Press Note National Consultation on Juveniles and Serious Crime Under The Juvenile Justice Care and Protection of Children Act 2000
Press Note National Consultation on Juveniles and Serious Crime Under The Juvenile Justice Care and Protection of Children Act 2000 HAQ: Center for Child Rights
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Published on: Mar 4, 2016
Transcripts - Press Note National Consultation on Juveniles and Serious Crime Under The Juvenile Justice Care and Protection of Children Act 2000
At a national consultation held on Juveniles and ‘Serious Crime’ under the Juvenile Justice
(Care and Protection of Children) Act 2000, organized by the Centre for Child and the Law at
National Law School of India University, National Commission for Protection of Child Rights,
& National Law University – Delhi on 30 November and 1 December, 2013, the child rights
community took a firm position that any proposal to reclassify and consequently discriminate
between children by singling out the 16 - 18 year old male child for exclusion from the beneficial
juvenile justice jurisdiction or identification of juveniles on the basis of extreme nature of the
behaviour alone will violate the guarantees under the Indian Constitution, the UN Convention on
the Rights of the Child, and international instruments. A list of the participants and a Conference
Statement that was unanimously adopted is enclosed.
The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) was ratified by India in 1992. Article 1
states that a child “means every human being below the age of eighteen years unless, under the
law applicable to the child, majority is attained earlier.” This leads us to the question that with
regard to children in India, what is the age at which childhood should be seen to have legally
ended? There are many who argue that there is a need for a uniform age of the child across all
child related law. The other view is that this may not be in the best interest of the child, as there
is a need to view a child and adolescent as an evolving human being with capacities to engage in
different kinds of activities at different developmental stages. The responsibilities that may be
placed on children also vary according to their age, maturity and capacity. The key question
perhaps should be –what is the most appropriate legal age limit for a particular activity that is to
be undertaken by a child that would best enable the overall growth and development of a child in
India with dignity? This is based on the rationale that children’s capacities and competencies to
undertake activities differ as per the nature of activity.
In India age limits are set by laws on specific subjects. These age limits are a manifestation of
the society’s judgment about the capacities and responsibilities of children. The legal provisions
therefore are a tool to regulate children’s activities with the objective of either protecting them
from harm or empowering them to engage in certain activities in recognition of their maturity
and autonomy. Every country makes its own policy decision on these age limits, based on the
prevailing ideas, socio-economic conditions, culture etc.
There are a number of laws that deal with children in India. The focus of this consultation
however, is on the age of criminal responsibility in the context of the raging debate on the age
limit for juvenility, a reaction to the horrific gang rape that took place on 16 December 2012.
Resource persons who are academicians/practitioners from the field of child and adolescent
psychology, child rights law, social work and other related fields will be invited to trigger the
debates on these themes. Representatives from the National Commission for Protection of Child
Rights will also be invited. We hope that the insights that culminate from debates on these
themes will feed into the campaign against the lowering of age of juveniles or the treatment of
certain juveniles as adults as well as law reform processes that are underway on the JJ Act in
particular. We also intend to submit recommendations to concerned authorities so as to positively
impact policy on these themes, and also contribute to harmonization of law through law reform,
Objectives of the Consultation
1. To enable a more nuanced understanding of the developmental needs of children and
adolescents in India and implications for law and policy on juvenile justice. To facilitate
consensus on policy concerning proposal to amend the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection
of Children) Act 2000, in order to narrow the scope of the legislation in terms of
age/seriousness of offences, and/or on the waiver system to transfer juveniles to the adult
criminal justice system as provided for in some other countries.
2. To arrive at strategies and proposals for either reforming existing laws or for preventing law
reform, where the law is robust enough to protect/empower children.
Key Questions that were addressed during the Consultation
1. Is the legal age limit prescribed by the law on this subject compliant with developmental
psychology, child rights, findings of neuro-science, field experience and other evidence
supporting the same?
2. Is the JJ Act compatible with international standards and the Indian Constitution?
3. What are the gaps in research and field experience in this area?
4. What are the key philosophical, moral, psycho-social, legal and other debates that form the
basis of proposals to amend/retain the law particularly with regard to juveniles who commit
5. What are the recommendations for law and/or law reform in this area?
6. What are the areas for further research/debate on the issue of juveniles who ‘commit
serious’ crime in India?
JUVENILES AND ‘SERIOUS CRIME’
JUVENILE JUSTICE (CARE AND PROTECTION OF CHILDREN) ACT, 2000
On 30 November-1 December, a group of experts across the country working on juvenile justice
assembled for a National-level Consultation on Juveniles and ‘Serious Crime’ under the
Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act 2000, organized by the Centre for Child
and the Law at National Law School of India University, National Commission for Protection of
Child Rights, & National Law University, Delhi with the support of CRY, UNICEF, and SDTT.
This consultation brought together experts from varied disciplines such as law, social work,
psychology, and psychiatry and reputed organisations and institutions such as Tata Institute of
Social Sciences - Mumbai, Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry NIMHANS -
Bangalore, Centre for Child and the Law, National Law School of India University - Bangalore,
HAQ Centre for Child Rights - Delhi, Aangan Trust –Mumbai, etc who unanimously arrived at
the position that any proposal to reclassify and consequently discriminate between children by
singling out the 16 - 18 year old male child for exclusion from the beneficial juvenile justice
jurisdiction or identification of juveniles on the basis of extreme nature of the behaviour alone
will violate the guarantees under the Indian Constitution, the UN Convention on the Rights of
the Child, and international instruments. A list of the participants and the Conference Statements
It was unanimously resolved that the following Conference Statement has been adopted.
The Indian Constitution obligates the state to enact laws in favour of the weak and disadvantaged
as contained in the concept of proportional equality inherent in Article 14 of the Constitution.
The Constitution also allows the state to enact special laws and provisions for children under
Article 15 (3). This spirit is also reflected in the National Policy for Children notified in 2013.
Para 1.1 states that - ‘India is home to the largest child population in the world. The Constitution
of India guarantees fundamental rights to all children in the country, and empowers the state to
make special provisions for children. The Directive Principles of State Policy specifically guide
the state in securing the tender age of children from abuse, and ensuring that children are given
opportunities and facilities to develop in a healthy manner - in conditions of freedom and
dignity. The state is responsible for ensuring - that childhood is protected from exploitation and
moral and material abandonment’. However, a vast majority of children are deprived of
opportunities and facilities that would reduce their vulnerability to offending behaviour.
India has ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child on 11th
wherein, it describes a child to be person under 18 years of age. The UN CRC also mandates
state parties to treat a child offender in a manner commensurate with age, and to promote such
child’s reintegration and assumption of a constructive role in society. In accordance with its
international commitments and the observation of the Committee on the Rights of the Child in
February 2000, the Government of India enacted a new law, and inter alia, prescribed a uniform
age of 18 years for both boys and girls. The aforesaid National Policy re-iterates that a child is a
person under 18 years of age and commits that state will take special protection measures to
secure the rights and entitlements of all children, including juveniles in conflict with law, and
promote child friendly jurisprudence.
Any attempt of reducing the age of juvenility, or excluding certain children from the purview of
the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children)Act on the basis of nature of the offence
and age, will violate guarantees made under the Constitution and International instruments.
The allegedly proposed amendments propose to reclassify and consequently discriminating
between children by
(i) singling out the 16 - 18 year old male child for exclusion from the beneficial juvenile
(ii) identification of juveniles on the basis of extreme nature of the behaviour alone
The proposed amendment would imply that persons between 16 and 18 years are equally
culpable or blameworthy as adults. The aforesaid proposed amendments fall foul of the
Constitutional guarantees, International law principles, settled authority of law in the Salil Bali
vs Union of India (2013) 7 SCC 705, and rule of law as laid down by the existing juvenile justice
system. Research and writing by behavioral scientists and neuroscientists on the culpability of
children is exceedingly compelling on this point. Both confirm that they lack the psycho-social
maturity that in turn predisposes them to make bad decisions which could result in deviant
behaviour. According to experts in adolescent psychology, adolescents are less risk averse, more
susceptible to peer pressure and other impressions and influences, less capable of controlling
their impulses and thinking far ahead. These are the factors that are often displayed in the
conduct of juveniles in conflict with law. This is a transient phase thus supporting the notion that
all juveniles are amenable to reformation and rehabilitation.
These findings are endorsed by neuroscientists who state that the prefrontal cortex, known as the
CEO of the brain which is responsible for important functions such as planning ,reasoning,
judgment, and impulse control, is the slowest to mature. The maturation process begins at around
the age of 12 years and goes up to the age of 25 years.
Based on this information, it can be concluded that children are not equally culpable as adults
and can certainly not be treated as adults irrespective of the nature of the offence they have
allegedly committed. To do so would constitute a grave violation of the right to equality and the
right to life and liberty.
The JJ Act is not fully operational across the country, and this is acknowledged by the Ministry
in the Working Group Report for the 12th
Five Year Plan. Concerted efforts should therefore be
made to strengthen the implementation of the existing law.
We are firmly of the view that we cannot allow politics and uninformed public outrage to trump
well entrenched rights and principles under the Constitution and the UNCRC. Nor can we allow
the principles of juvenile justice to be undermined and our commitment made before an
international platform to be reneged. We believe that the focus should be on strengthening the
reformation and rehabilitation process with regard to the child so as to ensure that justice is done
to all stakeholders in society, while retaining the essence and spirit of juvenile justice law.
For more information contact:
1. Prof. Babu Mathew, NLUD - 09810606988, email@example.com
2. Prof. B B Pande, 09899182177, firstname.lastname@example.org
3. Prof. Dr. Shekhar P. Seshadri, Dept of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, NIMHANS,
4. Arlene Manoharan, 098452-85095, email@example.com
5. Swagata Raha, 09900105511, firstname.lastname@example.org
6. Adv. Maharukh Adenwalla, 09820141989, email@example.com
7. Anant Asthana, 9212117105, firstname.lastname@example.org
Arlene Manoharan, Fellow
Centre for Child and the Law,
National Law School of India University