Juvenile Justice Bill 2014: What you should know

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A juvenile being presented in court
The Union Cabinet on Wednesday approved amendments to the Juvenile Justice Act. The Bill will open pathways to treat minors above 16 years of age, who are accused of heinous crimes like rape and murder, as adults.

The proposed amendment come against the backdrop of outrage over the lighter punishment of three years given to a minor convicted in the December 16, 2012 Delhi gangrape case.

What are the amendments?

The amendment will pave the way for 16 to 18 year olds to be treated as adults when involved in heinous crimes such as rape, acid attack.

The proposal will empower the Juvenile Justice Board to decide whether a minor above 16 years involved in heinous crimes is to be sent in a observation home or tried in a regular court.

According to the Bill, juvenile cannot be given death sentence or life imprisonment under any circumstance.

The Bill also makes corporal punishment and ragging criminal offences which the existing JJ Act did not cover.

Corporal punishment could invite a maximum jail term of three years.

Ragging will invite up to three years imprisonment and a fine of Rs. 10,000.

The proposed amendments also include facilitating faster adoption of children and setting up foster care homes.

The Central Adoption Resource Authority (CARA) has been proposed as the statutory body, now it will have powers to regulate inter-country adoptions along with issuing guidelines on adoption and related matter.

Who is a Juvenile?

A "Juvenile" or "Child" means a person who has not completed 18 years of age.

Section 2 (k) of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act,2000 defines "juvenile" or "Child" as a person who has not completed eighteenth year of age.

What present Law states

Last time, the juvenile justice legislation was overhauled was in 2000.

The present law allows a maximum sentence for any crimes of three years of confinement in a youth reformatory.

The law fails to express the minimum age, lacks concept of parental responsibility.

It also fails to provide for procedural guarantees like right to counsel and right to speedy trial.

It does not take into account the orders and directions of the Supreme Court and High Courts relating to determination of the age of the child.

It empowers the Juvenile Justice Board to give a child in adoption; even though, it is the Child Welfare Committee that deals with children in need of care and protection.

The Act is also silent on issues like child labour, primary education, sexual abuse, adoption, disabilities and health.

Human Rights activists criticising the Bill

Human-rights activists and experts have criticized the new Bill, saying that the nature of a crime does not establish the mental maturity of juveniles.

Experts say that the amendment violates basic child rights.

Bill drafted by Ministry of Women and Child Development

The Bill was drafted in June by the Ministry of Women and Child Development to change the country's juvenile justice law.

It will now be submitted to Parliament for approval.

According to the National Crime Records Bureau, in 2012, 1,175 minors were booked for rape in India, up from 1,149 in 2011.

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