The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015 was introduced and passed by the Parliament in 2015 so as to replace the previously applicable acts, Juvenile Delinquency Law and the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000. This Act has 10 chapters and 112 sections.

Chapter I- Is the Preliminary chapter and talks about the short title, extent, commencement, application and various definitions relating to the act. A total of 61 definitions have been defined in section 2.

Chapter II- Deals with the General Principles of Care and Protection of children. In this chapter it has been stated that, while implementing the provisions of this act, the following principles must be followed-

  1.  Principle of presumption of innocence: Any child shall be presumed to be an innocent of any mala fide or criminal intent up to the age of eighteen years.
  2.  Principle of dignity and worth.
  3.  Principle of participation.
  4.  Principle of best interest.
  5. Principle of family responsibility.
  6.  Principle of safety.
  7.  Positive measures.
  8.  Principle of non-stigmatizing semantics.
  9.  Principle of non-waiver of rights.
  10. Principle of equality and non-discrimination.
  11. Principle of right to privacy and confidentiality.
  12. Principle of institutionalization as a measure of last resort.
  13. Principle of repatriation and restoration.
  14. Principle of fresh start.
  15.  Principle of diversion.
  16. Principles of natural justice.

Chapter III- Explains the functions, powers and responsibilities of the Juvenile Justice Board. It explains the eligibility for the selection of members. According to section 4 (2), A board should consist of a Metropolitan Magistrate or a Judicial Magistrate of First Class, not being Chief Metropolitan Magistrate or Chief Judicial Magistrate with at least three years of experience and two social workers selected in a manner which may be prescribed, of whom at least one shall be a woman, forming a Bench and every such Bench shall have the powers conferred by the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 on a Metropolitan Magistrate or, as the case may be, a Judicial Magistrate of First Class. Under this chapter, the procedure to be followed by a Magistrate who has not been empowered under this act is also mentioned.

Some of the main functions of the board are as follows-

  1. Ensuring that the rights of the child throughout the process of arrest, inquiry, aftercare and rehabilitation are well protected.
  2. Ensuring the availability of legal aid to the children.
  3. Ordering police for registration of FIR if any offence is committed against a child.
  4. Conducting inquiry for declaring that a certain person is fit for taking care of the child in conflict with law.

Chapter IV- States the Procedure in relation to children in conflict with the law. It states that the parents, guardian or probation officer should be informed about the child in conflict with law. A few other things stated in the chapter are;  the inquiry must be held by the board regarding the child in conflict with the law, Powers of the Children’s Court, rules regarding disqualification on the findings of an offence, Special provision in respect of pending cases and the provisions with respect of run- away child in conflict with law.

Chapter V- Has four sections- 27, 28, 29 and 30. This chapter relates to the Child Welfare Committee. The state governments must constitute one or more Child Welfare Committees for every district for exercising powers and discharging duties to such committees in relation of children in need of care and protection under this act. The committee shall consist of a Chairperson and four members, of whom, atleast one should be a woman and one should be an expert on matters concerning children. This chapter states the functions, responsibilities and powers of the committee.

Chapter VI- Explains the Procedure in relation to children in need of care and protection. Section 31(1) states that any child in need of care and protection shall be presented before the committee by any police officer, any public servant, Child-line services, Child Welfare Official, any social worker, child himself or any nurse, doctor. The offence and penalty of not reporting is also mentioned in the same. The chapter also states the orders which can be passed by the committee in relation of child in need of care and protection and also lays down the procedure for declaring a child legally free for adoption.

Chapter VII- deals with Rehabilitation and Social- Reintegration of Children. It states the process of rehabilitation and social re-integration. It also states that the restoration of a child in need of care and protection should be the primary aim of any children’s home, specialized adoption agency or open shelter. It also lays down the registration process for childcare institutions, penalty for non-registration of such institutions and also states that the State shall appoint inspection committees for inspection of institutions registered under the act. Central or State Governments can also independently evaluate the functioning of the Board, Committee, special juvenile police units and registered institutions

.

Chapter VIII- Specifically deals with adoption. Eligibility of prospective adoptive parents, Procedures for adoption by Indian prospective adoptive parents living in India, adoption for inter-country relative adoption, inter-country adoption of an orphan or surrendered or abandoned child are thoroughly explained in the sections of this chapter.

Orders of adoption issued by the courts shall be forwarded to the authority so that the authority can maintain the data on adoption, the State shall also recognize one or more institutions in districts as Special Adoption Agencies, these shall also be inspected once every year by the state itself. State and Central Adoption Resource Authorities shall also be set up and a steering committee for these authorities has to be set up as well. Powers of the authority and grants by the Central Government have also been specified in the chapter.

Chapter IX- Relates with the Offences against children.  Punishment for cruelty to a child, corporal punishment and alternative punishment are explained here. Other offences include, giving intoxicating liquor. Narcotics, or Psychotropic substances to a child, using children for vending, peddling, smuggling, exploitation of a child employee, use of child by militant or any other groups, sale or procurement of child for any reason, offences committed on disabled children, kidnapping and abduction of children and abetment. Other than the aforementioned offences,  any offence committed by a child under this Chapter, shall be considered as a child in conflict with the law under this act.

Chapter X- Is the miscellaneous chapter in this act.

The main provisions of the new act are that the act allows the trial of juveniles in conflict with law between the age of 16-18 years to be tried as adults, in the cases where the crimes were to be determined. The nature of the crimes and whether or not, a juvenile shall be tried as an adult is upto the Juvenile Justice Board. One of the reasons why this provision came in to force was because of the 2012  Delhi Gang rape case, where one of the accused was just short of 18 years and hence was being tried as a Juvenile.

The second major provision is with regards to adoption as discussed in Chapter VIII, bringing a better, more universally acceptable adoption law.

This act also marks the inclusion of the serious crimes apart from the heinous crimes. According to the Act, if a juvenile is charged with a heinous crime, he/she would be tried as an adult. Heinous crimes with a minimum imprisonment of seven years mostly relate to sexual offences and violent sexual crimes.

SOME RECENT SUPREME COURT JUDGEMENTS ON THE JUVENILE JUSTICE ACT, 2015-

Union of India vs. Ramesh Bishnoi,  2019, 1173 SC

In this case the respondent had applied for the job of a sub-inspector in CISF and in the recruitment form, he was asked about whether any FIR was lodged against him, he mentioned all the facts truthfully and also stated that he was acquitted of the offence as there was no evidence against him, but he was denied of the job on the ground that a criminal case was lodged against the person in the past. This was taken upto and Supreme Court and it was held that any offence committed by a person as a child is no ground to deny him the appointment. Even if the juvenile is convicted, the same shall be obliterated so that there is no stigma with regard to any crime committed by such a person as a juvenile.

{Section 3 of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015}

National Commission for the Protection of Child Rights vs. Rajesh Kumar, 2020, 26 SC

In this case a child care institution in Jalpaiguri in West Bengal had indulged in a large scale child trafficking matter. Three things were held in the judgement. If State Commission has already started inquiry, National Commission should refrain from inquiring into matter. However, this does not mean that the National Commission cannot go into other larger questions which may have led to the  incidents of violation of child rights which need to be inquired into. Also, State Commission has the power to inquire into the matters which fall within its purview,  if  the illegality is such that it has inter-state or international ramifications and The State Commission asks for assistance from The National Commission or some other State Commission where the child may have been illegally trafficked, then The National Commission or other State Commissions should cooperate with The Commission inquiring into matter. And, NCPCR asked the State CID, West Bengal and DM for certain information including copies of papers seized, statement, copies of evidence and list of all arrested people. Neither The National Commission nor The State commission had jurisdiction over the criminal matter, hence, they cannot ask for copies of statements recorded by the investigating authorities.

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