New JJ Bill is Against Child Rights

ProChild Network, a coalition of child rights organisations, practitioners, lawyers, academics and individuals strongly denounces the re-enactment of Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) 2000 Act, particularly the provision to try juveniles as adults in cases of heinous crimes.  We believe that the revised draft of the amended Juvenile Justice Bill has also misrepresented some facts: the new Bill makes it possible for a juvenile to be sentenced to death and life imprisonment for offences under laws other than the Indian Penal Code. Now, a juvenile found guilty of offences under the Narcotics Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes Prevention of Atrocities Act, Commission of Sati (Prevention) Act, Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, and the Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act, can be sentenced to death or life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. 

Furthermore, the Children’s courts that the new Bill talks about are in fact adult courts and not child-sensitive courts. 

We need to understand that reformation is the bedrock of child legislation in the world because it has been widely and historically proven that children can be indeed be reformed and contribute to society as productive law-abiding citizens, and they should not be subjected to the adult justice system which is based on the principle of punitive justice.  

Arlene Manoharan, says, “the misconception that the present JJ Act gives impunity to juveniles who commit crimes needs to be dispelled. The existing law provides for juveniles to be held accountable for their actions, but in a manner that enables them to re-integrate into the community with dignity and hope. Also, evidence from across the world shows us that sending children to the adult justice system produces career criminals.” 

Furthermore, “the Bill is anti-poor in nature and persecutory besides being replete with inconsistencies and legal errors. There is an underlying attitude of criminalisation of all juveniles in the Bill which is a dangerous move away from the principles of reformative justice”, said Bharti Ali. Ministry of Women and Child Development stated their intent to repeal and re-enact the Juvenile Justice (care and protection) Act, 2000, and invited feedback from civil society groups on the draft in just 15 days. Since this was a very short period of time a number of groups, individuals and organizations sought more time for consultation since the proposal was about re-enacting the entire law but no extra time was given. 

We strongly condemn all sexual violence, be it by adults or juveniles, none of which can be justified by any means whatsoever. But we also condemn pitching human rights of women against the human rights of children since that will not provide an answer to creating public safety or a healthy society.

This Bill is a misguided attempt at promoting public safety as it based on a flawed reading of the data on juvenile crime.

ProChild hopes that once the Bill is tabled in Parliament a thorough discussion on the implications of it will take place. We believe that this can only happen if the Bill is referred to a Select Committee of the Parliament.