New Teeth In Child Laws

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Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act 2015

By: Seram Neken

Manipur state witnesses frequent acts of grave injustice to children below 18 years of age. Cruelty to children in the form of assaults, neglects, abuses, rapes and murders has been a normal happening in the state, as far as the various media reports are concerned. At this critical juncture, the general public need to understand the various provisions envisaged in the prevailing child laws. This write up reflects only a few provisions enshrined in the recently passed Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act 2015, which has empowered the Juvenile Justice Boards to decide whether a child criminal above 16 years of age be dealt with adult laws.

Under the JJ Act, cruelty to minor human beings below the age of 18 years in the form of willful neglect, abuse, assault, or abandonment which may lead to physical and mental suffering of the child is punishable with imprisonment extendable upto three years with a fine of rupees one lakh. If the offence is committed by the person who is responsible for the child’s care, then the penalty is greater with a jail term extendable to five years and fine of rupees five lakhs. Anyone who gives intoxicating drugs or alcohol to a child without medical prescription will get punishment of upto seven years imprisonment and a fine of rupees one lakh. Use of a child in vending, peddling, carrying, supplying and smuggling of intoxicating alcohol and drugs is also a grave offence under the Juvenile Justice (care and protection of children) Act. 2015.

Willful concealment of any incident of violation of child rights is a crime. If anybody finds an orphan, abandoned or lost child who is bereft of any family support, he/she must report it to the nearest police station, Childline services, Child Welfare Committee, District Child Protection Units or any registered Child Care institution within twenty four hours. As per law, non-reporting of the child is an offence punishable with imprisonment upto six months or fine upto rupees ten thousand or both. Thereafter, the said child should be produced before the Child Welfare Committee of the concerned district for giving care and protection. The Child Welfare Committee has the authority to place any victim child in a safe custody and order appropriate enquiry on the case. As a measure for rehabilitation and reintegration of the child victims, it has also to decide on the permanent stay of the child in shelter homes or restoration to the parents or any fit person who is responsible for the care of the child.

The Juvenile Justice (care and protection of children) Act envisages two important institutions namely Juvenile Justice Board and the Child Welfare Committee in each district. The former deals with child criminals who are also termed ‘Child in conflict with law’ (CCL), while the later takes care of child victims also called ‘Children in need of care and protection’ (CNCP). The recently implemented Juvenile Justice (care and protection of children) Act 2015 has more teeth to reach out to children of both the categories. The police officers who refuse accept complaints on child rights violation cases are liable to get penalty, while any medical professional who are defiant to attend to child victims for any reasons shall get punishment under the Juvenile Justice Act.

Adoption of a child without due legal procedure is an offence. When anybody or any organization offers or receives a child for adoption without prescribed legal procedures, he or she is punishable with three years imprisonment with a fine of rupees one lakh.

Disclosure of identity of a child victim or a child who is in conflict with law in the media is a punishable offence under the Juvenile Justice (care and protection of children) Act 2015. Those working in various media organizations or handling the various social media platforms must be careful enough while publishing crimes related to child rights violation or posting incidents involving minors below the age of 18 years. Not only the name and photograph of the child concerned, but also the other particulars of the child such as home address, parents or school are not to be published. Punishment for violation of such prohibition is imprisonment which extend upto six months and fine upto Rupees two lakhs. However, the publication may be allowed if the Juvenile Justice Board or the Child Welfare Committee concerned is of the opinion that it is in the best interest of the child. The necessity of such a provision arises due to frequent occurrence of crimes involving children in the country particularly in Manipur
state. Not only is the media required to take utmost care while reporting child related cases, but also the social media users should be cautious enough while posting pictures and news regarding children related crimes.

The police, medical professionals, media persons, and anyone dealing with child care services have to become more responsible with the implementation of the new JJ Act 2015, for which the rules are yet to be framed by respective state and central governments.

(The writer is Member, Child Welfare Committee, Imphal East. He can be reached at [email protected])

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