MAJOR PROVISIONS OF JUVENILE JUSTICE ACT AMENDMENT 2021:
- Offences against children made non-cognizable:
- Crimes against children which are mentioned in the chapter “Other Offences against Children” of the JJ Act, 2015 that allow an imprisonment between three and seven years will be deemed “non-cognisable” as per the Amendment act 2021.
- These crimes include cruelty to children by CCI staff, employment of children for begging, using children to smuggle or sell intoxicating substances and narcotics sale and procurement of children ,exploitation of child employees etc.
- As per the present provision in Juvenile Justice Act, 2015, offence punishable with imprisonment of 3-7 years will be cognizable and non-bailable.
- The Juvenile Justice Act, 2015 states that adoption of a child is final on the issuance of an adoption order by the civil court.
- The amendment provides that instead of the court, the district magistrate (including additional district magistrate) will issue such adoption orders.
- Serious offences:
- Under the 2015 Act offences committed by juveniles are categorised as heinous offences, serious offences, and petty offences.
- Serious offences include offences with three to seven years of imprisonment.
- The amendment adds that serious offences will also include offences for which maximum punishment is imprisonment of more than seven years, and minimum punishment is not prescribed or is less than seven years.
- More powers to district magistrates( DMs):
- The District Magistrates have been further empowered under the Act, to ensure its smooth implementation, as well as garner synergized efforts in favour of children in distress conditions.
- As per the amended provisions of the Act, any Child Care Institutions shall be registered after considering the recommendations of the District Magistrate.
- The DM shall independently evaluate the functioning of District Child Protection Units, Child Welfare Committees, Juvenile Justice Boards, Specialized Juvenile Police Units, Child Care Institutions etc.
CONCERNS ASSOCIATED WITH JUVENILE JUSTICE ACT AMENDMENT 2021:
- More difficult to investigate and to arrest the perpetrators:
- The child rights bodies pointed out that the amendment in Section 86 (2) of the JJ Act, 2015, which changed the nature of certain serious crimes from “cognisable” to “non-cognisable” will prevent the police from arresting the accused without a warrant and start an investigation without the permission of the court.
- The child rights commissions said that the amendment, if implemented, will keep crimes like cruelty towards children in an orphanage, employing children for begging, liquor and narcotics peddling, or militant movements, or even sale and procurement of children under the purview of non-cognisable offences.
- Lack of judicial scrutiny in adoption orders:
- Amendment 2021 shifts the power to issue adoption orders from the court to the district magistrate.
- Adoption of a child is a legal process which creates a permanent legal relationship between the child and adoptive parents.
- Therefore, it may be questioned whether it is appropriate to vest the power to issue adoption orders with the district magistrate instead of a civil court.
- In countries such as United Kingdom, Germany, France, and several states in the United States of America, adoption orders are issued only by the court.
- Violates India’s international obligations:
- Commissions for Protection of Child Rights of various states argued that the amendment to the 2015 Act violates India’s international obligation for being a signatory in United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child or even the progressive spirit of the JJ Act, 2015.
- Too many responsibilities to the DM:
- The DM is already overburdened with the charge of all processes in a district, including all task forces and review meetings. The JJ Amendment Act adds to this burden.
- DMs are ill-equipped and ill-trained:
- Specific training in child protection rules will also need to be imparted, as district magistrates usually are not trained or equipped to deal with these specific laws.