May 6, 2015
Kakoli Ghosh Dastidar speaks on the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Bill, 2014 | Full Transcript
I rise to discuss the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Bill, 2014 brought by our Hon. Minister Smt Maneka Gandhi. This Bill replaces the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Bill, 2000. It permits juveniles between the ages of 16 and 18 years to be tried as adults for heinous offences. Also any 16 to 18 year old who commits a less serious offence may be tried as an adult only if he is apprehended after the age of 21 years.
There are different views on whether juveniles should be tried as adults. There are arguments that the current law does not act as a deterrent for juveniles committing heinous crimes. Another view is that a reformative approach will reduce the likelihood of repeating offences.
The provision of trying a juvenile committing a serious or heinous crime as an adult based on date of apprehension could violate the Article 14- Rigt to Equality and Article 21- requiring that laws and procedures are fair and reasonable. The provision also counters the spirit of Article 20, Sec-1 according to a higher penalty for the same offence.
India has ratified the United Nation’s convention on the rights of the child and it requires treating every child under the age of 18 as equal. The provision of trying a child as an adult contravenes this convention also.
Of course, the penalties provided in the Bill 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.
However, the census data at the moment shows that juveniles between the ages of 7 to 18 years constitute about 25% of the total population and the National Crime Records Bureau shows that the percentage of juvenile crime has gone up in the recent past and it has increased from 1% to 1.2% from 2003 to 2013.
During the same period 16 to 18 year olds accused of crimes as a percentage of all juveniles accused have increased from 54% to 56%. So here comes the necessity for giving this a serious thought. But the mention of the Juvenile Justice Bill and also the boards to look into whether these children as we call them should be taken care of has a financial implication which has to be dealt with in detail. I would like to mention here that the police who are going to investigate or the boards that are going to look into these matters should have women.
As my learned friend there was speaking about psychiatrists, I would also think that we should have children’s psychiatrists in these boards that should look into the mental capacity of children. I would like to bring to the notice of this august House a film which was called Taare Zameen Par. Just because children’s requirements are not understood or appreciated, sometimes children get misled.
In this country we have so many families who live below the poverty line that a child lifting something –a food article or a toy article- out of dire shortage of funds at home, then I should think that the child is not to be blamed. It is the society or the State which has to be blamed and the corrective measure has to be taken by the family, by the neighbourhood, by the State. This child-friendly step that has been taken by the minister has been appreciated besides trying to lift the social status of these children through education, through supplying them food as we are doing in the Government Schools. Particularly in our State of West Bengal we are trying means to educate the children, particularly the girl child through the Kanyashree scheme.
The country is trying to provide food grains through the mid-day meal but there should be other facilities given to the child besides education. The children should be exposed to recreational facilities. The children should be educated and vocational training should be given. Their childhood should be our concern and we should see that the child is not carried away due to poverty to commit such a crime which might lead to the child being maimed as a criminal.
This kind of criminal mentality in a child can be combated only if the child is taken care of in a compassionate way right from birth and given if not equal, similar facilities of a middle class family so that the child’s mentality is not crime oriented.
Thank You Sir.