Issues with the Juvenile Justice Amendment Act, 2021


    In News

    • Recently, experts noted that the Juvenile Justice Act amendment could make it harder to report abuse in child care institutions.

    About the recent controversy

    • Section 86 of the JJ Act: the amendment under challenge is the one to Section 86 of the JJ Act, according to which crimes under the special law, with punishment between three to seven years, have been reclassified as non-cognisable.
      • These crimes include cruelty to children by CCI staff (Section 75)
      • Employment of children for begging (Section 76)
      • Using children to smuggle or sell intoxicating substances and narcotics (Section 78)
      • Sale and procurement of children (Section 81)
      • Exploitation of child employees (Section 79)
      • Use of children by militant or other groups for illegal purposes (Section 83)
      • Giving children intoxicating/psychotropic substances or narcotics (Section 77).
    • Code of Criminal Procedure: according to the Code of Criminal Procedure, once the crimes are rendered non-cognisable, the police will be able to register an FIR only on the directions of a magistrate and a complainant will first have to approach the concerned magistrate to start the process.

    Data/ Statistics

    • Data from the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) shows that since it started recording these crimes in 2017, they had risen by over 700% by 2019.

    Issues cited by the experts

    • Reporting cases of abuse and cruelty by employees or persons in charge in Child Care Institutions (CCIs) is not easy.
    • Victims themselves are unable to report them directly due to imbalance in power, most such crimes are reported to the police by parents or child rights bodies and child welfare committees (CWCs).
      • The parents of these children, who are mostly daily wage workers, are either unaware of how to report crimes to the police or not.
    • Talk and settle: the CWC’s first instinct in most cases is to talk and settle without escalating the matter to the police.
    • First information report: The current system of reporting crimes committed by staff at CCIs already causes delays in registering FIRs and sometimes FIRs not being registered at all.
    • District Child Protection Officer: once they get to know of such cases either through NGOs, the children or their parents meetings were convened with the victim in the presence of the District Child Protection Officer (DCPO), following which both the CWC and the DCPO decided whether the matter needed to be reported to the police.
    • Discourage reporting: This amendment encourages such thinking and will discourage officials from reporting such instances to the police.

    Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children), Amendment Bill, 2021

    • Empowerment of District Magistrate :
      • It authorises District Magistrate including Additional District Magistrate to issue adoption orders under Section 61 of the JJ Act, in order to ensure speedy disposal of cases and enhance accountability.
      •  The District Magistrates have been further empowered to ensure its smooth implementation, as well as garner synergized efforts in favour of children in distress conditions. 
        • Any Child Care Institutions shall be registered after considering the recommendations of the District Magistrate.  
      • The DM shall independently evaluate the functioning of District Child Protection Units; Child Welfare Committees (CWC), Juvenile Justice Boards, Specialised Juvenile Police Units, Child care Institutions etc.
    •  Child Welfare Committees (CWCs):  The eligibility parameters for the appointment of CWC members have been redefined.
      • Criteria for disqualification of the CWC members have also been introduced to ensure that only the persons capable of rendering quality service with requisite competence and integrity are appointed to CWC.
    • Serious offences: Presently there are three categories (petty, serious and heinous) defined under the Act which are referred to while considering the cases of children in conflict with the law.
      • However, it was observed that some of the offences do not strictly fall under any of these categories. 
      • It has been decided that offences where the maximum sentence is more than 7 years imprisonment but no minimum sentence has been prescribed or minimum sentence of fewer than 7 years is provided, shall be treated as serious offences within this Act.

    Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children Act) 2015

    • It was introduced and passed in Parliament in 2015 to replace the Juvenile Delinquency Law and the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children Act) 2000.
    • The Act seeks to achieve the objectives of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Children as ratified by India on December 11, 1992.
    • It allows the trial of juveniles in conflict with the law in the age group of 16-18 years as adults, in cases where the crimes were to be determined.
    • The nature of the crime, and whether the juvenile should be tried as a minor or a child, was to be determined by a Juvenile Justice Board.
    • The Act streamlined adoption procedures for orphans abandoned and surrendered children.
    • The act had introduced foster care in India.
    • The existing Central Adoption Resource Authority (CARA) has been given the status of a statutory body to enable it to perform its function more effectively.
    • The law had also made provision that while adopting a child, priority is given to disabled children and physically and financially incapable children.
    • Special provisions have been made to tackle child offenders committing heinous offences in the age group of 16-18 years.
    • The Juvenile Justice Board is given the option to transfer cases of heinous offences by such children to a Children’s Court (Court of Session) after conducting the preliminary assessment.

    Source: TH