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RSTV: THE BIG PICTURE- CHANGES IN JUVENILE JUSTICE ACT

 

RSTV

 

 

Introduction:

The Union Cabinet, chaired by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi approved the proposal of the Ministry of Women and Child Development to amend the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015 to introduce measures for strengthening Child Protection set-up to ensure best interest of children. The amendments include authorizing the District Magistrate including Additional District Magistrates 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 under the Act, to ensure its smooth implementation, as well as garner synergized efforts in favour of children in distress conditions. Defining eligibility parameters for appointment of CWC members, and categorizing previously undefined offences as ‘serious offence’ are some of the other aspects of the proposal. Several difficulties faced in implementation of various provisions of the Act have also been addressed. The amendments, once approved by Parliament, will increase the role of district magistrates and empower them to undertake inspections of childcare institutions.

 

Changes brought in:

  • Empower the District Magistrates (DM) to issue adoption orders as well as monitor the implementation of the law.
  • Empower the DMs and the additional DMs to monitor the functioning of agencies responsible for implementing the JJ Act.
  • The District Child Protection Units will function under the DMs.
  • Before someone sets up a shelter home for children and sends their proposal for registration under the JJ Act to the State, a DM will have to assess their capacity and conduct a background check.
  • A DM could also independently evaluate the functioning of the Child Welfare Committee, Special Juvenile Protection Units and registered childcare institutes.

 

About JJ Act:

  • The Juvenile Justice Act of 2000 was amended in 2015 with a provision allowing for Children in Conflict with Law (CCL) to be tried as adults under certain circumstances. 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 specifies procedural safeguards in cases of children in conflict with law. It seeks to address challenges in the existing Act such as delays in adoption processes, high pendency of cases, accountability of institutions, etc. The Act further seeks to address children in the 16-18 age group, in conflict with law, as an increased incidence of crimes committed by them have been reported over the past few years.
  • Replaced the 2000 act- the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000.
  • Aim: To Comprehensively address children in conflict with law and children in need of care and protection.
  • It mandates setting up Juvenile Justice Boards and Child Welfare Committees in every district. Both must have at least one-woman member each.
  • Also, the Central Adoption Resource Authority (CARA) was granted the status of a statutory body to enable it to perform its function more effectively.
  • The Act included several new offences committed against children (like, illegal adoptions, use of child by militant groups, offences against disabled children, etc) which are not adequately covered under any other law.
  • All Child Care Institutions, whether run by State Government or by voluntary or non-governmental organisations are to be mandatorily registered under the Act within 6 months from the date of commencement of the Act.

 

Significance of the amendments to the Act:

  • It has been made sure that the children are protected and kept out of the adult justice system as much as possible.
  • Currently, with no such mention of minimum sentence, the Juveniles between ages of 16-18 year could be treated as adults for a crime for possession of illegal substances or serious crimes too. Now this has been cleared.

 

Need for amendments:

  • NCPCR in its survey of 7,000 children’s home found that 1.5 % of the homes do not conform to rules of JJ Act and 29 % of them had major shortcomings in their management.
  • It also that not a single Child Care Institution (CCI) in the country was found to be 100 % compliant to the provisions of the JJ Act and children are living in unsanitary conditions.
  • CCIs can be government-run, government-aided, privately run or run through government, private or foreign funding & they fall under the CWC.
  • The state child protection units have little oversight and monitoring & new children’s home can be opened without the sanction of the DM which creates many problems.

 

Conclusion:

The recent amendment approved by the Cabinet is one of the much-needed steps to ensure proper implementation of the Juvenile Justice Act. But the real change will occur only if the amendment becomes the Act along with the proper training of officials.