Need to make the Juvenile Justice Act more Juvenile Friendly – Overcoming the Limitations (Part II)

In the first part (You can visit first part here), I pointed out areas of concern that need immediate reinforcements. So in order to see the incidence of juvenile delinquency, child abuse and neglect getting reduced over the coming years and society moving towards development and staying free from the thick black marks of this pathological situation, some suggestions for legislative reformulations, juvenile justice, delinquents administration policy and programmes have been made in this part. It can prove worthwhile for the concerned authorities while framing measures to reform the juvenile justice system.

Before we move forward have a quick look at summary of limitations and areas of concern under JJ Act 2015.

Summary of Limitations of JJ Act, 2015

  1. JJ Act, 2015 has failed to define the concept of parent’s responsibility in case of ‘juvenile delinquency’.
  2. It has failed to provide the procedural and substantive guarantees, such as right to speedy trial, right to equal treatment, presumption of innocence etc.

We must be aware of the fact that manifest arbitrariness is a ground to challenge the constitutionality of an act and was first introduced in Shayra Bano v. Union of India[1] and has since been used by the Supreme Court at various instances. The ground of manifest arbitrariness provides that any provision can be struck down if it is capricious, irrational and/or without adequate determining principle or if it is excessive or disproportionate.

  1. The link between JJ Act, 2015 and other major problems such as child labor, education, sexual abuse, adoption, exploitation, etc. is missing.
  2. The major objective of this act is Social welfare of the juveniles, however, the act has failed to provide for any schemes involving education, health care, legal guidance and social assistance in relation to the juvenile offender.
  3. It seems like the Act has been brought in by the legislature to toe the line and has provided a harsh procedure for a Juvenile thus punishing them and has satisfied the public demand. In essence what the legislature has done is that it has given up on its duty to protect the children. Instead of providing with any real social reforms that tackles the core issue of why children commit crime or why there has been an increase in crime committed by children of the Relevant Age Group, the Act takes an easy way out and provides for stricter penalties.

Possible Solutions

“A nation’s children are its supremely important assets and nation’s future lies in their proper development. An investment in children is indeed an investment in future; a healthy and educated child is the active and intelligent citizen of tomorrow.”

-Rabinder Nath Tagore

The essence of Human Resource Development is education, which plays a significant and remedial role in balancing the socio-economic fabric of the country. This invests towards improving the quality of human life. Although development brings economic gain to society in general, specific measures are still required to ensure that they reach the disadvantage and the weaker sections of the population such as Women, Children, and Destitute, Disabled and Aged persons.

Adolescent violations can’t be ceased just through the best possible usage and alterations of Juvenile Justice Act. So as to change the adolescent in struggle with law, the adolescent framework in general should be improved. The rickety state of perception homes and adolescent equity sheets should be tended to quickly. The country must strive to give training, human services, sanitation and lodging to each youngster.

Apart from different laws administering kids, there exist numerous different issues at the grassroots level. Government-supported kids’ homes are unfit to suit ignored kids. Kids are frequently even kept in prisons. In this way, there is an issue in the execution of laws relating to youngsters and the upkeep of kids’ homes because of an absence of consciousness of tyke rights and India’s prospering tyke populace.

Juvenile delinquencies can’t be ceased just through the correct execution and revisions of Juvenile Justice Act. It is crucial to make mindful comprehending about this sickness that exists in our society. Adolescents associated with wrongdoings are not culprits, actually, they are the casualties of society.

Adolescent wrongdoing can be ceased at an early stage, if unique care is provided both at home and in school. Guardians and instructors assume a huge part in shaping the brain of a kid. Rather than marking as “criminals” or “delinquents”- steps should be taken to give them an extent of correction and it would be better if the mistakes in their lives (including social and mental) are conveyed to their guardians. The issue of kid wrongdoing like numerous other social shades of malice is connected up with the blemishes and maladjustment of our general public. The perfect way is to bit by bit increase extensive acknowledgment that adolescent needs the sensitivity and comprehension of our general public and not the overwhelming hand of law.

Coupled with this the difficult transition from childhood to adulthood increases the chances of child coming in conflict with law. This can be made easy by giving them opportunities at different stages to enhance their aptitude for a meaningful life. Some steps that will help our cause are:

  • The schools should redesign their framework with the help of experts to build essential capacities in youth to make them worthwhile among the overall population.
  • Schemes for the young children are must as they impact their lives. The need is to formulate schemes according to expert guidelines. It seems that efforts have been made by Centre by bringing in new education policy. Now what has to be seen is how efficiently it is implemented and the consequent results. Though this will be a long term watch.
  • The Government Mid-Day Meal programme should be effectively enforced so as to increase the child enrolment ratio in schools.
  • Child welfare programs like the Kishori Shakti Yojana (Program for young women)[2] and Rajiv Gandhi Scheme for the fortifying of Adolescent Girls[3] should be pushed with more zeal and zest by the governing body to empower the young women in their life and to build wholesome capacities.
  • The voluntary organizations/clubs should educate the localities regarding the harmful effects of drugs and other substances. They should distribute pamphlets showing how anti-social acts destroyed individuals. Through radio and television, interview with the ex-delinquents including their brief life sketches to share better experiences which will serve as an eye opener to other youths.

Government run rehabilitation centers should provide guidance and counselling on a very subsidized rate which will help in attracting juvenile delinquents who could not afford the costly NGO run centers. Changing perspectives with time have led to the emergence of an alternative justice system for juveniles on one hand where there will be minimum intervention by law and minimum institutionalization while on the other hand it must make sure that the rehabilitation process is strong enough to prevent them from coming into conflict with law again.[4]

  • The media attention to children either as offenders or as victims can have a very damaging effect on the child. We have many instances where identities of such children have been disclosed by the media. It has a disastrous impact on the child. The Act provides for not disclosing such a child’s identity in the media and for not publishing his or her photograph. But, the police and even its juvenile unit often ignore these provisions in practice. So there is a big need for a programme to sensitize the personnel associated with the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015 including the Special Juvenile Police Unit.

Juvenile Justice Administration has been a part of judicial process. The child criminals are kept in Observation Homes during the course of their trial. The Trial is conducted in the designated Juvenile Courts before specially nominated Judges. These two institutions are located separately. For the Trial, the delinquent boy or girl, inmate of Observation Homes, needs to be brought to the Juvenile Court on fixed date and time. In the process the child is carried through open community.

  • Seeing others or feeling of being seen by others which the delinquent child not wish to have. So it is better that the Trial is conducted in the Observation Homes itself. My suggestion is to locate Juvenile Court well within the campus where Observation Home is located. This serves the purpose of saving delinquent child from being affected psychologically.
  • According to the Section 4 of the Act[5], the State Government should provide for the special training of all the members of the Board including Principle Magistrate. They should also be taught the basics of child psychology, so as to make them competent to deal with cases involving child/juvenile offenders.
  • JJ Act, 2015 is silent regarding compensation to be provided to the victims of crime. There is a requirement to amend the provisions of the Act for the benefit of the victims.
  • Government should work towards developing “welfare model” of juvenile justice, with the main focus on the promotion of the welfare of the child. Since the promotion of the child’s welfare is the objective, the government intervention should be to help “wayward youth” rather than to punish them for the offence. This welfare orientation can be used to justify minimizing concerns about due process of law. In a welfare model, the focus of juvenile justice is on the offender rather than the offence, and on the welfare of the youth rather than punishment or accountability for an offence. Characteristics of a welfare model are informality and lack of due process, as well as indeterminate sentencing since a youth should be kept in custody as long as necessary to effect rehabilitation. Another characteristic of juvenile justice systems operating on a welfare model is the high degree of discretion given to judges, probation officers and juvenile correctional officials, so that they can do what they consider best for the individual juvenile they are dealing with.

Conclusion

Finally I would like to say that the child who is below the age of 18 must be saved from the prison and be protected from the regular criminal framework. All children conflicting with law need care, protection and education. The state should strive to reintegrate them with the society by way rehabilitation system and not to make the system nothing but aggressive measure of retribution. We must protect and rescue them rather to destroy the child.

The main purpose of these series of articles was to critically study the Juvenile Justice System in country and to provide solutions to prevent the juvenile delinquency by understanding the reasons that leads to commission of delinquent acts by juveniles. Entire future of the country depends upon the children. Therefore, it is essential to take effective measures to improve Juvenile Justice System and simultaneously control the juvenile delinquency and provide basic rights to the juvenile in conflict with law.


[1] (2017) 9 SCC 1.

[2] https://wcd.nic.in/kishori-shakti-yojana

[3] https://www.india.gov.in/rajiv-gandhi-scheme-empowerment-adolescent-girls-sabla

[4] http://www.lawyersclubindia.com/articles/Rehabilitaion-of-Juvenile-Offenders-Steps-Implementations–5606.asp.

[5] Section 4 of JJ Act, 2015.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Harshit Sharma

Harshit

Harshit Sharma has done his B.A., LL.B (Criminal Law Hons.), from National Law University, Jodhpur (2019) and he completed his Masters in Criminal Law in July 2020. He secured AIR-15 in CLAT PG (2019) and he has Qualified NTA NET (December 2019). Currently, he is preparing for his Delhi Judicial Services 2019 Interview and simultaneously working for his PhD enrolment. He can be reached at harshitsharmanluj@gmail.com.

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