This article has been written by Nikhat Fatima pursuing law from Rizvi Law College

“Humanity has the stars in its future, and that future is too important to be lost under the burden of juvenile folly and ignorant superstition.”

~ Isaac Asimov

India is home to the largest child population in the world and thus making it the country’s greatest need to protect its future. The Constitution of India empowers the State to make special provisions for children and pledges Fundamental Rights to all children in the country. Directive Principles of State Policy precisely guide the State in securing the tender age of children from abuse and ensuring that children are given opportunities and facilities to develop in a healthy manner in conditions of freedom and dignity.

The juvenile justice system is a system of legislation that defines justice for juveniles in the Indian Constitution. This system provides justice and protection to juvenile delinquency. Juvenile delinquency means a crime committed by youth under the age of 18. The Parliament of India amidst intense controversies and debates in 2015 passed the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act. The Juvenile Justice system contemplates the legal response with respect to two categories of children, namely those who are ‘ in conflict with the law (an individual under the age of 18 years who is accused of committing an offense); and those ‘in need of care and protection’ (children from deprived and marginalized sections of society as well as those with different needs and vulnerabilities).

Juvenile Justice Act, 2015

The said Act came into force from 15th January 2016 and replaced the Juvenile Delinquency Law and the Juvenile Care and Protection Act 2000 and 2006. The reason behind the introduction of this act in the parliament was the Delhi Rape Case of 2012 also known as the Nirbhaya Rape Case. One of the accused in the said case was alleged to be a juvenile and hence the Supreme Court directed the Juvenile Justice Board to take any action in the best interest of the juvenile as per the law. Thereafter the Juvenile Justice Department sentenced the child to be sent to a reform home for 3years. This led to an enormous amount of criticism by the masses and the family of the victim contending that by not sentencing the juvenile as an adult the judiciary is giving a clear pass for other teenagers to perpetrate such crimes in the near future. The government thereafter introduced the Juvenile Justice Bill in August 2014 in Lok Sabha citing several reasons to justify the need for a new law.

The Aim and Objective of the Act:

The provisions of this Act shall pertain to all the matters concerning ‘Children in Need of Care and Protection’ and ‘Children in Conflict with Law’, including,

  1. Procedures and decisions or orders relating to rehabilitation, adoption, reintegration, and restoration of children in need of care and protection;
  2. Apprehension, detention, prosecution, penalty or imprisonment, rehabilitation, and social integration of children in conflict with the law; in a child-friendly manner.

The Act aims at adjudicating, litigating, and disposing of cases dealing with juveniles keeping in mind “the welfare of children and rehabilitation”.

Primary Amendments in the Juvenile Justice Act 2015:

The Act of 2015 provides that the children between the 16 to18 age group be tried as adults for heinous crimes.  The three types of offenses defined by the new Act are:

  1. heinous offense- an offense that attracts a minimum penalty of seven years imprisonment under any existing law,
  2. serious offense- an offense that attracts imprisonment between three to seven years and,
  3. petty offense- that attracts imprisonment with up to three years.

Section 15 of the Act provides child above the age of sixteen years as on the date of commission of an offense shall be prosecuted as an adult, but in order to do that the Board shall conduct a preliminary assessment with regard to his mental and physical capacity to commit such offense, ability to understand the consequences of the offense and the circumstances in which he allegedly committed the offense, accordingly on the basis of his assessment, the Board shall determine whether the child is fit to be tried as a child or there is a need for a trial of the said child as an adult by the Children’s Court having jurisdiction to try such offenses.

The Act while dealing with the children in need of care and protection under Section 31 has stipulated that when a child is found to be an orphan, abandoned or surrendered or in any other susceptible state he shall be brought before a Child Welfare Committee within 24 hours, excluding the time necessary for the journey. A Social Investigation Report is prepared for the child, and the Committee authorizes to either send the child to a Child Care Institution or any other facility it deems fit or to proclaim the child legally free for adoption or foster care.

Penalties for perpetrating offenses against children:

The Juvenile Justice Act lays down numerous penalties with regard to a crime committed against a child. These comprise the penalty for giving a child an intoxicating substance, selling or buying of a child, cruelty against a child, employment of a child for begging, sale and procurement of children for any purpose including illegal adoption, corporal punishment in child care institutions, use of child by militant groups, offenses against disabled children and, kidnapping and abduction of children.

Penalties for cruelty against a child, offering a narcotic substance to a child, and abduction or selling a child have been prescribed. Further, any official, who does not report an abandoned or orphaned child within 24 hours, is liable to imprisonment up to six months or a fine of Rs 10,000 or both. The penalty for non-registration of child care institutions is imprisonment up to one year or a fine of one lakh rupees or both and the penalty for giving a child intoxicating liquor, narcotic or psychotropic substances is imprisonment up to seven years or a fine of one lakh rupees or both.

For the effective implementation of these provisions, JJ Model Rules, 2016 provides for child-friendly procedures for reporting, recording, and trial.


Children in conflict with law belong to one of the most vulnerable sections of children in India. Rule of law and access to justice are the basic requirements for a country’s development and is as imperative for the reduction of social differences as the provision of basic services such as proper health and education systems. However, it has been recognized that children, when dependent on the same justice mechanism as adults may find themselves further victimized by the system itself. It is this recognition that has led to the development of a separate child justice system or the juvenile justice system in many parts of the world. The juvenile justice system is not as adequate as it looks, to make a law, and to implement it are two different things. This is vital for the authorities involved in the juvenile justice system to construct significant partnerships with civil society. Non-Governmental Organizations (NGO’s) have the capacity to provide community-based life-skills programs, ‘group counseling’, community work opportunities, and open ‘custody group homes’ for children in conflict with the law. Voluntary sector organizations can thus help the governmental agencies to engineer a substantial shift towards non-custodial alternatives for corrective measures involving juveniles making the law a whole with regards to its functioning.

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