Protection of Child Rights in India- Special Reference to provisions of Juvenile Justice Act.

Ankita Raj

Intern


The Constitution of India guarantees all children certain rights, which have been specially included for them. Right to free and compulsory elementary education for all children in the 6-14 year age group (Article 21 A). Right to be protected from any hazardous employment till the age of 14 years (Article 24). the right to protection from harmful influences, abuse and exploitation; and. the right to participate fully in family, cultural and social life. In light of the National Children’s Month, below are the 12 rights of the child—and what adults can do to uphold them.



The 12 Rights of Filipino Children

1. Every child has the right to be born well.

It is the responsibility of the parents to make sure they can provide a safe environment for their unborn child. This includes proper medical attention and care from conception, birth, and throughout childhood years in a new-born services unit or pediatric center.

2. Every child has the right to a wholesome family life.

The child’s first learning environment and teachers are their home and family. They are entitled to be a part of a loving family that will instill ethical values and morals in them.

3. Every child has the right to be raised well and become contributing members of society.

By raising them in a safe and loving environment, parents and guardians can shape the personalities of their young to be useful and contributing members of their respective communities when they grow older.

4. Every child has the right to basic needs.

The four basic needs of people outlined in the law are as follows: a balanced diet, adequate clothing, sufficient shelter, and proper healthcare. This also includes any other requirements to lead a healthy and active life.

5. Every child has the right to access what they need to have a good life.

This right goes beyond the basic needs and focuses more on the atmosphere of the place they will be raised in. A child’s needs must always be attended to so they feel the support of people around them, which in turn will build and strengthen their character in adulthood.

6. Every child has the right to education.

In an ideal world, every child should have the means to go to a classroom and have access to books and learning materials that can enrich their intelligence and skills.

7. Every child has the right to play and enjoy their youth.

Children have the right to engage in wholesome recreational activities whenever they wish and not be exploited for events that are deemed only for adults to do, i.e., intensive manual labor.

8. Every child has the right to be protected from danger.

This includes all hazards that could affect their physical, mental, and emotional states, such as removing them from dangerous living situations, preventing them from getting into accidents, or protecting them from the abuse of adults, to name a few.

9. Every child has the right to live in a productive environment.

Children should be surrounded by safe communities that inspire them to give back when they are older. This means staying away from bad influences and situations that can cause harm to their health.

10. Every child has the right to be cared for in the absence of their parent or guardian.

If the parent or guardian fails to fulfil their role, the State shall assume custody and care for the child, providing them with their fundamental needs for growth and development.

11. Every child has the right to good governance.

Children also have a right to be born under the presence of good governance that can inspire them to become a helpful and active citizen. This doesn’t necessarily mean they have to get involved with politics but rather have an interest in being involved in political discussions for the betterment of their country.

12. Every child has the right to freedom and peace.

Last but not the least, every child is entitled to do whatever they want in their lives, so long as it contributes to the peace and betterment of the communities they are a part of.








Protect Children’s Rights Every Day

Parents, guardians, and all adults should be vigilant in protecting and advocating for the rights of children. While this National Children’s Month is a gentle reminder for everyone to ensure that they are creating a better world for young Filipinos to live in the future, the battle must not stop at the end of November.

Let’s continue to be great examples to kids and be conscious of our actions in making the Philippines a safe environment for them to take care of and pass on to future generations.

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.

The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015 has come into force from January 15, 2016 and repeals the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000.

The POCSO Act, 2012 is a law to provide for the protection of children from the offences of sexual assault, sexual harassment and pornography while safeguarding the interest of children in every stage of the judicial process by incorporating child-friendly mechanisms.

It is founded on Manurewa Marae acknowledging that children and young people have a right to be treated with dignity and respect; be free from physical, emotional and sexual harm and have their needs met in a safe environment.

After the 2012 Delhi Gang Rape it was found that one of the accused was a few months away from being 18. So, he was tried in a juvenile court. On 31 July 2013, Subramanian Swamy, a BJP politician filed a Public Interest Litigation in the Supreme Court of India seeking that the boy be tried as an adult in a court. The Court asked the juvenile court to delay its verdict.

After the Supreme Court allowed the juvenile court to give its verdict, the boy was sentenced to 3 years in a reform home on 31 August 2013.The victim’s mother criticised the verdict and said that by not punishing the juvenile the court was encouraging other teenagers to commit similar crimes. In July 2014, Minister of Women and Child Development, Maneka Gandhi said that they were preparing a new law which will allow 16-year-olds to be tried as adult. She said that 50% of juvenile crimes were committed by teens who know that they get away with it. She added that changing the law, which will allow them to be tried for murder and rape as adults, will scare them. The bill was introduced in the Parliament by Maneka Gandhi on 12 August 2014.On 22 April 2015, the Cabinet cleared the final version after some changes. The government introduced the Juvenile Justice Bill in August 2014 in Lok Sabha and gave various reasons to justify the need for a new law. It said that the existing Juvenile Justice Act, 2000 was facing implementation issues and procedural delays with regard to adoption, etc. Additionally, the government cited National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) data to say that there has been an increase in crimes committed by juveniles, especially by those in the 16-18 years age group.

NCRB data shows that the percentage of juvenile crimes, when seen in proportion to total crimes, has increased from 1% in 2003 to 1.2% in 2013. During the same period, 16-18 year olds accused of crimes as a percentage of all juveniles accused of crimes increased from 54% to 66%.A PRS analysis of the statistics on incidence of crimes by children:

Juveniles between 16-18 years apprehended under IPC

Crime 2003 2013

Burglary 1,160 2,117

Rape 293 1,388

Kidnapping/abduction 156 933

Robbery 165 880

Murder 328 845

Other offences 11,839 19,641

Total 13,941 25,804

Note: Other offences include cheating, rioting, etc. Sources: Juveniles in conflict with law, Crime in India 2013, National Crime Records Bureau; PRS.

Changes made in the act:

(1) The bill will allow a Juvenile Justice Board, which would include psychologists andsociologists, to decide whether a juvenile criminal in the age group of 16–18 should tried as anandsociologist

(2) The bill introduced concepts from the Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Cooperation in Respect of Inter-country Adoption 1993 which were missing in the previous act.

(3) The bill also seeks to make the adoption process of orphaned, abandoned and surrendered children more streamlined.

(4) The bill introduces foster care in India. Families will sign up for foster care and abandoned, orphaned children, or those in conflict with the law will be sent to them. Such families will be monitored and shall receive financial aid from the state. In adoption, disabled children and children of physically and financially incapable will be given priority. Parents giving up their child for adoption will get 3 months to reconsider, compared to the earlier provision of 1 month.

(5) A person giving alcohol or drugs to a child shall be punished with 7 years imprison and/or₹1,00,000 fine. Corporal Punishment will be punishable by ₹10,000 or 3 months of imprisonment. A person selling a child will be fine with ₹1,00,000 and imprisoned for 5 years.

(6) The bill allows for juveniles 16 years or older to be tried as adults for heinous offences like rape and murder. Heinous offences are those which are punishable with imprisonment of seven years or more.

(7) The bill mandates setting up Juvenile Justice Boards and Child Welfare Committees in every district. Both must have at least one woman member each.

(8) The decision to try a juvenile 16 years or older as an adult will be taken by the Juvenile Justice Board, which will have a judicial magistrate and two social workers as members. If the board decides against it, the juvenile will be sent for rehabilitation.

(9) The Child Welfare Committees will look at institutional care for children in their respective districts. Each committee will have a chairperson and four other members, all specialists in matters relating to children.

(10) Any child that found committing any crime will now be send for a preliminary assessment for a period of three months, up from the earlier one month. A clarification is added that the preliminary assessment is not a trial, but to assess the child’s capacity to commit the crime.

(11) There will now be proper training of special juvenile units in the police force.

(12) NCPCR and SCPCR will be the nodal authorities to be responsible for monitoring implementation, the publicity of the amended act, and to look into cases that arise out of the Act.

Criticism:

During the debate in the Lok Sabha in May 2015, Shashi Tharoor, an INC Member the Parliament (MP), argued that the law was in contradiction with international standards and that most children who break the law come from poor and illiterate families. He said that they should be educated instead of being punished. Child Rights Activists and Women Rights Activists have called the bill a regressive step and have criticized the Bill. Many experts and activists viewed post December 2012 Delhi Gang Rape responses as creation of media sensationalisation of the issue, and cautioned against any regressive move to disturb the momentum of Juvenile Justice Legislation in the Country. However some sections in the society felt that in view of terrorism and other serious offences, Juvenile Justice Act of 2000 needed to be amended to include punitive approaches in the existing Juvenile Justice Law, which so far is purely rehabilitative and reformative. Some argued that there is no need of tampering with Juvenile Justice Act for putting up effective deterrent against terrorism. Retired Judge of Delhi High Court, Justice RS Sodhi on 8 August 2015 told Hindustan Times, "We are a civilised nation and if we become barbaric by twisting our own laws, then the enemy will succeed in destroying our social structure. We should not allow that but we must condemn this move of sending children to fight their war”. They have been saying there is no need to carve out an exception for children in a particular age group solely based on the perceived heinousness of the offence. The division into two groups — one below 16 and another above 16 — goes against the core principle that all children should be treated as such till the age of 18. This age has been fixed based on studies in child behaviour and the U.N. Convention of the Rights of the Child. A parliamentary Standing Committee opposed the change, noting that subjecting juveniles to the adult judicial system would go against the objective of protecting all children from the rigours of adult justice. It noted that the Supreme Court had not agreed with the view that children involved in certain offences should be tried as adults.


Conclusion:

There was never any doubt that the progressive juvenile law enacted in 2000 was not being implemented properly and that there was a need to revisit its provisions. In many ways, the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Bill, 2015, passed by the Lok Sabha, is a forward-looking and comprehensive enactment that provides for dealing with children in conflict with the law and those requiring care and protection. However, its laudable features have been overshadowed by one provision that states that children in the 16-18 age group will henceforth be tried as adults if they are accused of committing ‘heinous offences’. The government believes that the provision will help address public disquiet over the perception that young offenders are getting away with light punishment after committing crime




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