The Juvenile Justice Act, which allows children aged 16 to 18 years and in conflict with law to be tried as adults in cases of heinous offences, comes into force Friday. The Act, passed by the Rajya Sabha in the winter session of Parliament, received President Pranab Mukherjee’s assent on December 31.
The Ministry of Woman and Child Development has passed orders stating that the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act 2015 will be enforceable from January 15, 2016.
“We will soon constitute a committee of experts comprising lawyers and activists to draft the rules of the Act,” said a ministry official. The Act replaces the JJ Act of 2000 that took a reformative approach towards juveniles under 18 years, irrespective of the severity of their crime.
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’.
“We fail to understand what is the urgency to implement the law while the rules, which is its operational part, are still not in place. Why put the system under undue pressure?,” said juvenile law expert Anant Asthana. He added that in states such as Rajasthan, Odisha, Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand, juveniles meant to be sent to ‘place of safety’ are held in regular jails as these states never set up the institution. “In Delhi, the ‘place of safety’ was situated within the Tihar jail premises until the High Court suo moto took cognizance of the matter and held that an institution for children cannot be within a jail only after which it was moved to Majnu ka tilla,” he said.