The juvenile justice system concerns children who have conflicted with the law and need care and protection. Children are considered the greatest asset of any society or Nation that is why children should be grown as responsible citizens, mentally alert, physically fit, and morally healthy so they can contribute to the betterment of society. Due to various reasons, children indulge in crime.
In India, a person below the age of 18 years is considered a juvenile. There is a difference between minors and minors. Minor is a person who has not attained the age of full legal responsibility and the juvenile is a minor who has committed some offence or needs care and protection. In India, any child below the age of 7 years can not be convicted of any crime because of the doctrine of Doli incapax which means incapable of forming intent to commit a crime.
The main objective of the juvenile justice system is to rehabilitate young offenders and give them a second chance. There are various reasons why children are involved in criminal activity. The main reason is their brains are not fully developed and they do not have a complete sense of wrong and right. Children who have been exposed to alcohol or drugs and are victims of abuse or violence are more likely to commit crimes. When parents have poor parenting skills, abusive home, violence in the home, a single parent who left their children for a long time unsupervised. The influence of news, movies, web series, social media, and lack of education are also reasons why children indulge in criminal activities.
The juvenile justice system is taken from western countries. The first legislation for the juvenile justice system is The Apprentices Act, 1850 and after that Indian Penal Code(IPC), Reformatory School Act (1897), Code of Criminal procedure (1898) and Recommendations by the Indian Jail Committee in 1920, which mentioned different treatment for the young offenders from adult offenders. In 1920 madras high court enacted the Children Act. Later, other states also enacted the Children Act. According to this act, children were trialled by the juvenile court.
After the independence of India, the constitution provided some provisions under the fundamental rights and Directive principles of state policy to protect and develop children. The Government of India passed the Children Act 1960. This act prohibited the imprisonment of children in any circumstances and provided care, welfare, training, education, maintenance, protection, and rehabilitation. This act is only applicable in Union Territories. This Act introduced three tire institutions systems. Observation home while the court proceedings of the court, children’s home for neglected children, a special school for delinquent children. Juvenile justice act 1986 came into force to provide uniformity of the Children Act and set the standard for protection of juveniles as per the 1959 United Nations declaration of the child.
The Government of India repealed the Juvenile Justice Act (JJA) and came up with a new Act, the Juvenile Justice (care and protection of children) Act. This act gives a more clear definition of juvenile. It says a juvenile is a person who is under the age of 18 years. It has much better terminology such as ‘conflict with the law’ and ‘need care and protection’. Juveniles who have a conflict with law handled by the juvenile justice board and juveniles who need care and protection handled by the child welfare committee.
In 2006 Amendment was made in the Juvenile Act to make clear that juvenility is considered from the date when a crime is committed. Amendment also makes it clear that in no condition juvenile can be put in jail or police station lockup. The metropolitan magistrate or judicial magistrate reviews the pendency of the board every six months.
Juvenile Justice (care and protection of children) Act, 2015 was introduced in the country and replaced the Juvenile Act 2000. This act was passed by the parliament after much controversy and protest. It has introduced many changes in existing law. This act allows juveniles involved in the heinous crimes age group between 16-18 are treated as adults. Making the juvenile justice system more responsive and according to the changing circumstances of society. The Act gives a clear definition of orphaned, abandoned, surrendered children and provides an organized system for them. Define the heinous, petty, and serious offences by the children. The Act gives more power and function to the juvenile justice board and child welfare committee.
After the Juvenile Act 2015 important Act, Policies, Organizations came to the taken initiatives for the welfare of the children such as the Protection Of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POCSO), Child Labour(Protection and Regulation) Act, the POCSO Amendment Act 2019, United Nation of the convention on the right of the child (UNCRC), National Child Labour Scheme, National Commission for Protection of Child Rights.
Recently, parliament passed the juvenile justice (care and Protection) Amendment Act 2021 to provide strength to the provision of protection and adoption of children. There are many adoption cases pending before the court and to make proceedings of the court faster now the power is transferred to the district magistrate. Previously adoption of the child is final on the issue of adoption order by the civil court. Amendment provides that the district magistrate has the authority to issue such adoption orders.
The main role of the Indian juvenile justice system is that children should not be tried in regular courts, laws for juveniles made in a way that corrects them in all possible ways. Most of the children who committed any crime come from poor or illiterate families. The juvenile justice system focuses on the education of the children instead of punishing them. The trial of the children is based on non-penal treatment through social control agencies such as observation homes, special homes, and special schools.