Juvenile in case of heinous crimes: NCPCR issues new guidelines

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    What is Preliminary Assessment?

    • The preliminary assessment is to ascertain whether a juvenile can be tried as an adult. Replacing the Juvenile Justice Act, 2000, the 2015 Act, for the first time, provided for trying juveniles in the age group of 16-18 as adults in cases of heinous offences.

    Procedure of Preliminary Assessment:

    • The Act has categorised the offences committed by children into three categories — petty offences, serious offences, and heinous offences. 
    • Section 15 of the JJ Act provides that in case of a heinous offence alleged to have been committed by a child, who has completed or is above the age of sixteen years, the Board shall conduct a preliminary assessment regarding his mental and physical capacity to commit such offence, ability to understand the consequences of the offence and the circumstances in which he allegedly committed the offence. 
    • Section 18 (3) of the Act further suggests that, if the Board, after preliminary assessment under section 15 passes an order that there is a need for trial of the said child as an adult, then the Board may order the transfer of the case to the Children’s Court having jurisdiction to try such offences. 
    • Thus, the sole objective of having such a preliminary assessment is to determine whether a child within the age group of 16-18 years should be tried as an adult in case of heinous offences.

    New Guidelines

    • Who will conduct preliminary assessment? JJB shall be responsible for the preliminary assessment and provide the child, the child’s family, and their counsel a copy of the order. 
    • Assistance of experts: In case the JJB does not have at least one member who is a practising professional with a degree in child psychology or child psychiatry, the Board shall take the assistance of psychologists or experts who have the experience of working with children in difficult times. 
    • Legal aid: The child should also be provided with a legal aid counsel through the District Legal Services Authority who shall be present during the preliminary assessment. 
    • Training to experts: It mandates experts, who have the required qualification to assist the JJB, to undergo training concerning Section 15 of the JJ Act, 2015.
    • Social Investigation Report: During the preliminary assessment, the Board and experts shall also analyse and take into consideration the Social Investigation Report (SIR), to be prepared by the Probation officer or Child Welfare Officer or any social worker, or a Social Background Report (SBR) to be prepared after interaction with the child or child’s family.

    Significance of the guidelines

    • The NCPCR is under a statutory obligation under Section 109 of the JJ Act, 2015 to monitor the proper implementation of the provisions of the Act. 
    • The guidelines have been made to remove any ambiguity and to clarify the steps that need to be followed while conducting the preliminary assessment. 

    About NCPCR

    • It was established in March 2007 under an Act of Parliament (December 2005) under the Commission for Protection of Child Rights Act, 2005. 
    • The commission’s mandate is to ensure that all laws, policies, programs and administrative systems conform to the vision of the rights of the child as enunciated in the Constitution of India as well as the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. A child is defined as a person falling in the age group of 0 to 18 years.
    • The commission consist of the following members:
      • A chairperson who, is a person of eminence and has done a outstanding work for promoting the welfare of children; and
      • Six members, out of which at least two are woman, from the following fields, is appointed by the Central Government from – Education; Child health, care, welfare or child development; Juvenile justice or care of neglected or marginalized children or children with disabilities; Elimination of child labour or children in distress; Child psychology or sociology; and Laws relating to children.

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