This article was written by S C Vaidyanathan, a student of VIT School of Law, Chennai.
A person or person’s no matter how small: An Introduction
Age determination is of paramount importance to find out whether the accused falls under the purview of the Juvenile Justice Act. Juvenile is a person whose age is below 18. Juvenile Justice is a legal framework which defines justice for juveniles in India; it supports and gives special approaches towards prevention and treatment of Juvenile delinquency. Juvenile delinquency is a crime committed by youths or illegal behaviour by minors. In other words, individuals younger than the statutory age of majority.
The first act in India concerning the children was brought to existence during the British rule in 1850 known as the Apprentice Act. Later the Reformatory Schools Act, 1897 came into existence. After that, in 1960 the Children Act, which was implemented by various states, was centralized. To remove various deficiencies in the Act, a Children (Amendment) Act, 1978 was passed. The Juvenile Justice Act 1986 was passed by India in 22nd August, 1986. Later, this act was repealed after India signed and ratified the Child Rights Convention 1989 in year 1992 and a new act was passed. This act came to be known as the Juvenile Justice Act, 2000.This Act was amended in 2006 & 2010. Now it is called the Juvenile Justice (Child Care & Protection Act) 2000.
The Juvenile Justice Act places juveniles in two categories:
- Juveniles in “conflict with the law” handled by the state government.
- Juveniles in the need of “care and protection” to be looked after by state governments and child welfare committees.
According to the Child and Care protection Act , the maximum tenure of punishment give to the Juveniles is maximum 3 years and this type of punishment is generally given for serious crimes like rape, murder etc. The other types of punishments are : 1. Rehabilitation centres 2. Juvenile Schools 3. Fines 4. They will be made to work in various programmes by the government etc. In the present day scenario, there is no need for juveniles to be given such minor punishments.
VIEWS ON JUVENILE JUSTICE ACT:
Nowadays, we all know that heinous crimes are being committed by juveniles and now we are in a situation debating about the juvenile’sage and punishment which is not given to them according to the crimes committed by them. Age determination is the most important factor to find out whether the accused falls under the purview of the Juvenile Justice Act. Accurate recording of the age is also important to form child welfare committees and institutes.
In the case of Ram singh and others v. State of Delhi also known as Nirbhaya or the Delhi Gang Rape case, 2012 created huge havoc regarding punishments given to the juvenile convict should be same as given to other convicts. Yes, the juveniles should also be treated in the same way because they have committed the same crime and also if they are below statutory age of majority they need to be punished for the crime they have committed, because if they get away with it will become a habit which will carry on till the later part of their life, definitely they should get same treatment. The sooner a child is held accountable for their actions, the sooner they will come to know there are consequences for their consequences for their actions. Giving punishment is a positive thing so they should receive this understanding and rectify them in their upbringing itself. They should be punished the moment they commit crime that is the best gift they can receive. The sooner the better while their minds are in developing stage.
Next issue arises, whether any special provisions should be made for juveniles? No special provisions have to be made for them, opposing this point because there is no inclusion of extra punishment for them. The difference is only that they are tried in juvenile courts now they will be tried in regular courts where they will be questioned the facts of the crime, their intention behind the crime , mensrea behind crime, etc.
Another issue that the age of a juvenile should be 16 or 18 so as to treat them adults:- as per National Crime Record Bureau in the year 2011 – 64 per cent of the crimes has been committed by juveniles between the age of 16 and 18. Many heinous crimes are committed between the age of 16 and 18. This age is highly volatile and highly unstable. Particularly during this period they don’t know what to do, they don’t know how to react. But rapid mental development occurs during that stage. If they keep on indulging in these type of activities their life is at stake. Whatever may be the age , they have committed a crime so they should be put behind the bars.
Despite the introduction of comprehensive beneficial schemes for children, the implementation is defective. Appropriate training is not there and the main concern is about the accountability. The police officers are highly brutal towards the juveniles and abuse in the observation homes. It is high time now that government should take necessary steps to seek charge of juveniles pending or on completion of inquiry.
- The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Amendment Act 2015, has been passed by the RajyaSabha . It was introduced in Parliament last year after public outrage because one of the offenders in the 2012 gang rape case was a few months short of 18 years of age.
- The Act allows for juveniles 16 years or older to be tried as adults for heinous offences like rape and murder. Heinous offences are those which are punishable with imprisonment of seven years or more.
- The Act mandates setting up Juvenile Justice Boards and Child Welfare Committees in every district. Both must have at least one woman member each.
- The decision to try a juvenile 16 years or older as an adult will be taken by the Juvenile Justice Board, which will have a judicial magistrate and two social workers as members. If the board decides against it, the juvenile will be sent for rehabilitation.
- The Child Welfare Committees will look at institutional care for children in their respective districts. Each committee will have a chairperson and four other members, all specialists in matters relating to children.
- India is a signatory to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child which mandates that all children under the age of 18 years be treated equal. The Act has been criticised for violation of the Convention.
One of the most criticized steps in the new JJ Act 2015 is introduction of “Judicial Waiver System” which allows treatment of juveniles, in certain conditions, in the adult criminal justice system and to punish them as adults. This is for the first time in India’s history that such a provision has been prescribed. Given to the severe criticism, Bill was referred to a Standing Committee of Parliament which also rejected such provisions. Since recommendations of Parliament’s Standing Committee are not binding, Government has moved ahead and introduced the Bill in LokSabha, where it stands passed.The Act is also criticized for prescribing an opaque Age Determination System and its poor draft.