“Juvenile offenders are likely to infiltrate into the country… time has come to change the archaic Juvenile Justice Act to ensure that terror suspect below the age of 18 should be tried under the stringent laws”
-Ujjwal Nikam, Special Public Prosecutor in the Mumbai shooting case
History of Juvenile Justice
Juvenile Justice in India is governed by the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000. It is a successor to the Juvenile Justice Act, 1986 and has been enacted to correct the loopholes that were a characteristic feature of its predecessor, though entirely not without failings of its own.
Ancient India though governed by a number of laws hardly had any law specially dealing with juvenile delinquency. As the problem of neglected children and juvenile delinquency grew with times, a need for legislation to that effect was felt. India, a British colony then took inspiration from England, which by then had already passed its own juvenile legislation. The Apprentices Act was passed in 1850 as the first juvenile legislation to deal with children in India. As per the provisions of this act, children between ten to eighteen years of age found indulging in crime were placed in apprenticeship in a trade. The Indian Penal Code came after another ten years. Though it is not a specific legislation dealing with juvenile justice, nevertheless it has some provisions when it comes to underage criminals. Section 82(5) of the IPC grants blanket immunity to a child below seven years of age imbibing the principle of doli incapax, which means ‘incapable of crime’. IPC assumes that a child less than seven years of age does not have the capacity to form a mental intent to commit a crime knowingly. The next milestone in the history of development of juvenile justice in India was The Reformatory School Act of 1876 which had a provision to empower the government to establish reformatory schools and to keep young criminals there till they found employment. Thereafter, a jail committee was appointed in 1919 following the recommendations of which separate legislations dealing with juvenile delinquency were enacted in different provinces, the first ones being in Madras, Bengal and Bombay.
Since then, as Professor B.B. Pande of Delhi University puts it, “the twin concepts of “juvenile delinquency” and “juvenile justice” have gone through a constant process of evolution and refinement.” After independence, in 1960 a new act focussing on children was passed. This was the Children Act, 1960 to “provide for the care, protection, maintenance, welfare, training, education and rehabilitation of neglected or delinquent children and for the trial of delinquent children in the Union Territories.” Even after this, the juvenile justice system faced different problems; the most important of them being the fact that different states had different acts to deal with juvenile delinquency which led to children in equal situation being judged differently in accordance with different provisions in different acts. The Supreme Court in Sheela Barse v. Union of India observed “we would suggest that instead of each State having its own Children’s Act in other States it would be desirable if the Central Government initiates Parliamentary Legislation on the subject, so that there is complete uniformity in regard to the various provisions relating to children in the entire territory of the country.
The Children’s Act which may be enacted by Parliament should contain not only provisions for investigation and trial of offences against children below the age of 16 years but should also contain mandatory provisions for ensuring social, economic and psychological rehabilitation of the children who are either accused of offences or are abandoned or destitute or lost. Moreover, it is not enough merely to have legislation on the subject, but it is equally, if not more, important to ensure that such legislation is implemented in all earnestness and mere lip sympathy is not paid to such legislation and justification for non-implementation is not pleaded on ground of lack of finances on the part of the State. The greatest recompense which the State can get for expenditure on children is the building up of a powerful human resource ready to take its place in the forward march of the nation.”
This led to the passing of Juvenile Justice Act, 1986 for the care, protection and rehabilitation of juvenile delinquents and neglected children. This act was soon replaced by Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000; the reason for the replacement being deficiency in the old Juvenile Justice Act of 1986 that it did not provide for the differential approach to delinquent juveniles and neglected juveniles. “The aim of J.J.A. 2000 is to consolidate and amend the law relating to juveniles in conflict with law and children in need of care and protection, by providing for proper care. Protection and treatment by catering to their development needs, and by adopting a, child-friendly approach in the adjudication and disposition of matters in the best interest of children and for their ultimate rehabilitation through various institutions established under this enactment.”
I have always been against Glorifying Over Work and therefore, in the year 2021, I have decided to launch this campaign “Balancing Life”and talk about this wrong practice, that we have been following since last few years. I will be talking to and interviewing around 1 lakh people in the coming 2021 and publish their interview regarding their opinion on glamourising Over Work.
If you are interested in participating in the same, do let me know.
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