Since the prehistoric times, there has been a notion that juveniles should be treated leniently since there is a theory that says– juvenile people have the inclination to behave in a strong and protracted exasperation that is followed by violent methods. It has also been noted that the majority of offences committed by children aged 15 to 18 has escalated dramatically in recent years. Early-life experiences, authoritative patriarchy, parenting, economic chaos, poor education, and other aspects all contribute to the general propensity or psychology that promotes criminal behavior among children. Considering that children’s brains have a naive and manipulative nature, they may be enticed at a scanty cost. Greater opportunities for growth and reform should be provided for them. As a result, a distinct legal procedure for minors who have run afoul of the law is required.
The engagement of the Juvenile accused in the 2012 Nirbhaya rape case prompted the Indian Parliament to implement the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act 2015 which strives to modify the existing Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act of 2000 by endeavoring to analyze the mental capacities of the juvenile who commits a crime rather than the age. Furthermore, on July 31, 2013, BJP leader Subramanian Swamy submitted a Public Interest Litigation in the Supreme Court of India, demanding that the minor be convicted as an adult. The Court then requested that the juvenile court postpone its decision. Maneka Gandhi, the Minister of Women and Child Development, announced in July 2014 that they were coming out with a new legislation that would empower 16-year-olds to be prosecuted as adults. She claimed that half of all juvenile offences are perpetrated by teenagers who are conscious that they will get away with it. She further said that modifying the legislation, which would allow minors to be prosecuted as adults for murder and rape, would terrify them. The wider problem is the argument over whether the human psyche has adequately grown before the age of 18, and why it is still behind the 18-year-old adult threshold. Is the legislation also extensive enough to lessen the chances of juvenile crime by emphasizing on complete rehabilitation of juvenile crime via psychiatric therapy and the creation of social circumstances that allow them to be incorporated into society? The acquittal of prisoners in the Nirbhaya rape case was met with violence by a quarter of civil society. The State issued a decree that examines the prospect of altering the substance and scope of the law, in response to concerns about the legislation’s capacity to act as a deterrent.
The Act of 2015 also distinguishes between several types of offences, classifying them as minor, severe, or horrific. It asserted that if a minor has finished or is over the age of sixteen years and is accused of committing a terrible crime, a thorough examination of his mental and physical competence to commit the crime will be undertaken, and the child may be charged as an adult. This Act recognized that the rights of juvenile offenders are just as valuable as those of victims, and as a result, additional measures were recommended to address horrific crimes committed by those aged 16 to 18. However, the Indian community has been against this section of the Act.
Provisions of the Act:
The following are some of the Act’s provisions:
- The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act of 2000 is replaced by the 2015 Act. It focuses on children who are in dispute with the law as well as minors who require support and treatment.
- For egregious crimes, the existing Act allows minors between the ages of 16 and 18 to be prosecuted as adults. Also, any minor between the ages of 16 and 18 who performs a smaller, but significant, offence may be prosecuted as an adult only if he is arrested after the age of 21.
- For each district, a Juvenile Justice Board (JJB) and a Child Welfare Committee should be established.
- Special measures have been developed under Section 15 to deal with minor offenders aged 16 to 18 who commit serious crimes. After performing the preliminary assessment, the Juvenile Justice Board has the alternative of forwarding matters of severe crimes committed by such minors to a Children’s Court (Court of Session).
- The regulations call for minors to be confined in a “secure position” both during and after the prosecution, until they passed the age of 21, at which point the Children’s Court will perform an examination of the juvenile.
- Following the examination, the minor is either freed on probation or transferred to prison for the duration of his or her punishment if he or she has not rehabilitated. The legislation will serve as a deterrent to minor criminals who commit horrible crimes like murder and rape, while also safeguarding the victim’s rights.
- A child who is found working in contravention to labor laws, is at serious risk of marriage before achieving the legal age for the same, or who lives with such a person who has or has menaced to harm, exploit, harass, or overlook the child or breach any other legislation, or whose parents or guardians are unqualified to take responsibility of him is now defined as ‘child’ in the new Act’s definition.
- In circumstances of care and protection of children, the Child Welfare Committee will no longer be the ultimate authority. The District Magistrate will be the CWC’s dispute settlement body, and anybody with a connection to the minor may submit a plea with the DM, who will assess and issue necessary directions.
- In contrast to juveniles for whom production reports are obtained under Section 36 of the Act, the Child Welfare Committee will henceforth undertake an investigation on every child presented before it. Parentless and relinquished children are now included in the procedure.
- A key element of Children’s Court had been inserted, which was lacking from the 2000 act. Where a court is constituted under the Commission for the Protection of Child Rights Act, 2005, or a Special Court is organized under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012, when such courts are not authorized, the Court of Sessions has authority to examine offences under the Act.
- Adoption today has a comprehensive definition, and children’s rights have been acknowledged. The existing Central Adoption Resource Authority (CARA) is granted the status of a legal entity to assist it to fulfil its duty more efficiently in order to speed adoption procedures for orphaned, abandoned, and relinquished children. A distinct chapter (VIII) on adoption contains extensive requirements on adoption as well as penalties for failure to follow the protocol.
One of the most common critiques is that this Act allows minors to be prosecuted as adults.Every child below the age of 18 must be acknowledged as a minor, according to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. As a result, the clause in the Act of 2015 indicated above appears to be in violation of the Convention. Some argue that it undermines the rehabilitative underpinning of India’s current juvenile justice system. Additional critique is that the current regulation charges children differently depending on their age and the severity of the crime. It is also not based on the concept that, due to their developmental immaturity and amenability to rehabilitative treatment, children cannot be held to the same standards of guilt as adults. It is also argued that under the current legislation, Children’s Courts, which were created primarily to prosecute crimes against children, are now being used to hear crimes committed by children, therefore eliminating the purpose of these courts. The process of determining whether a minor between the ages of 16 and 18 has committed the crime as a juvenile or as an adult is also contested, as it is subjective and can be erroneous at times.
In many aspects, the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act 2015 is a forward-looking and robust law that protects children in scenarios where there is a legal dispute or where genuine care and protection is required. The legislation continues to distinguish between “children who need care and protection” and “children who breach the law,” in keeping with the spirit of juvenile justice reform and renewal. The government hopes that the measure would alleviate public outrage over the idea that youthful criminals are escaping off with low sentences after performing horrendous crimes involving murder and rape. However, implementation is a major challenge, and the Supreme Court of India is currently reviewing the existing Act’s enforcement in court proceedings.