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JUVENILE JUSTICE IN INDIA




Abstract:

The blog delivers an analysis of juvenile justice in India, highlighting the significant social responsibility that society carries for the well-being of its children. Based on Jawaharlal Nehru's statement that "children are the nation's future," this debate follows the development of child protection laws over time, emphasizing significant laws and revisions. A crucial part of the legal system that addresses the rehabilitation and reintegration of young offenders is the creation of Juvenile Justice Boards (JJBs). Issues with the legal infrastructure and awareness gaps are among the system's challenges that are mentioned, supporting a comprehensive, cooperative strategy that includes international cooperation and legislative improvements. Case studies highlight important court rulings that have shaped the understanding of juvenile justice statutes by highlighting factors such as the offender's age and the benefit of the doubt in determining juvenility. In conclusion, it highlights the continued dedication to specific goals, global standards, resource allocation, and child-centric justice. The goal is to establish an environment in which children's rights are respected and protected, thus supporting a vision of a more promising and equitable future for everyone.


Introduction:

In our society, we bear a collective responsibility to nurture and cultivate the well-being of our children, as they will ultimately inherit and shape the society, we hold dear. How we construct our justice system for them carries profound implications for their future and the establishment of societal norms. Jawaharlal Nehru proclaimed, "Children are the nation's future and tomorrow's citizens." While they undeniably represent our future, they are also the most vulnerable among us. When coupled with a lack of education and unhealthy living conditions, this vulnerability can lead to a tragic outcome where a child is coerced into activities that could have been prevented from the very outset. The juvenile justice system in India plays a crucial aspect in the legal framework addressing the unique needs and challenges associated with young offenders. Ensuring children's rights not only fosters their well-being but also contributes to the development of responsible and engaged citizens, ultimately benefiting societies and nations as a whole.

Evolution of child protection laws in India:

  1. Indian Majority Act, 1875.

  2. The Juvenile Justice Act (1986).

Amendments to the Juvenile Justice Act (2015).

The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Amendment Act, 2021.

  1. The Right to Education Act (2015).

  2. Commissions for Protection of Child Rights Act, 2005.

  3. The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Rules, 2020.


Juvenile Justice Boards (JJBs):

They are established under The JJ Act, 2015 at district levels to handle the cases of children in conflict with law. They have been given the responsibility to determine the best possible course of action for juvenile offenders while focusing on their rehabilitation and reintegration into society. It lays down a separate procedure for dealing with these offenders, like confidentiality of records and involvement of probation officers during their rehabilitation. The Act outlines mechanisms for monitoring and evaluating the implementation of its provisions to ensure that children's rights are protected effectively

This act classifies children into neglected and delinquent providing two different approaches namely- welfare and justice.

These two types of children are very difficult to differentiate between because there is no particular line that one side is neglected and one is delinquent especially when one is the cause of the other i.e., neglect leads to delinquency and delinquency to neglect. 

The legislation also oversees adoption and foster care processes, prioritizing the well-being of the child. Its primary objective is to secure stable and affectionate homes for children whose biological parents are unable to care for them adequately. One significant challenge in this aspect is the high cost to the state of institutional care, which has been associated with issues such as physical abuse, sexual assault, corruption, and coercive labor practices, ultimately leading to employment in industries. Hence, the legal system endeavors to encourage alternatives to institutional care, such as placement with families, foster care, day/night shelters, community centers, involvement with NGOs, or adoption, aiming to provide a more favorable environment for children before considering juvenile care. The legislation explicitly outlines penalties for individuals or organizations found guilty of violating children's rights or failing to adhere to the Act's stipulations.


The role of the judiciary:

  1. The Judiciary as the Guardian

  2. Judicial Interpretation

  3. Guidelines of Judicial Decisions


Challenges:

  1. Identifying and addressing the challenges:

  • Lack of Awareness

  • Legal Infrastructure

  • Backlog of Cases

  • Resources

  • Handling the cases sensitively

  1. Overcoming Procedural Hurdles:

  • Legal complexities

  • Formalities

  • Access to Justice

  • Competency of Legal Counsel

  1. Balancing the Interests:

  • Child vs State

  • Rehabilitation vs. Punishment

  • Privacy

  • Cultural sensitivity

Addressing these challenges requires an integrated approach involving legislative changes, increased awareness and training, distribution of resources, and a commitment to upholding children's rights as a fundamental priority. It also involves collaboration among various stakeholders, including the judiciary, government agencies, nonprofit groups, and the international community, to ensure the effective protection of children's rights in India.


Case studies:

  1. Gopinath Ghosh vs State of West Bengal

The Supreme Court ruled that the age of a juvenile offender should be determined based on the date of commission of the act and not on the date of the trial taking place. 

  1. Rajendra Prasad vs State of UP

In this case, the Supreme Court held that a juvenile cannot be sentenced to death.

  1. Pratap Singh vs State of Jharkhand

In this case, the supreme court gave the judgment that a juvenile cannot be sentenced to life imprisonment without a future possibility of release.

  1. Abuzar Hossain @ Gulam Hossain v. State of West Bengal

 The Hon’ble Supreme Court held that if there is any doubt about the age of an accused, he should be given the benefit of the doubt and treated as a juvenile.

  1. Mohd. Imran vs State of Maharashtra

In this case, the Supreme Court ruled that a juvenile can only be tried as an adult if he/she is above 16 years of age and has committed a heinous offense.

  1. Sampurna Behura v. Union of India & Ors

The Hon’ble Supreme Court held that it is not necessary for an accused to prove his juvenility beyond reasonable doubt.

  1. Hari Ram v. State of Rajasthan & Anr

The Hon’ble Supreme Court held that the claim of juvenility can be raised even after the final disposal of a case and it can be taken up at any stage and any delay in making such a claim cannot be a ground for rejection of such claim.


Conclusion:

According to a Brazilian activist, “A juvenile delinquent is just a poor child caught in the struggle for survival.” While we can't choose one’s birth circumstances, we can decide how to protect children in difficult situations and prevent things from getting worse. The judiciary plays a crucial role in this, especially for young and vulnerable citizens. In India, the judiciary has made significant progress in interpreting and enforcing children's rights, drawing inspiration from both domestic laws and international conventions. The establishment of Child Welfare Committees and Juvenile Justice Boards, along with child-friendly procedures, shows a commitment to creating an environment where children can seek justice and protection without fear. To continue this progress, it's essential to have clear goals, focusing on protecting children's rights. This involves staying in line with international standards, investing in resources and infrastructure, and actively pursuing justice that prioritizes children. By doing so, India can ensure that children grow up in an environment where their rights are not only protected but also respected. This aligns with the vision of a brighter and fairer future for everyone.

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