The Juvenile Justice Care and Protection Act 2000 popularly known as The Juvenile Justice Act 2000 is a legal framework for protecting the rights of children and provide justice for them. The Act consists of 70 sections in five chapters. The Act was further amended in the year 2006 and 2011.
The Constitution of India has provisions for protection of children which provides a strong base for this Act. Art. 24 of the Constitution of India deals with children. Art.24 prohibits the employment of children below 14 years of age in hazardous jobs and Art. 21 A. inserted in the Constitution by the 86th Amendment Act provides free and compulsory education to children between six to fourteen years of age. Also Art.39 (f) of the constitution says that the children shall be given opportunity and facilities to grow in a healthy manner and should be protected from exploitation. Other provisions for protection of children are Employment of Children Act 1938, Children (Pledging of Labour) Act 1933.
The Juvenile Justice Act 2000 extents to whole of India except the State of Jammu and Kashmir. As per the provisions of the Act a ‘juvenile’ is a person who has not completed the age of 18 years. Sec.4 of the Act speaks about a Juvenile Justice Board which should be created by the State Governments and the Board should consist of a metropolitan magistrate or a first class judicial magistrate and two social workers who must have immense knowledge in child psychology. There are provisions for special homes, observation homes, Children’s homes and Shelter homes for protection of juvenile.Sec.29 of the Act deals with a Child Welfare Committee which is a District level quasi judicial body and should consist of five members. The Committee is constituted for protection, care, development and rehabilitation of ‘Children in Need of Care’. The Act also deals with adoption, foster care, sponsorship and sending the child to after care organizations.Sec.63 of the Act provides for Special Juvenile Police Unit. As per this section in every police station one officer should be appointed as the ‘juvenile or child welfare officer’. Amendment made in 2011 deleted certain discriminatory provisions available to persons affected from leprosy. While looking back Apprentice Act 1850, Reformatory Schools Act 1897, Indian Jail Committee Act and Children Act 1960 were kept in the position of Juvenile Justice Act 2000. The parliament of India further amended the Act of 2000 in 2006 and 2011. In the state of Jammu and Kashmir Juvenile Act 1997 was the law for the justice of children but it was now repealed and brought Jammu and Kashmir (Care and Protection of Children) Act 2013.
There are many conventions and declarations for the protection of Juvenile Justice in international arena. Geneva Declaration of the Rights of The Child 1924, Articles 23 and 24 of the Universal Declaration Of Human rights in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Art.10 of the International Covenant On Economic Social and Cultural rights , United Nation’s convention on the Rights of The Child 1989(signed and ratified by India in 1992), UN General Assembly Resolution 1386 of December 1959 which adopted declaration of the Rights of The Child, Convention on protection of Children and Inter-country Adoptions are the important steps. These declarations, covenants and convention are the basis of Juvenile Act in almost all countries and also these steps raise a platform for children in International scenario.
After the Delhi Gang Rape case the demand for further amendments to Juvenile Justice Act were raised to reduce the age of juvenile from 18 to 16. Terrorist groups like Lashkar-e-Toiba exploit this as a loophole. In July 2014 the said group had asked its members to declare their age to be below 18 years so that they will be excluded from trial under IPC. As per the Act the maximum punishment is 3 yrs imprisonment. The Union govt. has now decided to make further amendments to the Act. The major change to be brought is that the children between 16 to 18yrs. Who are engaged in heinous crime shall be treated as adults and will be tried according to IPC. When we make a glimpse on the records of National Crime Records Bureau, in 2013 the cases of rape registered with juveniles as accused were 347 in Madhya Pradesh, 197 in Maharashtra, 196 in Uttar Pradesh, 134 in Delhi and 183 in Rajasthan this proves that the proposal of amendment is a need of the hour. Not only rape cases but other cases like murder, attempt to commit murder, kidnapping, abduction, rioting and thefts were also registered with juveniles as accused. According to the reports of National Crime Records Bureau Rajasthan reports large number of cases with juvenile as accused.
The question to be discussed now is the implementation of the Act and its achievements. Nobody could completely argue that the Act reached its destination. Even today many children are not safe and secured. In Bachpan Bachao Andolan v. Union of India (AIR 2011 SC 3361) the issue raised was the exploitation of children in circus. Many children were brutally tortured and were living in a condition worst than animals. In Kerala the best examples could be drawn from the case of Shafeeq and Aditi children recently tortured by his biological father and stepmother. The case of Aromal, the child chained with dogs is also not different. The Act prohibits begging that is according to sec.2 (b) begging is defined as soliciting or receiving alms in a public place in cash or kind or entering into private premises for the purpose of soliciting or receiving aims. Basically begging in any form is prohibited but we are able to see small children begging in our day today life. The children who were in need of care and protection were not provided completely with this. We are very familiar with children living in worst situations which may mould criminal character in them.