The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015 has come into force with effect from 15th January, 2016 repealing the 15-year-old Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000.
In much hyped Nirbhaya case, it was found that one of the accused was yet to turn 18 years (major). A PIL was filed in apex court seeking that the boy be trialed as an adult in a court. Thereby, Apex Court passed a Mandamus to the juvenile court to delay its verdict. However, later the boy was sentenced to 3 years in a reform home on 31 August 2013. The verdict was criticized by many stating that by not punishing the juvenile the court is encouraging other teenagers as they know that they will get away due to the lacuna in the Act. In July 2014, Maneka Gandhi clarified that they were preparing a new law which will allow 16-year-olds to be tried as adult. Thereby, the bill got nod of President of India a day before the New Year.
Lowering of age of minor
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.
Act introduces foster care in India. Families would have to sign up for foster care and abandoned, orphaned children, or those in conflict with the law will be sent to them. Such families will be monitored and shall receive financial aid from the state. In adoption, disabled children and children of physically and financially incapable will be given priority.
Parents giving up their child for adoption will get 3 months to reconsider, compared to the earlier provision of 1 month.
Restriction on sale of tobacco products
If a person gives or causes to give any child, any intoxicating liquor or any narcotic drug or tobacco products or psychotropic substance, except on the order of a duly qualified medical practitioner. This shall be punishable with rigorous imprisonment for a term which may extend to seven years and shall also be liable to a fine which may extend up to one lakh rupees.
With passing of the Act, India has become the only nation in the entire world to impose such a harsh penalty for sale of tobacco to and by minors.
Juvenile Justice Board& Child welfare Committees
Act mandates setting up Juvenile Justice Boards and Child Welfare Committees in every district. Board shall decide whether a juvenile criminal in the age group of 16–18 should be trailed as an adult or not (this was missing in the previous act). The board shall include psychologists and sociologists. Board to make the adoption process of orphaned, abandoned and surrendered children more streamlined. Board shall consist of a judicial magistrate and two social workers as members.
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.
Both must have at least one-woman member each.
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. Moreover, it further violates Article 14 (right to equality) and Article 21 (requiring that laws and procedures are fair and reasonable) of The Indian Constitution.
However, the Bill was passed in Rajya Sabha on 22 December 2015 and paved the way for juveniles between the ages of 16-18 years to be tried as adults for heinous offences.
Though Nirbhaya won’t get any justice as the Act is not applicable retrospectively, but it shall give peace to her soul and some kind of closure to her parents who were the spirit behind this amendment.