The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015 has come into force and repeals the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000. The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Bill, 2015 was passed by Lok Sabha on 7th May, 2015; was passed by Rajya Sabha on 22nd December, 2015 and received Presidential assent on 31st December, 2015.
The JJ Act, 2015 provides for strengthened provisions for both children in need of care and protection and children in conflict with law. Some of the key provisions include: change in nomenclature from ‘juvenile’ to ‘child’ or ‘child in conflict with law’, across the Act to remove the negative connotation associated with the word “juvenile”; inclusion of several new definitions such as orphaned, abandoned and surrendered children; and petty, serious and heinous offences committed by children; clarity in powers, function and responsibilities of Juvenile Justice Board (JJB) and Child Welfare Committee (CWC); clear timelines for inquiry by Juvenile Justice Board (JJB); special provisions for heinous offences committed by children above the age of sixteen year; separate new chapter on Adoption to streamline adoption of orphan, abandoned and surrendered children; inclusion of new offences committed against children; and mandatory registration of Child Care Institutions.
Under Section 15, special provisions have been made to tackle child offenders committing heinous offences in the age group of 16-18 years. The Juvenile Justice Board is given the option to transfer cases of heinous offences by such children to a Children’s Court (Court of Session) after conducting preliminary assessment. The provisions provide for placing children in a ‘place of safety’ both during and after the trial till they attain the age of 21 years after which an evaluation of the child shall be conducted by the Children’s Court. After the evaluation, the child is either released on probation and if the child is not reformed then the child will be sent to a jail for remaining term. The law will act as a deterrent for child offenders committing heinous offences such as rape and murder and will protect the rights of victim.
To streamline adoption procedures for orphan, abandoned and surrendered children, the existing Central Adoption Resource Authority (CARA) is given the status of a statutory body to enable it to perform its function more effectively. Separate chapter (VIII) on Adoption provides for detailed provisions relating to adoption and punishments for not complying with the laid down procedure. Processes have been streamlined with timelines for both in-country and inter-country adoption including declaring a child legally free for adoption.
Several rehabilitation and social reintegration measures have been provided for children in conflict with law and those in need of care and protection. Under the institutional care, children are provided with various services including education, health, nutrition, de-addiction, treatment of diseases, vocational training, skill development, life skill education, counselling, etc to help them assume a constructive role in the society. The variety of non-institutional options include: sponsorship and foster care including group foster care for placing children in a family environment which is other than child’s biological family, which is to be selected, qualified, approved and supervised for providing care to children.
Several new offences committed against children, which are so far not adequately covered under any other law, are included in the Act. These include: sale and procurement of children for any purpose including illegal adoption, corporal punishment in child care institutions, use of child by militant groups, offences against disabled children and, kidnapping and abduction of children.
All child care institutions, whether run by State Government or by voluntary or non-governmental organisations, which are meant, either wholly or partially for housing children, regardless of whether they receive grants from the Government, are to be mandatorily registered under the Act within 6 months from the date of commencement of the Act. Stringent penalty is provided in the law in case of non-compliance.
The Act is available on the website of Ministry of Women and Child Development as follows: