Parents, guardians and schools teachers may very soon face a maximum of five years in jail for beating a child, or verbally abusing him or inflicting any other form of corporal punishment. Similarly, ragging a fresher or junior in college may also fetch a maximum of three years in prison, if the government has its way in replacing the Juvenile Justice Act of 2000 with a new law that has various new provisions for specific Acts.
The draft Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Bill, 2014 seeks to introduce an array of special provisions in laws, aiming at children’s rights and incorporating various international obligations and covenants into the legal framework.
The new proposed law, about which Minister for Women and Child Development Maneka Gandhi informed the Lok Sabha Draft Bill proposes jail for beating, abusing child on Friday, has already been circulated for inter-ministerial consultation. It makes corporal punishment an offence under a new provision in the Act. After the Cabinet’s approval, the Bill is likely to be introduced in Parliament.
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The term “corporal punishment” shall include physical punishment as well as verbal abuses by any person and if a juvenile court holds such a person or institution guilty, it may hand out a jail term extending up to six months along with fine for the first offence and a maximum of three years on second and subsequent conviction.
“In case the corporal punishment has caused grievous hurt or severe mental trauma to the child, the person having committed the offence shall be liable, for rigorous imprisonment of three years and fine of rupees fifty thousand, and for subsequent conviction, imprisonment which may extend to five years and shall also be liable to fine of rupees one lakh or both,” the draft states.
If passed by both Houses of Parliament, the new law will include India among the list of around 40 countries across the world which have absolutely prohibited corporal punishments and have made it a penal offence.
Another provision in the proposed law seeks to make ragging a penal offence, punishable up to three years in jail if the acts of ragging have not only generated a sense of embarrassment for the victim but also caused grievous physical or mental injuries. Expulsion of the perpetrator has been made mandatory.
Not only the students but also the managements of colleges and institutions have been made completely accountable under the proposed law. The draft states: “In case, where an incidence of ragging is reported in an institution and the management of such institution does not cooperate with any inquiry or comply with the orders of competent authority or court or state government, the person in-charge of the management of the institution shall be liable for punishment with imprisonment for a term not less than three years and shall also be liable to a fine which may extend to one lakh rupees.”
Selling or procuring a child for any purpose, using a child for vending, peddling, carrying, supplying or smuggling any intoxicating liquor, narcotic drug or psychotropic substances or making him use such substances, using a child for terrorist activities are also among the offences that the government is looking to bring into the new law.
Notably, Delhi judge Kamini Lau had recently pointed out absence of a specific law to make selling a child a penal offence, while noting: “Children/infants are sold in adoption market/’bachcha baazar’ like potatoes, tomatoes and onions.”
The proposed law seeks to make illegal adoption or transfer of a child an offence punishable up to seven years in jail. It also gives a statutory status to the Central Adoption Resource Authority (CARA), to regulate adoptions keeping in view the best interest of the child.
All offences against any disabled child have been sought to attract twice the penalty that would otherwise be imposed.
The proposed law also seeks to usher in certain new principles as far as delinquent juveniles are concerned. These principles include principle of presumption of innocence, principle of dignity and worth, principle of best interest, principle of family responsibility and safety.
The most significant, however, appears to be the principle of participation, wherein every child has been given “a right to be heard and to participate in all processes and decisions affecting his or her interest and the child’s views shall be taken into consideration with due regard to the age and maturity of the child”.
The new law also seeks to enact extraordinary provisions against children above the age of 16 but less than 18, committing heinous offences like rape, murder, acid attach, kidnapping etc.
Under the new law, a juvenile court will conduct an assessment of factors such as the “premeditated nature” of the offence, “culpability” of the child and his “ability to understand the consequences of the offence”. Based on the assessment, such juveniles can be sent up to ordinary criminal court for trials but they cannot be sentenced to death or life imprisonment.
The Supreme Court had also recently objected to the blanket immunity to the juveniles under the age of 18 from criminal prosecution in grave cases, underscoring there cannot be a “cut-off” date for serious crimes. It had questioned the Attorney General as to why should those just under 18 committing “whatever offence: rape, murder, NDPS (drug cases). go exonerated on the ground of juvenility?”
Corporal punishment to be a specific offence, entailing a maximum of five years in jail.
Ragging to be made an offence and adult students may get three years in prison, besides compulsory expulsion from college.
In-charge of institutions not co-operating with inquiry into ragging may get at least three years in jail.
Selling or procuring a child, using a child for vending, peddling, carrying, supplying or smuggling liquor, narcotic drug or psychotropic substances or making him use such substances, to entail a jail term of maximum seven years.
Using a child for terrorist activities can entail seven years’ jail term.