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Business News/ Politics / Policy/  Government releases draft model rules of Juvenile Justice Act
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Government releases draft model rules of Juvenile Justice Act

Juveniles aged 16-18 charged with crime will not be sent to jail or lock-ups; neither will they be handcuffed, according to draft model rules of JJ Act

The so-called JJ Bill was passed by the Lok Sabha on 7 May 2015 and by the Rajya Sabha on 22 December 2015. It came into effect on 15 January 2016. Photo: Priyanka Parashar/MintPremium
The so-called JJ Bill was passed by the Lok Sabha on 7 May 2015 and by the Rajya Sabha on 22 December 2015. It came into effect on 15 January 2016. Photo: Priyanka Parashar/Mint

New Delhi: Children aged between 16 and 18 years who have been charged with crime will not be sent to jail or lock-ups; neither will they be handcuffed under draft model rules of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act 2015 released by women and child development minister Maneka Gandhi on Wednesday.

The so-called JJ Bill was passed by the Lok Sabha on 7 May 2015 and by the Rajya Sabha on 22 December 2015. It came into effect on 15 January 2016.

Based on the philosophy of reformation, rehabilitation and social integration, rather than retribution, the rules lay procedures for the functioning and composition of juvenile justice boards, adoption, determining the age of the child wherever a claim of juvenility is raised, and offences against children among other things.

“The JJ board and the children’s court are to adhere to the principle of best interest of the child and the objective of rehabilitation and reintegration of child in the society," Gandhi said after releasing the draft rules.

As per the new rules, which repeal the Model Rules, 2007, JJ boards will have to conduct preliminary assessment with regard to the child’s mental and physical capacity, ability to understand the consequences of the alleged offence and the circumstances in which it was committed within a period of three months. After this, the case can be transferred to a children’s court for trial.

Psychologists, psycho-social workers or other experts will help the JJ board in its assessments. In addition, the rules also have a provision of appeal to the children’s court for those aggrieved by the order of the JJ board.

Another time-bound procedure mentioned in the draft rules is that of determining the child’s age, whenever a claim of juvenility is raised, which has to be done within 30 days from the date of submission of application. All government hospitals will be required to constitute permanent medical boards for this purpose.

If the medical board gives a range of age, the age of the child on the lower side will be considered to give benefit to the child.

The draft rules also provide for at least one ‘place of safety’ for such children in every state with adequate facilities and services for rehabilitation.

Apart from this, the model rules also provide for one child welfare officer to be deployed in a child care institution as rehabilitation-cum-placement officer to ensure the development of the child. The task is to identify the skills and aptitude of children, and facilitate financial support for their self-employment. Detailed procedures for a follow-up have also been framed in the draft rules which will be monitored through a rehabilitation card.

State governments on their part are required to prepare an aftercare scheme for providing education, employment and accommodation to children who turn 18 and leave institutional care.

The new Act not only covers juvenile crimes—it also addresses crimes against children.

Unlike the JJ Act, 2000, which covered limited offences against children—such as cruelty, employment for begging, giving intoxicating liquor or narcotic drugs to children—several new offences have been added in the JJ Act, 2015. These include the sale and procurement of children for any purpose including illegal adoption; corporal punishment in child care institutions; and offences against disabled children.

As per the National Crime Records Bureau, cases of crime against children have increased from 58,224 in 2013 to 89,423 cases in 2014.

Experts, however, are worried about the resources that will be required for the provisions of the Act to be properly implemented.

“There is lack of clarity on the part of the ministry regarding the infrastructure, financial resources and trained personnel when it comes to the JJ Act. How and by whom will these welfare officers be trained? In terms of the assessment of the child’s physical and mental capacity, on what parameters is this assessment being done? If the first step goes wrong, the entire trial will be flawed," said Enakshi Ganguly Thukral, co-founder of HAQ: Centre for Child Rights, a non-profit organization.

“With or without the model rules, our concerns remain the same," she added. The draft model rules have been put up for consultation and inputs have been invited from the civil society and other stakeholders within the next 15 days.

“Giving us barely 15 days for reading a 166-page document shows the seriousness of the government in incorporating any of our suggestions," Thukral added.

PTI also contributed to the story.

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Published: 26 May 2016, 12:56 AM IST
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