Juvenile Justice System in India

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This article is written by Shambhavi, a student of Banasthali Vidyapeeth.

A juvenile court is a tribunal having special authority to pass judgements for crimes that are perpetrated by children or adolescents who have not attained the age of majority. In most contemporary legal systems, children or teens who commit a crime are treated differently from legal adults that have committed the same offence. 

Juvenile Court is an exceptional court or division of a trial court which deals with under-age defendants who violate any federal, state or municipal law, and any child who is abused, neglected or dependent. 

 Juveniles over which it has jurisdiction are generally under the age of 18, but juvenile court doesn’t have jurisdiction in cases in which minor are charged as adults.

In general sense child and juvenile have same meaning but however difference lies in context of insinuation in the eyes of law. Minor implies young and teen persons whereas juvenile either indicates immature person or young offenders.

The court has the power to stimulate child custody, support and visitation in some circumstances but permanently cease parental rights or to sanction or require treatment for mentally ill or retarded children.

The procedure in Juvenile court is not always contentious, though the minor is entitled to legal representation by the lawyer. It can be striving to involve parents or social workers and probation officers in the process to consummate positive results and save the minor from involvement in further crimes.

However, serious crimes and repeated offences can result in sentencing juvenile offenders to prison, with transfer to state prison upon reaching adulthood with limited maximum sentences. Where parental neglect or loss of control is a problem, the juvenile court may seek out foster homes for the juvenile, treating the child as a ward of the court.

 The juvenile justice system is the structure of the criminal legal system that deals with crimes committed by minors, usually between the age of 10 and 18 years. The upper age of eligibility is determined by the juvenile law of each state, which oscillate.

 There are some status offences that may be committed by a juvenile, such as curfew violations, running away, truancy and underage alcohol consumption.

In the juvenile justice system, youth offenders are not tried as adults, and their cases are heard in a separate court designed for juveniles.

Juveniles are imparted many of the same safeguards provided in adult criminal trials, including the right to trial, the right against self- incrimination, and the right to call witnesses. In most states, however, juveniles tried in juvenile court are not entitled to a jury. In addition, juveniles in the juvenile justice system may not avoid detention by posting bail.

The privacy of juvenile offenders is strictly guarded. Most of the juvenile court proceedings are closed to the public and these juvenile records are highly confidential.

The Ministry of Women and child development began contemplating several preferred amendments in 2011 but the Delhi Gang Rape case in December 2012 had prodigious reverberations on public perception of the Act.

One of the accused in Delhi Gang Rape was a few months younger that 18 years of age. He was tried in juvenile court which was criticised by the victim’s mother and said that by not punishing the juvenile the court was invigorating other teenagers to commit similar crime.

In August, 2014, the bill was introduced in the Parliament by Maneka Gandhi. And on 25th August, 2015, the cabinet cleared the final version of the bill after some major changes. And this bill will allow minors in the age group of 16 to 18 to be tried as adults if they commit abhorrent crime. The nature of crime will be examined by the Juvenile Justice Board to ascertain if the crime was committed as a ‘child’ or an ‘adult’. This bill also introduced foster care in India.

In 2015, Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act has been passed by Parliament of India amidst intense contention on its various provisions.

The Juvenile Justice Act is an act to consolidate and amend the law relating to children alleged and found to be in conflict with law and children in need of care and protection , development and treatment, social re-integration by sanctioning a child-friendly approach in the adjudication and disposal of matters in the best interest of children and for their rehabilitation through process provided and institution and bodies entrenched.

There were various provisions added in this Act but some of the provisions were deprecated at high level. The introduction of Judicial Waiver System which allows treatment of juveniles in certain conditions, in the adult criminal justice system and to chasten them as adults. This act was also criticized for prescribing an opaque age determination system and its poor drafting.

As of 2019, Ministry of Women &Child Development of Government of India is working towards bringing an amendment, primarily to remove courts from adoption process, to handover it to Executive Magistrate/ District Magistrates and to make Child Welfare Committees administratively and judicially subordinate to District Magistrate, despite nationwide protest against such move.

The increasing rates of juvenile crime in India in very scrutinizing issue and need to be fixated upon. Although government has laid numerous legislation and rules to stop the incidents of juvenile crimes but the present laws on juveniles is not fabricating a deterrent effect on the juveniles and thus the results are not fructiferous and legislative intent is not accomplishing.

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