In simple terms, the Juvenile Justice (Care & Protection of Children) Act 2015, or simply the Juvenile Justice Act 2015, is a law that was introduced to reduce juvenile delinquency. Juvenile delinquency is defined as a crime that has been committed by any person who is under the age of 18. A person who commits juvenile delinquency is referred to as a juvenile or a juvenile delinquent.
The JJ Act caters to the care and protection of children which includes their development, treatment, and rehabilitation – all of which have to be in their best interest. The JJ Act 2015 can be consolidated & amended in case of conflict regarding any of the criteria mentioned above. The latest amendment to the Juvenile Justice Act was done on the 1st of September, 2022.
Objectives of the Juvenile Justice Act
The main objectives of the JJ Act 2015 are as follows:
- Prevent juveniles from becoming serious criminals
- Maintain public safety
- Develop skills in juvenile delinquents
- Habilitate/rehabilitate juveniles
- Reintegrate them back into society safely and responsibly
Punishment for Juvenile Delinquency Under Juvenile Justice Act
Before getting into the punishments offered under the JJ Act 2015, it is important to understand what a child is under Indian Law. A child is legally defined as anyone who is under the age of 18 according to Section 2, sub-section 12 of the Juvenile Justice Act. The term is defined in two distinct ways:
- A Child in Confrontation with the Law – This term refers to a person who committed a crime when under the age of 18.
- A Child in Need of Care & Protection
The maximum punishment for anyone under the age of 18 is 3 years. However, there are exceptions where the intensity of the crime is taken into consideration. In such cases, the individual’s crime is assessed on basis of their maturity, IQ, sentiments towards moral responsibility, life experience, and prior criminal history.
Fundamental Principles of The Juvenile Justice Act 2015
The Juvenile Justice Act 2015 (or JJ Act 2015 in short) is guided by a set of 16 fundamental principles:
Principle of Presumption of Innocence
A child is legally defined as a person who is below the age of 18, and any child should be presumed to be innocent until proven otherwise.
Principle of Dignity & Worth
All human beings, including children, should be treated with equal dignity and given equal rights.
Principle of Participation
Every child will be given the right to be heard & participate in all processes and decisions that directly affect their interest. The child’s views will be considered, keeping in mind the age and maturity of the child.
Principle of Best Interest
All decisions regarding a child will be made after careful consideration in the best interest of the child & help them develop their full potential.
Principle of Family Responsibility
The responsibility of care, nurture, and protection of the child will be that of the biological family or foster parents, as the case may be.
Principle of Safety
Any and all measures will be taken after considering the safety of the child. They must not be subjected to any harm, abuse or mistreatment within the system, or thereafter.
All feasible resources need to be deployed to promote the well-being, and development of identity, provide an inclusive environment and reduce the vulnerabilities of children.
Principle of Non-Stigmatising Semantics
No accusatory words should be used in any processes that involve a child.
Principle of Non-waiver of Rights
The rights of a child (especially fundamental rights) cannot be waivered under any circumstances, even if it is sought by the child, person acting on behalf of the child, or Board/Committee.
Principle of Equality & Non-discrimination
A child cannot be discriminated against on any grounds which includes sex, caste, place of birth, ethnicity, disability, or opportunity.
Principle of Right to Privacy and Confidentiality
Every child has the right to the protection of their privacy and confidentiality throughout the judicial process.
Principle of institutionalization as a Measure of Last Resort
A child shall only be placed in institutional care as a last resort. It will be done only after a reasonable inquiry into the matter is made.
Principle of Repatriation and Restoration
A child who is in the juvenile justice system has the right to go back to their family with the same socio-economic & cultural status. This is not applicable only when doing so is not in the best interest of the child.
Principle of Fresh Start
The records of any child who comes under the Juvenile Justice system should be erased (except in certain circumstances).
Principle of Diversion
Measures for dealing with children in conflict with the law without resorting to judicial proceedings shall be promoted unless it is in the best interest of the child or society as a whole.
Principles of Natural Justice
Every child has the right to basic standards of fairness regarding the procedure to be followed which includes:
i) The right against bias,
ii) The right to a fair hearing, and
iii) The right to review by all persons acting under judicial capacity
There are separate chapters under the JJ Act 2015 regarding the procedures that need to followed when it comes to-
- Children in conflict with law – Chapter IV
- The Child Welfare Committee – Chapter V
- Children in need of care and protection – Chapter VI
- Rehabilitation and social reintegration – Chapter VII
- Adoption – Chapter VIII
- Other offenses against children – Chapter IX and X
- What is the Juvenile Justice Act?
- The Juvenile Justice Act 2015 is the primary legal text of India for the protection of children against juvenile delinquency. The JJ Act makes sure that juveniles receive protection, education, and rehabilitation so that they can be reintegrated into society.
- Who is a Juvenile?
- A juvenile is anyone who commits a crime and is under the age of 18 while doing so.
- What is the maximum punishment under the Juvenile Justice Act 2015?
- The maximum punishment for juveniles under the JJ Act is 3 years, whether the case is minor or severe. For adult perpetrators, the maximum punishment can range from 7 years in jail, life imprisonment, and even the death penalty, depending on the severity of the crime.