Avinash V and Mallika Sen
The definition of a Child varies according to different statues, according to 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.
Section 2 (d) of Juvenile Justice Act, Further explains child in need of care and protection
- Child who is found without any home or settled place or abode and without any ostensible means of subsistence.
- Child who is found begging or who is either a street child or a working child.
- Child who resides with a person, whether a guardian of the child or not, and such person has threatened to kill or injure the child or abused and there is a reasonable likelihood of the threat being carried out or has killed, abused or neglected some other child or children and there is a reasonable likelihood of the child in question being killed, abused or neglected by that person.
- Child who is mentally or physically challenged or children suffering from terminal or incurable disease having no one to support or look after.
- Child who has a parent or guardian, such parent or guardian is unfit or incapacitated to exercise control over the child.
- Child who does not have parents and no one is willing to take care of or whose parents have abandoned him or who is missing or run away child and whose parents cannot be found after reasonable inquiry.
- Child who is being grossly abused, tortured or exploited for the purpose of sexual abuse or illegal acts.
- Child who is found vulnerable and is likely to be inducted into drug abuse or trafficking.
- Child who is being or is likely to be abused for unconscionable gain.
- Child who is a victim of any armed conflict civil commotion or natural calamity.
Further the act also contemplates children who are in conflict with the law, Section 2 (l) of the Juvenile Justice Act, 2000 has defined “juvenile in conflict with law” as a juvenile who is alleged to have committed an offence and has not completed eighteenth year of age as on the date of commission of such offence.
The JJ Act, 2015 provides for strengthened provisions for both children in need of care and protection and children in conflict with law. This sub- heading shall deal with the provisions relating to children in need of care and protection. Some of the key provisions of the act include: new definitions such as “orphaned, abandoned and surrendered children” clarity in powers, function and responsibilities of Juvenile Justice Board (JJB) and Child Welfare Committee (CWC), a new chapter on Adoption to streamline adoption of orphan, abandoned and surrendered children and mandatory registration of Child Care Institutions.
Under Section 39 of the act, a number of rehabilitation and “social integration” measures have been provided for, both for children in conflict with the law, as well as for children in need to protection and care. Children who are not placed in families for some or the other reason shall be placed in an institution registered for the said purpose under the act and rehabilitation will be ensured wherever the child is placed. Under the care of the institution, children receive a number of beneficiary services. These include, education, health, treatment of diseases and vocational training amongst other such pursuits in order to help uplift the position of these children and help them contribute to society constructively.
There are also a number of non- institutional options provided for in the act. These include, amongst other, foster care and placing of children in a family environment which is in fact not their biological family. However, the act provides for ultimate care and caution to be exercised for the utilization of this non- institutional option and places a number of safeguards on its applicability. The said family is to be “qualified, approved and supervised” for caring for the child who is in need of care and protection.
Several rehabilitation and social reintegration measures have been provided for children in conflict with law and those in need of care and protection. Under the institutional care, children are provided with various services including education, health, nutrition, de-addiction, treatment of diseases, vocational training, skill development, life skill education, counselling, etc to help them assume a constructive role in the society.
The Juvenile Justice Act, under Section 15, special provisions which allows children aged 16 to 18 years and in conflict with law to be tried as adults in cases of heinous offences. Under the JJ Act 2015, juveniles between 16 and 18 years of age, who are found guilty of committing heinous offences through a preliminary inquiry by the Juvenile Justice Board, will be sent to a children’s court that can pronounce the child guilty. Such juveniles can be detained in a ‘place of safety’ until they reach the age of 21. If still not found to have been “reformed” by 21, they can be sent to jails housing adults. At present, most states do not have the ‘place of safety’, also known as ‘borstals’. The bill also mandates setting up Juvenile Justice Boards and Child Welfare Committees in every district.
Avinash V (II Year) and Mallika Sen (I Year) are law students at National Law School of India University, Bangalore and can be contacted at avinash@and mallikasen@ .