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Juvenile Justice (Care & Protection of Children) Bill, 2014

The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Bill, 2014 was introduced in Lok Sabha on
August 12, 2014 by the Minister of Women and Child Development, Ms. Maneka Gandhi, to address crimes committed by juveniles, children in need of protection, their rehabilitation and adoption processes, etc. The Bill was referred to the Standing Committee on Human Resource Development (Chairperson: Dr. Satyanarayan Jatiya) on September 22, 2014. The Committee submitted its report on February 25, 2015. The Bill was passed by Lok Sabha on May 7, 2015.

A juvenile or child is a person less than 18 years of age. Under Section 82 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860, the minimum age at which any person can be charged for a crime is seven years. The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000 addresses children who are in conflict with law and children in need of care and protection. The Act was brought in to adhere to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) which was ratified by India in 1992. As a signatory, India is required to undertake all appropriate measures to ensure the rights of children with regard to juvenile justice, care and protection, adoption, etc.

The Bill replaces the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000. It addresses children in conflict with law and children in need of care and protection. The Bill permits juveniles between the ages of 16-18 years to be tried as adults for heinous offences. Also, any 16-18 year old, who commits a lesser, i.e., serious offence, may be tried as an adult only if he is apprehended after the age of 21 years.

Main Highlights
The Bill states that 16-18 year old juvenile offenders may be tried as adults in certain cases. The law needs to deter juveniles from committing heinous crimes and safeguard the rights of victims. For crimes like rape and murder it is hard to conceive that the juvenile is not aware of the consequences.
Child Welfare Committees (CWCs) will be constituted in each district to deal with children in need of care and protection. They will be composed of a chairperson and four other members who shall be experts on matters relating to children. At least one of the four members will be a woman.

A child who is found to be in need of care and protection shall be brought before a CWC within 24 hours. Subsequently, a Social Investigation Report is required to be prepared within 15 days. After assessing the report, the CWC may recommend that the child be sent to a children’s home or another facility for long term or temporary care, or declare the child as free for adoption or foster care.

The Central Adoption Resource Agency will frame regulations on adoption. These regulations will be implemented by state and district agencies. Prospective adoptive parents should be physically and financially sound. A single or divorced person may adopt a child. A single male may not adopt a girl child. The Bill also provides for inter-country adoption.

Institutions for child care having a valid registration under the 2000 Act will continue to be recognized. Other institutions are required to be registered within six months of this Bill coming into force. The registration is valid for five years and needs to be renewed. Inspection committees will inspect these institutions and registration may be cancelled if they do not meet the prescribed criteria.

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