Juvenile Justice Act


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  • Recently, child rights panels of three states joined the Delhi Commission for the Protection of Child Rights (DCPCR), appealing to the Union government to roll back an amendment in the Juvenile Justice Act that makes certain offences against children non-cognisable.


  • Experts say the Juvenile Justice Act Amendment 2021 is making it harder to report abuse at child care institutions by making abuse and cruelty by staffers or persons in-charge at Child Care Institutions (CCI) non-cognisable.
  • The amended JJ Act has received the Presidential assent but is yet to be notified.


  • Background:
    • The Juvenile Justice Act, 2015, replaced the Juvenile Justice Act, 2000
    • The Act aims to consolidate and amend the law relating to children alleged and found to be in conflict with law and children in need of care and protection by catering to their basic needs.
    • The Act introduced many changes to the existing law to make the juvenile justice system more responsive to the changing circumstances of society.
    • The Act changes nomenclature from ‘juvenile’ to ‘child’ or ‘child in conflict with law’, across the Act to remove the negative connotation associated with the word “juvenile”
    • The Juvenile Justice Act, 2015 (JJ Act) defines the legal framework in which juveniles (below 18 years old in India) can appear before a judge.
    • The Act guarantees the security, the protection, the education and the well-being of the children in need in India.
  • Features:
    • A juvenile is defined as anyone who has not completed the age of 18 years.
    • It mandates setting up Juvenile Justice Boards and Child Welfare Committees in every district. Both must have at least one-woman member each.
  • Offences committed by a juvenile are categorized into three:
    • 'Heinous offence' is offence with minimum punishment of seven years of imprisonment or more.
      • Juveniles between the ages of 16-18 years will be tried as adults for heinous offences.
    • 'Serious offence' are offences with three to seven years of imprisonment.
      • Any 16-18 years old, who commits a serious offence may be tried as an adult.
      • But this is only if he/she is detained after the age of 21 years.
    • 'Petty offence' is with a less than three-year imprisonment.
  • An entire chapter (Chapter IX) is devoted to deal with offenses against children.
  • Chapter VIII is devoted to the subject of adoption of children.
    • The Act streamlined adoption procedures for orphans, abandoned and surrendered children, and the Central Adoption Resource Authority (CARA) was granted the status of a statutory body to enable it to perform its function more effectively.


  • Concerns over trial of juveniles as adults:
    • The provision of trying a juvenile committing a serious or heinous offence as an adult based on date of apprehension could violate the Article 14 and Article 21.
    • The provision also counters the spirit of Article 20(1) by according a higher penalty for the same offence, if the person is apprehended after 21 years of age.
    • Some argue that the current law does not act as a deterrent for juveniles committing heinous crimes.
  • Violate Convention on the Rights of the Child:
    • The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child requires all signatory countries to treat every child under the age of 18 years as equal.
    • The provision of trying a juvenile as an adult contravenes the Convention.
  • Issues with child care institutions
    • As of March 2020, there are around 2,000 CCIs across India.
    • The Committee on review exercise of CCIs (2018) noted that many CCIs fail to provide even the basic services to the children including individual bedding, and proper nutrition and diet.
    • Not even a single CCI in the country was found to be 100% compliant to the Act’s provisions.
    • The Committee also noted that despite registration being mandatory under the 2015 Act, only 32% of total CCIs across the country were registered.
  • Inherent failure of our social system:
    • As per the 2018 ‘Crime in India’ report, about 85% of the apprehended juveniles lived with their parents, which clearly reflects an inherent failure of the system in terms of nurturing the future generation.
  • Lack of availability of institutions set up under the Act:
    • The Standing Committee on Human Resource Development (2015) had noted that statutory bodies under the Juvenile Justice Act, including JJBs and CWCs were not present in many states.
    • Several bodies existed only on paper, and were not functioning.
    • The National Legal Services Authority (2019) noted that only 17 of 35 states/Union Territories (UTs) had all basic structures and bodies required under the Act in place
  • Limited capacity of institutions set up under the Act:
    • The Standing Committee on Human Resource Development also noted that CWCs and JJBs lack authority to manage their financial and human resources and are dependent on the state or district administration.
    • Due to lack of infrastructure or specific funds, action taken by them was limited and delayed.
  • Delays in adoption
    • In 2017, the Madhya Pradesh High Court noted that children declared legally free for adoption were not being given timely referrals by Central Adoption Resource Authority (CARA).


  • 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.
  • Adoption:
    • 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.



  • 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.




  • Measures to prevent juvenile delinquency:
    • Reforms in education:
      • Our curriculum needs to heavily emphasise on the values of kindness, respect and empathy.
      • Moreover, community involvement needs to become a crucial facet of our curriculum.
    • Reducing poverty:
      • The general economic standards of the people must be increased to prevent children from becoming- delinquent due to economic exigencies.
    • Strengthening parenting skills
      • Families should be educated to realize the importance of giving proper attention to the needs of their young children.
      • Investments in strengthening parenting skills and support can go can serve as preventive measures.
  • Improving child care institutions
    • Introduce legal interventions setting minimum standards for infrastructure of the CCIs with their regular review to ensure the adherence.
  • Strengthening statutory bodies:
    • The Standing Committee on Human Resource Development recommended greater financial allocation, training and cadre-building for statutory bodies such as Juvenile Justice Boards and Child Welfare Committees.


Q. Discuss the salient features of the Juvenile Justice Act, 2015. And critically evaluate the provisions of Juvenile Justice Amendment Act, 2021?