Who is a juvenile or child?
A person who has not completed 18 years of age.
What if a person is 17 years and 11 months old or just has a few days left to turn 18 years old, will he still be considered a child?
Yes, till the day the person completes his eighteenth year of age, he will be considered a child.
What if the child displays maturity and understanding of an adult, will he still be treated as a child?
The law does not consider emotional maturity of the child while determining the application of the JJ Act. He will be considered a child till he completes 18 years.
What is a ‘heinous offence’?
Any offence punishable with imprisonment of seven years or more. For example, rape or murder.
Are children accused of heinous offences tried differently?
Under the law, if a juvenile above the age of 16 is accused of a heinous offence, a preliminary inquiry will be carried out by the Juvenile Justice Board. The Board will determine whether the child will be sent for rehabilitation or be tried as an adult.
What does trying as an adult mean?
After the preliminary inquiry, if the juvenile is not tried as an adult, he can be imprisoned for a maximum of three years. If he is tried as an adult, his trial will be carried out in a regular court and subject to the Indian Penal Code. In no case can a child tried as an adult be sentenced to death or life imprisonment.
Who is a child in need of care and protection?
A child in need of care and protection is one:
who does not have any fixed place of residence or any means of subsistence,
who is found begging, or living on the street or working in contravention of labour laws,
who stays with a person (whether or not the person is a guardian of the child) who abuses/exploits/neglects/threatens the child, or has done so to any other child in the past,
a child who is mentally ill or physically/mentally challenged or suffering from terminal or incurable diseases with no one to support or look after him,
a child whose parent or guardian is unfit or unable to ensure the safety and well-being of the child
a child who does not have parent and no one is willing to take care of him, or whose parents have abandoned or surrendered him, or who is missing or run away child whose parents cannot be found,
child who is being or is likely to be grossly abused, tortured or exploited for sexual abuse or illegal acts,
a child who is found vulnerable to drug abuse or trafficking,
a child who is being or is likely to be abused for unreasonable gains,
child who is a victim of any war or armed conflict or civil commotion or natural calamity.
Who is a child in conflict with law?
A person, under 18 years, who is alleged or is found to have committed an offence.
What happens to a child in conflict with law?
When a complaint is filed against a child, he is arrested by the police. His parents/guardians are informed. The child is placed under special juvenile police unit and is brought before the Juvenile Justice Board within 24 hours, which later carries out an inquiry and passes an appropriate order.
Is a juvenile delinquent arrested and put behind bars?
No, the juvenile is not put behind bars. He is taken to the police station and is handed over to the special juvenile unit. He may be sent to an Observation Home for the duration of the trial, or be released on bail.
What about the parents/guardians being informed about the child’s actions?
The parents/guardians are to be informed as soon as possible after the arrest is made. It is the duty of the police officer of the police station to ensure that this information reaches the parents.
What if the child has no parents or guardians?
In cases where the child does not have parents or guardians he is sent to an Observation Home.
Are juvenile justice proceedings same as any other criminal proceedings?
No, the proceedings under the JJ Act are before the Juvenile Justice Board. The board consists of a Magistrate and two social workers. The core idea behind juvenile justice proceedings is not to punish the child but rather to reform him.
14. Can a child in conflict with law be granted bail?
Yes. An application for bail can be made which is then considered by the Juvenile Justice Board.
15. What if the juvenile in conflict with law is unable to get the money or surety for the bail?
Availability of a surety is not compulsory. Bail may be granted without it.
What are observation homes?
Observation homes are temporary reception homes for juveniles in conflict with law. They are established and maintained by the State government. Juveniles without parents or guardians are kept in observation homes while the investigation is pending. They are separated according to their age, gender, mental capacity and the seriousness of the offence committed.
What are special homes?
Special homes are homes for reception and rehabilitation of children in conflict with law who are found to have committed an offence. They are established and maintained by the State governments. These homes aim at reforming and re-socializing such children.
How are proceedings conducted under the JJ Act?
The JJ Act conducts its proceeding through the JJ Board. The JJ Board is the sole authority in law allowed to exercise the powers and discharging functions relating to children in conflict with the law under the act. The JJ Board conducts an enquiry regarding the offence committed and during such an enquiry the board may grant bail and later dispose the matter as it sees fit.
What orders maybe passed by the Juvenile Justice board?
If the Board finds the juvenile to be in conflict with the law, the board may pass the orders outlined in Section 18
Allow the juvenile to go home after advice or admonition with counselling;
Provide group counselling for the child in question, community service under an organisation or institution;
Levy a fine on the child or the parent;
Direct the juvenile to be released on probation of good conduct and placed under the care of any fit institution for the good behaviour and well-being of the juvenile for any period not exceeding three years;
Make an order directing the juvenile to be sent to a special home in order to reform the child and provide skill development, counselling, behaviour modification therapy, and psychiatric support.
Apart from the above orders the Juvenile Justice Board can also pass any additional order that may benefit the child, like mandating the child attend school, vocational training, therapeutic centres and de-addiction programmes.
20. Will the details of a juvenile involved in proceedings be published? This will certainly harm the child’s future prospects?
Under Section 24 of the JJ Act, the JJ board can issue an order directing the police and the children’s court to destroy the relevant records of convictions after the expiry of the period of appeal or, as the case may be, a reasonable period, as deemed by the board.
21. What happens if the Child attains the age of majority (18) during the course of the enquiry?
If a person attains the age of majority during the course of enquiry, then, such a person shall still be treated as child during the process of the enquiry.
22. Does Juvenile Justice Act merely talk about prosecuting children? Does it take any measures for protecting children?
The JJ Act not only talks about proceedings against juveniles in conflict with law, but also lays down provisions aimed at protecting a child such as preventing cruelty against a child, prohibiting employment in hazardous industries and bonded labour; protecting a child from being exploited etc.
23. What is cruelty to a juvenile or child? Can a person be punished for being cruel to a child?
The act of assaulting, abandoning, abusing, exposing or wilfully neglecting the child or causes or procures the child to one of the above acts in a manner likely to cause such child unnecessary mental or physical suffering is said to have committed the act of cruelty to a child. The punishment for such acts could extend to 3 years or fine of one lakh rupees or both.
24. Is employing children for begging an offence? What about all the children we see on roads begging?
In India, engaging children in beggary is strictly prohibited. The JJ Act imposes an imprisonment for a term that can extending up to five years, on any person who employs or uses a child in beggary. The Act also punishes the person who has actual control or charge over the child who is used in beggary if he/she abets or is involved in such activities.
25. What about children who are exploited by their employers?
Sec. 79 of the JJ Act explicitly bars the exploitation of children. Any person who procures a child for the purpose of hazardous employment, keeps the child in bondage and withholds the child’s earnings or uses the earnings for their own purposes mau be punished with imprisonment for upto five years.
26. Does the JJ Act talk about corporal punishment (hitting)?
Section 82 of the JJ act sanctions those who subject a child to corporal punishment with the aim of disciplining the child. The Act imposes an imprisonment for a term, which may extend to five years and a fine of one lakh rupees.
What is a Child Welfare Committee?
As per the JJ act, state governments are required to establish a Child Welfare Committee (CWC) in each district. The CWC has been established in order to take care of children who are in the need of care and protection.
How does the Committee assist children in need of care and protection?
Committee is responsible for disposing of cases for the care, protection, treatment, development and rehabilitation of children. Furthermore, the CWC can initiate inquiries to determine whether the child is in the need of care by the state and use its powers to direct the appropriate authorities to safeguard the interests of the child.
Does a child receive help when the Child Welfare Committee is not in session? What kind of powers does the CWC have?
Yes. A child can be placed in front of any of the members of the CWC panel. The CWC members have the same powers as the metropolitan magistrate and order the appropriate authorities to actions in order to secure the interest of the child.
How can a child be produced before the Committee?
A child can be bought before the committee (or any member of the committee if necessary) by a police officer, any public servant, ChildLine personnel, any social worker or public-spirited citizen, or by the child himself/herself.
31. If the Committee, on inquiry, finds that the child is in need of care and protection, what remedies can it take?
After the completion of the inquiry, if the Committee is of the opinion that the child has no family or ostensible support or is in continued need of care and protection, it may allow the child to remain in the children’s home or shelter home till suitable rehabilitation is found for him or till he attains the age of eighteen years.
32. What is the function of a children’s home?
Children’s home is responsible for the reception of children in need of care and protection during the pendency of any inquiry and subsequently for their care, treatment, education, training, development and rehabilitation.
33. How is a children’s home established? And by whom?
The State Government may establish and maintain either by itself or in association with the voluntary organizations, children’s homes, in every district or group of districts.
34. Are the conditions in the homes evaluated by the Government?
Yes. The State and Central Governments both ensure conditions in homes are ideal through social auditing and inspections.
35. What is a child care institution?
It can mean a Children’s Home, open shelter, observation home, special home, place of safety, Specialised Adoption Agency and a fit facility which has been recognised under this Act. The function of these child care institutions is to provide care and protection to children, who are in need of such services.
36. What is the main/eventual objective of these child care institutions?
Restoration of and protection to a child is the prime objective. Here, restoration refers to restoration of the child to-
37. How is a child re-integrated into society after being in a child care institution?
It shall be undertaken on the basis of an individual child care plan, which has been designed for each child. It will be carried out through family based care, such as by restoration to family or guardian, sponsorship, adoption and foster care. When a child leaves such an institution on turning 18, he or she may be provided with financial support to facilitate the child’s re-integration into society.
How can a child be adopted?
A child may be adopted in keeping with the provisions of the JJ Act, JJ Rules and the regulations framed by the Central Adoption Resource Authority (CARA).
Who can adopt?
The Board may allow a child to be given in adoption-
To a single parent or divorced person. (However a single male cannot adopt a girl)
A couple, irrespective of their religion. (The Act does not make it clear whether the couple should be a married one or not)
From a relative by another relative, irrespective of their religion.
However all adoptive parents must be physically fit, mentally alert, financially sound and highly motivated to adopt a child.
In which cases can a child be adopted?
No child shall be offered for adoption-
Unless the court is sure that the adoption is for the welfare of the child.
Without his consent in the case of a child who can understand and express his consent.
If any monetary reward has been given to any of the parties involved in the adoption proceeding.
An inter-country adoption can take place only when the child has not been adopted within 2 months of being declared free for adoption.
What is foster care?
Foster care is to provide a home environment to a child, other than with the child’s natural parents.
Group foster care means a family-like care facility for children who do not have parental care. This aims to provide personalised care to the child through family-like and community based solutions.
Does the Act make provision for sponsorship?
Yes. The Act allows for sponsorship (additional support, not just financial) to families, to children’s homes and to special homes to meet medical, nutritional, educational and developmental needs of the children with a view to improving their quality of life. The duration of sponsorship may be specified.
However, some of the criteria for sponsorship are:
where the mother is a widow or divorced or abandoned by her family;
where the children are orphan and are living with their extended family;
where parents are victims of a life threatening disease;
where parents are incapable of taking care, both financially and physically, of children due to any accident.
What is aftercare?
This means to provide support (not just financial) to a person who is 18 and above but below the age of 21, and who has left any child care institution to rejoin society.
Can parents/guardian attend proceedings under any of the provisions of the Act?
It is up to the presiding authority (whether the Juvenile Justice Board or the Child Welfare Committee).
45. Is the attendance/presence of the child essential for the proceedings?
If the Board or Committee thinks that attendance of the child is not necessary, it can ask the child to not be present.
46. How is the age of a child or juvenile determined?
If it is obvious to the authority (Board or Authority) that the person brought before it is a child, no further confirmation is needed. If the authority is unsure about the age of the person, they can determine the age by looking at birth certificate/matriculation certificate. Only if these two are absent, then an ossification (bone age) test can be conducted.
47. Are the reports disclosed or confidential?
All reports related to the child are treated as confidential. However, the Committee or Board can convey the gist of the report to another Committee or Board/to the child/to the child’s parent or guardian. However, no victim will be denied access to their case record and relevant document.