Emergence and key points of Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2014
“The public has a short memory”
The above mentioned adage is one we have heard a number of times, but rarely do we take a moment to pause and think about what it actually means and how it has gained so much significance in our everyday lives.
In the year 2012, we Indians were busy blaming the government, cursing our bosses, slogging at work, when we came across a news that sent shivers down our spines. A barbaric, gruesome gang rape had taken place in Delhi on the night of sixteenth December.
A girl (Nirbhaya) along with her friend were coming back after watching a movie when they took a bus as means of transport, little knowing that that bus ride will turn out to be the most horrific event to take place in their lives. The bus contained of 5 adult male passengers, a juvenile male passenger and a male bus driver. All the men and the juvenile assaulted and ferociously raped the girl, and after getting satisfied they threw the girl and her friend out of the bus, naked. The two lay naked there for a while, till a PCR van reached the spot and took them to a hospital. Nirbhaya fought a strong battle between life and death but later succumbed to her injuries. The boy however recovered soon after.
The Nirbhaya case, united the society like something I had never seen before, just heard of. There were rallies in support of Nirbhaya all over the country. There were candle marches, there were slogans being made, there were sketches being made, basically there was anger coming out on the streets and the effort to sensitise the society as a large. The entire nation was praying for her. The entire nation wanted justice to be meted out to the accused. Sadly, the nation’s prayers could not save Nirbhaya, but were successful in delivering justice to her and her parents.
Since, the Nirbhaya case was followed by the entire nation, each and every aspect, proceedings of the case was heavily scrutinised and analysed by the people. The people were satisfied with the pace of the trial, but one thing that pinched everyone was that one of the accused was a juvenile at the time of commission of offence. He was aged 17 years and 6 months. Therefore, as per law, he was tried under the Juvenile law and was given the maximum punishment prescribed, three years in a reform facility. There was immense public outrage over the fact that the juvenile was being tried as a juvenile. Imminent lawyers filed a petition requesting that the juvenile be tried as an adult considering the gravity and heinousness of the offence committed by him, but the law in force at the time did not have any place for such exceptions, and thus, the petitions were dismissed.
The public outrage over this law was very evident and thus, the Parliament acting in consonance with the principles bringing about changes in law with the advancement of time, brought in various amendments and laws for the protection of women.
Reality strikes home, again
The sad reality of our country is that rape is not something new. As per the National Crime Records Bureau report of 2012, almost 25,000 rapes took place in 2012. Nirbhaya’s case was one of those 25,000. If someone today asks me why did the Nirbhaya case make news, I don’t have a definite answer, just speculations. Maybe the convicts were poor, uninfluential people; maybe the news channels didn’t have any other news to cover; or maybe this incident was the final push to our society’s anger and frustration towards the crime of rape.
JJ Act, 2014: Too little, too late
Soon thereafter the Parliament passed a legislation known as Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2014. Few path breaking postulates were:
●The Act revised the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000 to make a new act in accordance with the latest international laws on the subject and also in consonance with the demand and wish of the public at large.
●The Act constituted the Child Welfare Committee and District Child Protection unit as mechanisms to help children in their need and demand for justice.
●The Act gave the Juvenile Justice Board the authority to decide on whether a juveniles aged 16 years or above can be treated as an adult in exceptional circumstances, wherein, the juvenile had committed a heinous and grave offence.
●The Act gave the power to the Juvenile Justice Board to decide on the fact that whether the juvenile shall be sent to a rehab facility or shall be tried as an adult.
●The Act also laid down adoption laws in respect of Hague Convention on Protection of Children and co-operation in respect of Inter-Country Adoption, 1993.
The elephant in the room is still lurking
Today, in 2023, 8 years since the Nirbhaya incident, and 6 years since passing of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2014, this issue is again left for discussions only in the court rooms. The rape count in India is embarrassing. Even today, girls feel unsafe at night, or even in daylight at shady places. What have we achieved? In 2012, India had around 25,000 reported rape incidents in the year; In 2018, India had around 35,000 reported rape incidents in the year.
Yes, there were protests post the Nirbhaya incident, and the politicians also harvested the brownie points (although helped in framing some laws), but, 8 years down the line, what has really changed at the ground level?
We, the public, raised slogans against this heinous crime of rape, tried sensitising everyone, shouted slogans, made banners/ posters, and then few years down the line, maybe forgot all of it.
“Yes, the public has a short memory”