deems fit, or decide that the child shall complete the remainder of their term in jail.
What are the provisions for children in need of care and protection?
Chapters V to VII of the Act contain provisions on procedures related to children in need of care and protection, rehabilitation, social re-integration and adoption. The CWC is responsible for passing orders on child care, such as declaring that a child is in need of care and protection; declaring that a child is legally free for adoption; restoring the child to their parents, guardians or family, with or without the supervision of a Child Welfare Officer; placing a child in a Children’s Home, Specialised Adoption Agency or under a ‘fit person’ for long term or temporary care; issuing orders on the foster care or sponsorship of the child; and directions to persons, institutions or facilities regarding the child’s care, protection and rehabilitation.
For children in conflict with law, the process for rehabilitation and social re-integration is undertaken by placing the child in an observation home if the child is not released on bail, or in a special home, ‘place of safety’ or with a fit person, as per the JJB’s orders.
Focus and Factoids by Arunima Singh.
Ministry of Law and Justice
Government of India, New Delhi
31 Dec, 2015