The amendments to the Juvenile Justice Care and Protection of Children Act, 2015 were approved by the Union Cabinet on February 17, 2021.
What is the Juvenile Justice Care and Protection of Children Act 2015?
The Juvenile Justice Care and Protection Act was introduced and passed in the parliament in 2015 to replace the Juvenile Delinquency Law and the Juvenile Justice Care and Protection of Children Act, 2000.
The Bill passed by the parliament seeks to increase the role of the district magistrates and the role of additional district magistrates in the matters concerning child care and adoption.
Smriti Irani, Women and Child Development Minister moved the Bill in Rajya Sabha. The Juvenile Justice Care and Protection of Children Amendment Bill, 2021, the Bill talks about the amendment of the Juvenile Justice Act, 2015, it proposes to increase the role of district magistrates and additional district magistrates in matters concerning child care and adoption, Smriti Irani said.
"The children of our country deserve a united house to support the amendments proposed. The amendments empower the district magistrates, enhance CWC (child welfare committee) and enhance accountability. Hence, I beseech that this House irrespective of its political differences stand together in service of our children," Irani said.
She said that, the changes which were brought in the Bill, which give increased powers and responsibilities to the district magistrates, were being made to ensure the speedy disposal of cases and also enhance the accountability and increased protection of children at the district level, and to also speed up the adoption process in the country.
District Magistrates, including the Additional District Magistrates, can now issue adoption orders under section 61 of the Juvenile Justice Act. Adoption processes were currently under the purview of the Courts and each adoption process would take years to pass because of the overwhelming backlog. The changes brought in the amendment will make sure that the adoption process would be faster, that more orphans in the need of home will be adopted faster.
So, in order to smoothen the procedures for orphan, the Central Adoption Resource Authority [CARA] was given the status of statutory body.
Central Adoption Resource Authority [CARA] –
Central Adoption Resource Authority [CARA] is an autonomous and statutory body under the Ministry of Women and Child Development. It was established in 1990. CARA is the nodal body of the adoption of the Indian children. Also, it monitors and regulate the in- country and inter- country adoptions.
District Magistrates are also responsible for ensuring that Child Care Institutions [CCI] which are falling in their districts, are following the proper procedures and all norms are not. The District Magistrate will also do a proper background check of all the child welfare committee’s members [CWC].
Also, the new Act focused on to allow the trials of juveniles in conflict with the law in the age group of sixteen to eighteen years as adults, in cases where the crimes were need to be determined. The Juvenile Justice Board, would determine the crime, that whether the nature of the crime committed, and whether the juvenile should be treated as a minor or as an adult. This provision received impetus after the 2012 gang rape in which one of the accused was just of eighteen years, and therefore was tried as a juvenile.
Under the 2015 Act, the offences committed by the juveniles are classified as –
Serious Offences includes offences with three to seven years of imprisonment.
Most heinous crimes have a minimum or maximum sentence of seven years. According to the Juvenile Justice Act 2015, the Juveniles who are charged with heinous crimes and are between the ages of sixteen and eighteen years would be tried as adults and processed through the adult justice system. The Bill includes that the serious offences will also include offences for which maximum punishment is imprisonment of more than seven years, and minimum punishment is not prescribed or is less than seven years.
Both serious crimes and heinous crimes have been clarified for the first time, removing ambiguity. This provision has been made to make sure that the children are kept out of the adult justice system, as much as possible.
Heinous offences with a minimum imprisonment of seven years pertain mostly to violent sexual crimes and sexual offences. Currently, there is no mention of a minimum sentence, and the maximum sentence of seven years, juveniles who are between the sixteen to eighteen years of age could also be tried as an adult for crimes like sale of an illegal substance, such as alcohol or drugs, which now fall under the ambit of a serious crime.
The Act provides that the offences against children that are punishable with imprisonment less than seven years than the matter will be tried by a Judicial Magistrate, and if the offence is punishable with more than seven years of imprisonment, the matter will be tried in the Children’s Court.
This article is written by Manasi Khadilkar, of Gopaldas Jhamatmal Advani Law College.