Short Title – Section 1 of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015 reads as follows:
1. Short title, extent, commencement and application.
(1) This Act may be called the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015.
(2) It extends to the whole of India except the State of Jammu and Kashmir.
(3) It shall come into force on such date as the Central Government may, by notification in the Official Gazette, appoint.
(4) Notwithstanding anything contained in any other law for the time being in force, the provisions of this Act shall apply to all matters concerning children in need of care and protection and children in conflict with law, including —
(i) apprehension, detention, prosecution, penalty or imprisonment, rehabilitation and social re-integration of children in conflict with law;
(ii) procedures and decisions or orders relating to rehabilitation, adoption, re-integration, and restoration of children in need of care and protection.
The Act 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 Act 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.
Juvenile Justice Boards (JJB) and Child Welfare Committees (CWC) constituted in each district. The JJB will conduct a preliminary inquiry to determine whether a juvenile offender is to be sent for rehabilitation or be tried as an adult. The CWC will determine institutional care for children in need of care and protection.
Eligibility of adoptive parents and the procedure for adoption have been included in the Act.
Penalties for cruelty against a child, offering a narcotic substance to a child, and abduction or selling a child have been prescribed.
There are differing views on whether juveniles should be tried as adults. Some argue that the current law does not act as a deterrent for juveniles committing heinous crimes. Another view is that a reformative approach will reduce likelihood of repeating offences.
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 (right to equality) and Article 21 (requiring that laws and procedures are fair and reasonable). 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.
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.
Some penalties provided in the Act are not in proportion to the gravity of the offence. For example, the penalty for selling a child is lower than that for offering intoxicating or psychotropic substances to a child.